Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Percept Picture Company's yet another presentation after Khuda Kay Liye is "Ramchand Pakistani" which is all set to release in India this October 2. The film is directed by a young Pakistani women film-maker, Mehreen Jabbar and is also her directorial debut. It stars India's most critically acclaimed actress Nandita Das, along side Pakistani actors like Rashid Farooqui, Noman Ijaz, Maria Wasti, Navaid Jabbar and little boy Syed Fazal Hussain.

Ramchand Pakistani is derived from a true story concerning the accidental crossing of the Pakistan-Indian border during a period of extreme, war-like tension between the two countries by two members of a Pakistani Hindu family belonging to the "untouchable" caste, and the extraordinary consequences of this unintended action upon the lives os a women, a man, and their son.


‘Ramchand Pakistani’ is derived from a true story concerning the accidental crossing of the Pakistan-Indian border during a period (June 2002) of extreme, war-like tension between the two countries by two members of a Pakistani Hindu family belonging to the 'untouchable' (Dalit)
caste, and the extraordinary consequences of this unintended action upon the lives of a woman, a man, and their son.

The singular theme of the film is how a child from Pakistan aged eight years learns to cope with the trauma of forced separation from his mother while being held prisoner, along with his father in the jail of a country i.e. India, which is hostile to his own, while on the other side of the border, the wifemother, devastated by their sudden disappearance builds a new chapter of
her life, by her solitary struggle for sheer survival. Belonging to one of the lowest castes in Hinduism (one of the “untouchables”), the family is also part of a small minority of Hindus in a
country, which is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in which 97% of the people are Muslims. The boy and his father are held captive in India where, in contrast to Pakistan, the overwhelming majority of about 80% comprises of Hindus. The film portrays the lives of a family that is at the bottom of a discriminatory religious ladder and an insensitive social system, which is nevertheless tolerant, inclusive and pluralist. The irony is compounded by the fact that such a family becomes hostage to the acrimonious political relationship between two neighbor-states poised on the brink of war.

"I loved the film. Beautifully made. Great authenticity. Nandita was strong and moving”. Mira Nair

“Another example of film bringing together cross-border talent is the upcoming "Ramchand Pakistani," directed by New York- and Karachi-based director Mehreen Jabbar, a daughter of Pakistan's former Information Minister Javed Jabbar." Hollywood Reporter, February 22, 2008

"Two new films shed light on Pakistan's deep-rooted social and political problems by looking at them through the eyes of a child. "Ramchand Pakistani" follows the young Hindu boy of the title as he accidentally steps over the ill-defined border between old rivals Pakistan and India."
Reuters, February 19, 2008.

Director’s statement by Mehreen Jabbar
One of the reasons I always knew I would be a director was that it was the only way I could communicate well. I was reticent growing up and felt that telling a story in pictures would be the way I would be part of the world. It has been an exciting journey to make this film, a combination of the unexpected and the inevitable. I remember early 2006, I was returning to Pakistan from the USA after a gap of more than 2 years and my father, Javed Jabbar, had written to me saying he had a great idea for a feature. I didn’t give it too much thought, because the reality of making a film seemed elusive at the time despite the fact that I had been directing and producing TV films and serials for Pakistani Television channels for 13 years. However, directing a feature film had always been my dream.

My father welcomed me back to Pakistan with a four- page synopsis he had written about the story based on a real life incident about a Pakistani Hindu father and son belonging to the ‘untouchable’ (Dalit) caste who had spent some years in an Indian jail. I was riveted from the minute I started reading it.

So what drew me to this story? For one, it was the simplicity of it: a family separated for no fault of their own and forcibly put into a situation where they have to deal with circumstances not of their making. With this simple story came layers upon layers of subtext – about relationships, discrimination and the politics of the region – told not in a propagandist way but rather through the eyes of a child and a woman. Another, is that I have always wanted to work with children because of the rawness and intelligence a good child actor can deliver. A lot of it has to do with
being greatly moved and inspired by Iranian cinema and Mira Nair's ‘Salaam Bombay!’
Finally, it was the challenge of shooting in Pakistan's Thar Desert – an arid, underdeveloped region where the harshness of the conditions go hand in hand with the sheer magnificent beauty of the area and the resilience and strength of the people who live there.

The story of the film rings true even today when hundreds of prisoners of either country languish in the jails of the other. The vast majority are victims of accidental and inadvertent border crossings and they end up forgotten and lost in the labyrinth of bureaucracy and red-tapism and subject to the vagaries of Pakistan- India relations.

