‘Ramchand Pakistani’ - a poignant tale set in two nations (Film Review - Rating:***)

October 3rd, 2008 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Film: “Ramchand Pakistani”; Cast: Nandita Das, Rashid Farooqui, Noman Ijaz, Syed Fazal Hussain, Navaid Jabbar Maria Wasti; Director: Mehreen Jabbar; Rating: ***Cross border problems is the basic theme of first time Pakistani director Mehreen Jabbar’s “Ramchand Pakistani”.

Since partition in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, excluding the Kargil conflict. Six decades after partition, the common man continues to pay a heavy price for the tension between the two countries.

There are several cases of innocent people from India and Pakistan who are caught and sent to jail on mere suspicion.

Mehreen’s film focuses on the human sufferings on both sides of the border and she has succeeded in giving it unbiased treatment.

The stellar performances by the entire cast make “Ramchand Pakistani” an emotionally engrossing watch.

Set in 2002, the film, inspired by a true story, is about the accidental crossing of the Pakistan-India border by a boy and his father.

“The film is based on actual events. My father (former Pakistani politician and filmmaker Javed Jabbar) works a lot in the areas close to the desert. One day he came across a father-son duo who narrated their story to him. That is where we got the inspiration to make this film. I am sure it will reach out to audiences,” said Mehreen.

The film revolves around Ramchand, an eight-year-old Dalit Hindu boy. He lives with his parents - mother Champa (Nandita Das) and father Shankar (Rashid Farooqui) in a village in the border area of Pakistan.

One day, after a fight with his mother, Ramchand runs away from home. While walking aimlessly, he accidentally crosses the border not knowing this will cost him his freedom.

His father spots him crossing the line of control and tries to stop him. In doing so, he too crosses the border. As expected, the boy and his father are caught and put in a jail in India. After that starts their long battle to prove their innocence and secure freedom.

While at the mercy of jail authorities, Shankar tries to cope with the trauma of forced separation from his mother. His mother is shattered by their sudden disappearance.

Nandita is the only non-Pakistani actor in “Ramchand Pakistani”. Well-known Pakistani TV and stage actors like Rashid Farooqi, Maria Wasti and Farooq Pario’s performances are specially noteworthy.

Fazal Hussain, who plays the eight-year-old protagonist Ramchand, has been particularly appreciated for his outstanding performance.

“The younger Ramchand has been played by Fazal Hussain. A friend of mine who is a director himself suggested him after a lot of search. The older one, however, is 14 years old. He is the son of a mechanic in Pakistan and has acted for the first time ever in any film,” said Mehreen.

The no-frills film is made at a nominal budget. Technically, the film is not of high quality, but Mehreen’s narrative manages to hold the viewers’ attention till the credits roll out.

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