Pakistani independent films are making waves around the globe. In August this year, Lamha (Seedlings) directed by Mansoor Mujahid rocked the New York City International Film Festival (NYCFF), and now Iram Parveen Bilal’s Josh (Against the Grain) is all set for screening at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival which is organised by Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI).
Bilal is known for her award-winning short films Marwa and Poshak, but Josh is her first debut feature. It’s also the only Pakistani fiction film to be screened in the world cinema category through MAMI in the last five years.
Josh is about Fatima, a dedicated school teacher, who is living a high cosmopolitan life in Karachi until one day her life shatters when she finds out her nanny Nusrat inexplicably disappears. Fatima then takes on the challenge to seek the dangerous truth in Nusrat’s feudal village. The themes being tackled are class separation, feudalism, poverty, individual empowerment, and women’s rights.
“I tell everyone that the take on the film is that independence comes through unity,” Bilal says to The Express Tribune. “When the people of a nation, a group of friends, a town, or a village stand united, nothing can come in their way. Underlying themes that are also highlighted are to never give up and one person can make a change,” she says.
Bilal tells us that although Josh has an original script, the story is inspired by true accounts like Parveen Saeed’s concept of “Khana Ghar”. Saeed had established eateries around Karachi’s slums to erase hunger, which also brought down the crime rate. Another reality that the film portrays is feudalism and the acts of revenge cases in feudal villages.
Josh has a promising Pakistani cast, including Aaminah Sheikh, Nyla Jafri, Khalid Malik, Mohib Mirza, Kaiser Khan Nizamanim, Adnan Shah Tipu, Parveen Akbar and Naveen Waqar.“My cast is my jewel!” says the proud director. “We had such an extended ensemble cast and we got lucky because as a whole, it was a delight and they took the project very seriously and respectfully,” Bilal says.
She also stated that she didn’t rely on any foreign technicians for the film. Bilal wanted a complete Pakistani film crew for the production process. “I have seen way too many films that bring foreign cast and crew members and Pakistanis are just the assistants or sideliners,” Bilal explains, “They shoot and they leave, then we end up with people who don’t have any legitimate experience in a major project.”
Expressing her excitement on being chosen to screen at MAMI, Bilal says: “I was grateful. We have a good film, and we hope it gets into many more festivals. But festivals are as random as college admissions, so I suppose it can be surprising.”
Aside from Josh, Bilal is also very surprised that Kareena Kapoor actually played a character by the name of Iram Parveen Bilal in the controversial film Agent Vinod. “I have to be honest — it was a bit flattering,” she laughs and continues, “because it’s Bollywood’s leading lady and a major film. I knew it wasn’t random but very much intended. Sriram Raghavan, the director of Agent Vinod, is a friend and a mentor and he loves my name, but the entire name was a bit of a shock at first and then, just pure fun. I am told Kareena knows about me in detail so I hope she will watch Josh, when it is released in India!”
Aamina: I hope Josh is a journey for the audience, that awakens their spirits, grips their emotions and makes them re-evaluate values that the film explores
Khalid: Fans will enjoy the story and it’s a perpendicular to my otherwise goofy and jovial side on the breakfast show. I get to show my deep insides, I mean my deep side
Naveen: Iram is passionate about her work. She was a joy to be around because she made everything comfortable and fun while being a true professional
Mohib: Fans can learn to believe in themselves and be the change that they need to see in the society
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2012.