The challenges in getting this film made were several: the declining state of Pakistan’s film industry and the resulting poor technical facilities; cinemas being broken down to make way for shopping centres; and finding investors interested in a project unlike the typically formulaic song-and-dance film. In that regard, my father, who wrote the first draft of the story and produced the film, was instrumental in approaching friends and colleagues from diverse sectors to invite them to join our family in investing in the project. I am deeply grateful to all of
them for their vision and belief in the film.

The next task ahead was to get together the production team. We knew from the start that whoever would come on board would do it as a labour of love, because we felt we were making something different and trying something that hadn’t been tried before. Most of the team from Pakistan had no experience in film. Many came from a television background. It was important from the start for me to work with people who I am the most comfortable with and who are on the same wave-length, so I approached my friend Sofian Khan who had collaborated with me on projects in New York to be the cinematographer for the film. He was also given the task of
assembling a talented crew from NY who would be willing to travel to Pakistan and enjoy the thrill of the desert while having stomachs of steel! And so Nina Kuhn (Head Gaffer), Jesse Mailings (Sound Recordist) and Josef Shafer (HD Technician) headed into unknown territory with great spirits and a love of adventure. My long time associate, screenplay writer Mohammad Ahmed who has written some deeply insightful and moving scripts for TV dramas and serials was imprisoned for around 8 months in our office in Karachi where the screenplay slowly took shape, while the two leading women of our crew, Mariam Mukaty, the Associate Producer and Sonia Rehman, the Creative Consultant kept the production and creative sides on track and spirits high, headed of course by my father with his indomitable spirit and positive energy permeating through the team.

It was imperative we find the right face for Ramchand. The film depended on it. After auditioning many school children as well as boys from the Thar Desert region, a fellow director friend of mine suggested a boy called Fazal Hussain who had worked in his TV film when he was 5 years old. The boy, now 7,5, but going on 40, met us and the minute I turned on the camcorder for the audition, I knew we had found him. And then we had to find an older Ramchand! Here, a lot of effort mixed with sheer luck helped us along the way and we discovered Navaid, a student of grade 6 who worked part time as a mechanic at his father’s shop in Mirpurkhas, a small town
about 4 hours from Karachi. Even though he came from a different background than his younger counterpart he shared his sensitivity and his excitement. Nandita Das and I had been friends since 2001 when she visited Pakistan for the first KaraFilm Festival that some friends and I had put together and since then we had been talking about working together. I have always admired the ease with which she becomes a character and the authenticity she brings to it. Rashid Farooqi who plays the father has always been a favourite of mine and we’ve worked on many projects together, while Maria Wasti and Noman Ijaz are very well respected television actors of Pakistan. Every single member of the cast, a hugely talented pool of TV and stage actors, both established and amateurs contributed with great integrity and hard work to the entire process from rehearsal to the sometimes grueling shooting timelines.

This film has been an incredible journey in collaboration, between people as well as countries -- Pakistan, India and the US. The music team comprises of the driven and passionate Debajyoti Mishra from India whose music for the film, ‘Raincoat’ convinced me that this is the person I want to work with. Shuhba Mudgal from India with her soaring earthy voice joined by Shafqat Amanat Ali of Pakistan who is one of our most distinctive male singers lent their voices to 4 powerful and evocative songs written by the celebrated media personality, painter and writer of
Pakistan, Anwar Maqsood.

Recording the background music in Mumbai and navigating Mumbai’s incredible traffic every day and night for about 3 weeks proved to be an experience in itself while through the valued help of the great film-maker, Shyam Benegal, we were introduced to his long time associate, Aseem Sinha with whom I co-edited the final version of the film to its 105-minutes.

Having visited, for research purposes, the main jail in the town of Bhuj in the Indian State of Gujrat close to which the original protagonists were held prisoners, the Producer and I were able to guide the production designer, Aqeel ur Rehman in Karachi to re-create on the outskirts of the city a large Indian jail which saw hectic work for over 3 weeks. It was also the only location in Pakistan other than the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, where the Indian flag flew at full mast for about 3 to 4 weeks! As an apt culmination of the international collaborative facets of what remains essentially a Pakistani film, the final post-production phase was conducted in New
York over a period of about 5 weeks. To then hold the complete version of the film in the form of a DVD in the palms ofmy hands continues to fascinate me as to how all the diverse, prolonged and complex streams of in-puts for over 2 years become compressed into a small disk: a gentle reminder to ensure humility.

Special aspects of the film
1. This is possibly the first film in the 60-year history of Pakistan, and most certainly the first film post-1971 (after the loss of East Pakistan) in which the central characters of a Pakistani film are Pakistani Hindus.

2. In a country where 97% of the people are Muslims, Hindus constitute only about 1.5% of the non-Muslim population.

3. The film is a human interest story set in South Asia but with universal appeal about a family that is at the bottom of social, religious and economic hierarchies, both by virtue of being non-Muslims in a pre-dominantly Muslim society, and by being from the “untouchable” Dalit (Kohli) caste in the Hindu faith. Yet, the film’s theme and story promote secular, non-sectarian values.

