After years of being stuck in a pit of Jatt-inspired stories, young Pakistani film-makers are finally on the road towards revival of cinema with some substantial subjects. However, with the industry still suffering from heavy losses, it is not easy for newbies to find takers. Such has been the case for the internationally acclaimed film Josh. After a seemingly endless struggle to find a distributor, the film Josh is all set to release on Eid. Directed and produced by Iram Parveen Bilal, the movie is a social drama centered on the prevalence of feudal culture, one of Pakistan’s major challenges. For Bilal, Josh’s premier in Pakistan is a fulfillment of her original dream.
“Since the script phase, we had a lot of issues finding a distributor for our film. It is very difficult to find someone to release a film whose director is not from a film family or doesn’t have that backing,” says Bilal. “This is what it has always been about from the very beginning — getting the film to release in Pakistan.”
Bilal, whose reputation as a film-maker has grown rather subtly, is known to be a globetrotter — residing in the United States but being brought up in Nigeria and Pakistan. Before switching to film-making, Bilal was an engineer. She recalls the initial stages of shooting and how challenging it was for her to put together the movie amidst the lack of a support structure and funds. She eventually partnered with Saad Bin Mujeeb of 29-1 Productions and co-produced the film, which took four years to see a release date.
“The support system for the film was very limited at the time — finding the right equipment and a trained crew [was not easy],” says Bilal. “For example, it was a rather new concept for a lot of people to shoot using natural sound.”
Even though Josh has managed to grab attention at film festivals in Melbourne, Mumbai and Calgary, Bilal feels that it was not as challenging as it was to find a distributor in Pakistan. “The film festivals come easier. Ours is considered a small film with an unknown audience and generally distributors tend to look towards Bollywood and escapist films,” claims Bilal.
The influx of new films in Pakistan that has followed since Josh was premiered abroad has really shown how quickly change can take place. Local importers and distributors like Nadeem Mandviwalla have started taking interest in the fresh style of local films. The Platform, which was launched this year with the intent of giving space to emerging film-makers, has provided Josh with a chance to reach cinemas. “There are a lot of films being made now, but it’s important to ensure that they are not limited to a typical Lollywood genre. Rather, they should cater to a variety of sensibilities,” stresses Bilal.
Bilal is currently focusing on a new project, tentatively titled Forbidden Steps. The film will probably require a larger budget than Josh and the script has been written keeping Shahrukh Khan in mind for the lead role. “Currently, the script is under-construction and I am hoping to have a heavier budget for it,” adds Bilal. As for Josh, the dates for the premier have yet to be confirmed. The film is slated to release on Eid, which will probably be one of the most prolific days for the Pakistani film industry in recent times, as some major films will make their debut on the silver screen.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2013.