Independent filmmaker Iram Parveen Bilal, whose debut feature "Josh" was the only fiction film from Pakistan to be screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF), feels her biggest challenge was to raise funds as the country's industry is not so developed and lacks "streamlined infrastructure".
"The fundraising for the film was hard since I had to do it independently and it took me one and a half years since it is a first feature and I don't have a track record for people to judge me by. Since the indie industry in Pakistan is fairly young, I literally went knocking on every door possible to raise funds," Bilal, who is here for the film's screening, told IANS.
"Josh", screened Monday in the world cinema category at MFF, is about Fatima, a dedicated school teacher, whose cosmopolitan life in Karachi is shattered after the disappearance of her nanny Nusrat. She then sets out to seek the dangerous truth in Nusrat's feudal village.
The film addresses themes such as class separation, feudalism, poverty, individual empowerment and women's rights.
What encouraged you to make "Josh"?
"Since dialogue and acknowledgement of a crime to be a crime is the first step towards eliminating it, we hope it (film) ultimately helps the laws against tribal and feudal crimes to get affected and acted upon. It is just brutal, unfair and inhuman to punish innocent women like this," Bilal said.
An environmental engineer-turned-filmmaker, Bilal said that her film is inspired by Parveen Saeed's concept of "erase hunger to erase crime" by setting up affordable meals in and around Karachi's slums.
"The script and story are completely original. I started with a general idea and brainstormed on different characters that would suit a scenario or theme. I also wanted it to be a film that showcased sides of Pakistan the international community would not know or expect," she added.
"Josh" was completed in 35 days and has a Pakistani cast, including Aaminah Sheikh, Nyla Jafri, Khalid Malik, Mohib Mirza, Kaiser Khan Nizamanim, Adnan Shah Tipu, Parveen Akbar and Naveen Waqar.
A joyous Parveen on being chosen to screen her film at MFF said: "It is exciting because it's a world premiere and we are honoured to be starting from Mumbai, a city with the oldest history of filmmaking in the region."
Why do you think films from Pakistan, which despite being good, rarely get to be shown to the world?
"We don't get that initial push and momentum to help us to launch our films internationally. We don't have streamlined infrastructure - print, ad and marketing is not so developed to push the films once they do small distribution internationally," she said.
Incidentally, Bilal had written a script titled "Forbidden Steps" for Shah Rukh Khan, which has now been submitted to the Sundance labs for consideration.
She is also known for her award-winning short films "Marwa" and "Poshak".
(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)