The synopsis of filmmaker Danis Tanovic’s latest offering Tigers, which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2014, reads, “Devastated when he discovers the effects of the infant formula he’s peddling, a young salesman challenges the system and the powers that be, in this based-on-fact drama.”
The narrative unfolds with virtual discussions between Ayan (Emraan Hashmi), a Pakistani salesman who works for a multinational company (MNC), and a crew preparing to make a film about an exposé regarding the MNC. Their discussions involve contemplating the possibility and cost of naming the MNC in the film, which explores how Ayan’s personal life gets affected as a consequence of his decisions.
Ayan is a fictional character based on Syed Aamir Raza, former Pakistani salesman at Nestlé, who, according to IBNLive.com, now works as a cab driver in Mississauga, Canada. It was Raza’s heroism that inspired Tanovic to make a film about his life, as the filmmaker believes that although many people know about the occurrence of unlawful activities, only a few have the courage to blow the whistle on them.
“To come in the way of such big monies is rare. This whistle-blower, Ayan, had proof and I wanted to show that,” Tanovic said, reported pinkvilla.com. “What I liked about him is that he is not really a hero. At some point, he started negotiating with them [the MNC] and tried to protect his interests too. At the end, he chose the good,” he added. “It’s a humane story; it shows what he does for his family. It’s not Erin Brockovich, who ends with a big pay cheque and a smile. It’s not a happy story.”
Baby Milk Action, an international organisation established to stop misleading marketing by the baby-feeding industry, helped in bringing Raza’s evidence of the company’s malpractice to the surface. Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action Campaigns Coordinator, shared his opinion of the film in a press release issued on the organisation’s website.
“Tigers captures the tension of the period when we were trying to bring Raza’s evidence of marketing malpractice to public attention in a way that would keep him safe. Cleverly, they also show the power of corporations in keeping criticisms out of the media,” said Brady.
Raza is happy to see the culmination of his mission reach people through as powerful a medium as film. “I am grateful to everyone who worked on this film and made it possible. I was not expecting that by the end of the film, I would be accepted with a standing ovation,” Raza said in a statement to Baby Milk Action. “I am thankful that people love it and understand what we have been struggling to do as a family.”
It’s refreshing to see Hashmi take a break from commercial films in Bollywood to play the character in Tigers. The film has been a roaring success at the TIFF, but what made Hashmi happy was his interaction with Raza and his family. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Hashmi said, “I think Raza is a brave and courageous man, because it takes a lot to put your family and life at risk and blow the whistle on such a huge MNC for the greater good of the society.”
A slightly different version of the film is slated for a January 2015 release in India, but, so far, no local distributor has acquired the rights to the film’s distribution in Pakistan. “I would really want the film to release in Pakistan because it’s not maligning any country or the MNC’s reputation. It’s highlighting Pakistan’s own hero,” said Hashmi. “This is my humble request to the Pakistani authorities and the censor boards to let Tigers release in Pakistan, not only because it’s a good film but also because it highlights an issues that is still rampant in developing countries”.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2014.