Norwegian-Pakistani film-maker Iram Haq’s What Will People Say has been selected as Norwegian entry for the best foreign language film at the 91st Academy Awards.
The film-maker says telling a compelling story is more important for her than winning an award because she does not believe in competition when it comes to art.
Haq, whose film stars Indian actors Adil Hussain, Ekavali Khanna and Rohit Sarafi said, “When I started making the film, the most important thing for me was to tell a story in an utmost honest manner. And as an individual, I strongly believe that art is never a competition.”
“Of course, it is a big honour for me that my film has been chosen but I want to say that it is not possible to compete in art. Reaching out to people with a story is important,” added Haq, whose earlier film ‘I am Yours’ was also selected as the official Norwegian Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film.
The story of Haq’s film deals with the journey of a young girl who is dealing with socio-cultural difference and a disturbed relationship with her parents.
According to her, understanding the generational gap and expressing a critical view on the matter through the film was very important.
Talking about projecting a balanced view with the story, Haq said, “It was important for me to put out both sides of the story. You see, the film is basically a love story between a father and his daughter and that does not really work because they are coming from two different generation, gender and mindset.
“While the daughter understands the cultural values of her father and how he is struggling to accept the cultural difference of a world that is very different from a regular south Asian society, the girl is a Pakistani born and brought up in Norway. It is almost impossible for her to live her entire life to please her family.”
The film not just features Indian actors, but is also shot in various parts of India, mostly in Rajasthan. In fact, Adil won the Best Actor award at the Amanda Award or the Norwegian National Awards.
On casting Indian talent, especially Adil, Haq said, “He is a wonderful actor and he was the perfect choice for playing the father. How wonderfully he transformed the character from script to screen through his performance.”
Being a Pakistani girl who is born and brought up in Norway herself, just like the protagonist Nisha — played by Maria Mozhdah — the film is quite autobiographical for the director. Reflecting upon that, she said, “When our parents went abroad and were not well-integrated, they feared to embrace the new culture. That is how they ended up taking wrong decisions for their children.”
“I had to live life like a well-mannered South Asian girl in my home because according to my parents, ‘log kya kahenge (what will people say)’ otherwise, we will lose out on our tradition and culture. They think the new generation will lose themselves in the western culture.
“I wanted the young generation to break free of that constant thought of log kya kahenge and assert that we are not here to live up to the expectation of ‘log (people)’… we are here to live our zindagi (life). This is how I always stand by my child as a mother,” added Haq.
She was kidnapped and taken to Pakistan and lived there for a year. She had lost connection with her parents.
“I want to say that the story of the film is told with a lot of love but at the same time, it is a critical voice on how you shut down a young voice, or the voice of a girl, because she is a girl or because the individual is young. I am a strong believer of respecting young voice.”
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