4. Adapted from actual events, “Ramchand Pakistani” depicts how an accidental crossing of the Pakistan-Indian border at a time of war-like tension (2002) dramatically changes the lives of a poor Pakistani Hindu “untouchable” peasant family comprising a little boy, his father and his
mother. The narrative unfolds on two parallel tracks on either side of the border — until they eventually intersect. This is also a story of a woman’s struggle for emotional security and survival in the face of great adversity — and a child’s coming of age well before time.

5. This is the first full-length feature film for cinema directed by a young Pakistani woman director, Mehreen Jabbar. Her work reflects a deep concern for the individual identity, rights and empowerment of women.

6. While the film is indigenous to Pakistan, it also represents a rare example of creative and constructive co-operation between Pakistan and India on a non-official level. With the consent of the Government of Pakistan, one of India’s reputed actresses Nandita Das has played a lead role in the film as a Pakistani Hindu woman. One of India’s leading music directors, Debajyoti Mishra, has composed the background music and four background songs, three of which also feature the voice of one of the leading Indian woman singers, Ms Shubha Mudgal. A widely-acknowledged Indian film editor, Aseem Sinha has also co-edited the film with the Director.

7. The Pakistani cinema has been in steep decline for several years. The decision to produce ‘Ramchand Pakistani’ brought with it more than the normal risks that any film project faces. The financing of the film had to be mobilized in an unconventional manner. While the Producer and his wife Mrs. Shabnam Jabbar have invested a substantial sum, 20 other citizens of Pakistan and of the USA who have never previously invested in a film for cinema, agreed to invest varying amounts to enable the production of the film.

8. While dealing with the impact of political, and possible military conflict between Pakistan and India on the lives of ordinary human beings living in a remote area, the film presents the story in a narrative, character-based drama, and not in polemical, explicitly political terms.

9. Despite the depiction of a Pakistani child held as a prisoner for several years, with adult prisoners in an Indian jail, the basic theme of the film promotes values of friendship and respect for identities of self, religion and nation, avoiding a narrow, chauvinistic approach.


Mehreen worked in advertising in Pakistan for a couple of years before receiving a certificate from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) in 1993 in Film, Television and Video. She returned to Pakistan to direct and produce made-for-TV movies and drama series/serials under the banner of TasVeer Productions, almost all of which were critically acclaimed by the Pakistani press. She went on to direct short TV films and TV series for numerous TV channels in Pakistan, in addition to a number of short films, which have aired in festivals worldwide. Her award-winning films include 'Daughters of the Late Colonel', and a four-part television show: ' Sanam Gazida, Afsoon Khawab, Deeda-e-Purkhoon, and Lal Baig.'. 'Ramchand Pakistani' is her first feature length film. Mehreen has been a member of the National Board of Film Censors in Karachi, a founding member of WAR (War Against Rape), the KaraFilm Festival (Pakistan’s only international film festival) in Karachi, and has also served as a juror at the Leeds International Film Festival in 2002. She currently resides in New York City.

JAVED JABBAR – Writer and Producer
Diverse interests include extensive association with mass media in creative and in public policy dimensions. He wrote, produced and directed Pakistan's first fulllength cinema film in English: "Beyond the Last Mountain" (1976). Also wrote and directed several documentary films including the international award-winning film on the Indus Valley civilization: "Moen-jo-Daro: the city that must not die" (1973 for Pakistan Television Network) as well as hundreds of trend-setting, prizewinning advertising commercials in Pakistan in the 1970s and 1980s. Drafted progressive media laws for Pakistan as Minister in 3 Cabinets and as a Senator between 1985 and 2000. 10 books (9 in English, 1 in Urdu) comprising writings on film, media, culture, national and international affairs have been published. One of the four elected (for 2005-2008) global Vice Presidents of IUCN-International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the world's largest
environment organization.

Mohammed Ahmed is amongst the most recognized scriptwriters in Pakistan. His focus has largely been on women's issues, which he has portrayed in genres ranging from intense drama to light comedy. He has written several serials, series, TV films and stage plays, and recently wrote his first feature film for theatrical release, Mehreen Jabbar's ‘Ramchand Pakistani’. Ahmed also has a passion for theatre, dance and acting, and has studied Bharat Natyam from Sheema Kirmani (one of Pakistan’s premier classical dancers) and has acted in several stage and television plays. He is currently the head of AAJ TV's Script Department, and in his spare time he's writing films.

