Muslim-Hindu love stories are complicated. Even when you simply want to tell the story, writes Mehreen Hasan in Dawn.
Just ask writer/director Hamza Bangash, whose attempts to fund his short film Rang Raaz were met with refusal after refusal in Pakistan.
“We had approached some pretty prominent people in Pakistan who had vested interests in having a story about minorities told,” Hamza, a Pakistan-Canadian says. .
“But they all refused, saying the subject [of an interfaith marriage] is too controversial. I was shocked. Here were people who had prospered, people who were well-connected, but still too scared to make a political statement. They said it’s a threat to their life and their family’s life.”
However, the project is not without its supporters.
Hamza had so far self-funded the shoot of Rang Raaz, but now needed help in financing its post-production. Throughi his Kickstart campaign he raised 3,390 Canadian Dollars out of the required 4000.
“We [also] have people like Deepak Perwani who’s super-proud to put his name on our project,” Hamza adds. “It’s a huge stamp of approval for us to have him on board as the costume designer of our film.”
In Rang Raaz, a young couple – a Hindu man and a Muslim woman – decide to elope. Soon, “their journey takes a dark twist, as the full consequences of their wedding come into focus with hidden resetments, betrayals and emotions to the surface.”
We’ve got a lot of negative feedback,” tells Hamza. “Our Facebook page is flooded with messages like ‘How dare you make this film. It’s totally against our culture?’ My response to them is ‘Who are you to dictate what our culture is?’ If Jinnah, who founded our nation, believed in cultural pluralism, then who is anyone else to say otherwise?”
The film itself is inspired by the very delayed passing of the Hindu Marriage Bill.
“I was reading the papers when I came across news of the Hindu Marriage Bill. I had no idea that this had just happened. The Hindu community has been part of Sindh for generations before partition . Their temples have existed on this land before a lot of the infrastructure that we know as Karachi today. And yet they couldn’t legally get married until recently. It’s ridiculous.”
Hamza hopes that through independently funded films, he and other like-minded filmmakers will be able to alter the course of Pakistani cinema.
“After an amazing first year, where films like Shah, Moor and Manto came out, Pak cinema has now reverted to Bollywood-inspired knock offs,” laments Hamza.
“We need our films to speak honestly about the issues our society faces. They should be engaging and with a conscience! That’s what we tried to do with Rang Raaz, and I think that’s why the trailer for the film has resonated with so many people. That’s the direction our cinema needs to be headed towards. Bollywood creates some amazing movies, but we need to figure out our own identity.”
(The image featured at the top is that of a tense scene in the Pakistani film Rang Raaz directed by Hamza Bangash)