Kerala film director honoured at Oxford event

August 13th, 2008 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 13 (IANS) A film director from Kerala was honoured at a function in the university city of Oxford for highlighting the plight of the India-born Pakistani passport holders staying in the state. P.T. Kunhimohammad, a well-known cultural and political activist, won laurels from an elite audience in Oxford for his film’s true portrayal of ‘Paradesi’ (non-citizen) in independent India.

Leading academics in the city attended the special screening, organised by the Muslim Educational Society of Oxford (MESO) as part of the 61st anniversary celebration of the independence of India and Pakistan.

During partition in 1947, millions of people of different faiths crossed the borders to settle in the new countries.

Thousands of Muslims from Kerala migrated to Pakistan, but returned later because of a different climate and food. However, their nationality has always been in dispute, as a result of which they are neither here nor there.

According to the Kerala government, there are over 400 India-born Pakistani-passport-holders staying in the state.

Most of them are in the Malabar districts of Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur. Several of them, in the winter of their lives, have been issued orders for deportation to Pakistan. Some of them have obtained a stay from the Kerala High Court.

The state and central governments are blaming each other for the plight of these “Pakistani citizens”.

The film tells the story of hundreds of such people who were left alien in India due to lack of identity documents.

Paradesi focuses on the plight of Valiyakathu Moosa, an Indian Muslim who moved from the Malabar region of Kerala to Karachi in Pakistan during the British rule in search of a job. Post-partition, he returns from Pakistan and settles down in Malappuram, Kerala.

This man does not get his Indian passport and thus an Indian identity in the official sense, even 50 years after independence. To the Indian government he is a Pakistani, and to the Pakistan government he is an Indian.

The film has Malayalam superstar Mohanlal playing the character in three stages of his life, between the ages of 35 and 80. Jagathy Sreekumar and Sidhique also star in the film as his friends.

Swetha Menon plays the wife of Valiyakathu Moosa and Padmapriya acts as a journalist. The film also moves through many stages back and forth as flashbacks to present the story of Moosa. This is reflected in the costumes, settings and even in the songs of the film.

Taj Hargey, MECO’s chairman, said: “Paradesi is an eye-opening film. This inspirational film is a must-see for all those who wish to understand the roots and repercussions of the 1947 partition of the Indian sub-continent. The director should be commended for bringing this controversial subject out in the open.”

“No one should be punished in their old age for their past mistakes, real or perceived. ‘Paradesi’ should be required viewing for all fanatical patriots on both sides of India-Pakistani divide,” said Hargey.

Ifthikar Malik, a scholar, said: “The film is a bold effort that rises above narrow politics. It focuses on human rights issues, especially when they are in reference to one’s inalienable right to retain and even regain the citizenship of a country that one was born in.

“So far, the literature and popular films dealing with the partition of 1947 have focussed on north India while the south remains a kind of unknown terrain. This film transposes a bitter reality that even in a uniquely progressive and highly literate state such as Kerala, xenophobic attitudes and policies can continue to pester innocent individuals.”

Kunhimohammad’s two earlier films “Magrib” in 1993 and “Garshom” in 1998 have won him accolades. At present, he is involved in producing and presenting a television programme called “Pravasi Lokam” for Kairali channel. The programme helps trace missing Malayalis in the Gulf countries.

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