When Vittorio De Sica was on with his 1948 magnum opus, The Bicycle Thieves, cash wasn’t the only resource the iconic filmmaker was strapped for. Yet when it hit the screens, the rather spectacled Satyajit Ray walked out of the theatre with only one thing on his mind, a career in filmmaking. Such indeed is the power of realist storytelling.
A similar spectacled feeling has been invoked by the first look of the film, Quetta — A City of Forgotten Dreams surfaced on social media. The film poster features a boy pedaling a bicycle on a street that cuts through a graveyard, under the watchful eye of the mountains. Filmmakers Faysal Chaudary and Murtaza Chaudary offer a sneak peek into their project to The Express Tribune, spilling the beans on yet another feather in the newly-acquired hat of contemporary Pakistani cinema.
Apart from its picturesque distinctiveness that is eulogised every now and then in the mainstream, Quetta is largely seen as a space devoid of humans, a mechanical lynchpin between the dehumanised and revolting south and the indifferent rest of Pakistan. Yet, the city is very much at the heart of the Pakistani collective conscience. More than once in the recent past did the city roar in agony of harrowing terror attacks and we saw tremors being felt across Pakistan.
The film hints at exactly that: putting up a fight against adversity. The squad that reinvented satire for TV in Pakistan has been on the project for two years. “We carried out reconnaissance in the city’s neighbourhoods and handpicked our actors,” says Murtaza. Drenched fully in the neorealist cinematic order, Quetta’s storyline is shouldered by non-actors: those who have lived and breathed the characters they are essaying. “Their grit is quite unbelievable,” the director concludes after narrating how a twist of fate enmeshed the screen and real lives of one of his lead actors. “The boy had to flee the country in wake of threats from militants. Last we heard from him, he was in a self-imposed exile in Switzerland.”
While its 25-day principal photography ended well before work on Jami’s Moor kicked off, the film is yet another insight on the Balochistan whose pulse is still racing. Penned by Faysal, Quetta’s story revolves around three children who juggle between career prospects as diverse as coalmining and football, to keep both their inner flame and the stove burning.
Over the years, misery has become the currency of our media. Victimhood sells and the line between exploitation and honest narration is indeed very thin. Murtaza says this is the primary reason why his team opted against all established practices of our film scene. “Quetta does not entail any commercial elements. It’s a story that we owed to the hilly streets on which we used to pace our tricycles.” While the background score has been pieced together with care, Quetta is not accompanied by a song album as yet.
“Moor and Shah were acid tests for these kinds of narratives and the success of both helped us muster up strength to release Quetta,” adds Faysal. He believes that if a heartfelt story if told the right way, it strikes the right chord with the masses, come what may. Brimming with confidence, both Murtaza and Faysal disclose the film is slated for a 2016 release. The Filmsaaz and Sana Bucha Productions film is currently undergoing post-production.
Watch the trailer here:
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2015.