SOFIAN KHAN - Cinematographer
Founder of the New York City-based production house Capital K Pictures, Sofian has been producing and directing music videos and commercials for two years. This year marks his transition into feature filmmaking with the completion of ‘Ramchand Pakistani’ as director of photography, and with his directorial debut "Destined to be Ingested". He is currently at work writing and raising funds for a feature set in Pakistan.

Debu is a composer and musician from Kolkata, India with a distinct international edge. His musical orientation has been fashioned by diverse influences including western and eastern classical music, folk and post-modern music; thus blessing his creation with a symphonic dynamism. Mishra is steeped in experimentation but without compromising with aesthetics. His stints as the principle violinist, playing for the maestro Satyajit Ray, deserves special mention. Mishra's tunes have crossed local boundaries to acquire a global recognition; his creative associations have been with internationally acclaimed award -winning directors like Govind Nihalni, Mrinal Sen, Rituparno Ghosh, Bhavna Talwar, Academy Award winner Florian Gallenberger and more. His melodies in films like Chokher Bali, Raincoat, Dharam, Hazar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Amar Bhubon and Shadows of Time have fetched immense appreciation and
applaud in international film festivals like Berlin, Cannes, India. London, Venice, Munich and Carlos Viveri.'

MARIAM MUKATY – Associate Producer
Mariam Mukaty had for long wanted to be a psychologist, and all was going well until she took a short break from her studies and took up a job with a television channel six years ago. Since then she has worked on a range of programmes and commercials for television including serials, films for television, game shows and political satire. Mariam worked on Michael Winterbottom's "A Mighty Heart" as Assistant Pakistan Production Manager, coordinating pre-production and
production in the country. "Ramchand Pakistani" is Mariam's second film.

SONIA REHMAN QURESHI – Creative Consultant
Sonia began her acting career in 2001 with her first television film in the series, ‘Gaaney Afsaney’. She was nominated for the Best Actress award in the Lux Style Awards for her lead role in ‘Ambulance’, a tele-series in 2004, and again for her role in the TV serial, ‘Pehchaan’ directed by Mehreen Jabbar in 2007. In total she has worked in 13 TV serials and 14 tele-films. She has also won the award for Best TV Anchor for her morning show on the channel TV One, a
satellite channel in South Asia. She attended the New York Film Academy in New York and did a course in direction after which she joined the team of ‘Ramchand Pakistani’. Sonia is currently acting in a TV serial, ‘Dorahaa’, also directed by Mehreen Jabbar.

Aseem is a veteran editor from India and has worked with eminent directors like Shyam Benegal and Ketan Mehta. He has edited highly acclaimed and award winning films like ‘Zubeida’, ‘Mammo’ and ‘Sardari Begum‘ as well as a number of TV serials and documentaries. Aseem has also worked as an assistant director on many of Shyam Benegal’s films and directed a film for Mukta Arts called “25 years of Subhash Gai in Indian Cinema’. He is currently working on his own documentary set in the Rajasthan region of India.


Nandita Das is known to world audiences for her critically acclaimed performances in films like Fire, Earth (both directed by Deepa Mehta), Bawander (directed by Jagmohan Mundhra), Maati Maay (directed by Chitra Palekar), and has also acted in films by Mrinal Sen, Mani Ratnam, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihlani and other acclaimed Indian directors. She has performed in over 25 feature films, in ten different languages, many of which have been showcased in numerous
international film festivals and won her accolades. She has won the Best Actress awards for the film Bawander at the Santa Monica Film Festival (2001), for her performance in Amar Bhuvan at the Cairo Film Festival (2002) and for the Marathi film Maati Maay at the Madrid International Film Festival (2007). She was a member of the main jury at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, 2005 and the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, 2007.

Rashid started his acting career in Pakistan in 1990 when he performed in theatre groups like Baang, Tehrik e Niswan and Ajoka, in Pakistan and was a leading actor in critically acclaimed plays like “Marney key badh kiya ho ga” (What happens after death). For the last 13 years, he’s been one of the leading character actors on Pakistan Television, known for his honest and gritty performances. His leading TV series and films include, ‘Shanakth’ (Identity) where he played a
transvestite wanting his gay adopted son to change his lifestyle.

Fazal’s first appearance on TV was in a short film “Eid Muqabla’ directed by his father Syed Sarfaraz Hussain when he was 4 years old. He then went on to star in a supporting role in the TV series called, ‘Malika’ when he was 5. He studies in New Generation High School in grade 3. Currently he’s working in a children’s TV series, ‘Sanegar’ directed by his father. He wants to be an engineer as well as an actor when he grows up.

Maria started acting on Pakistan Television in 1995 in the TV drama, "Sara aur Ammara" and since then has starred in several TV films and TV serials. Her highly acclaimed dramas include, 'Kullo', 'Badlon pey Basera' and 'Khuch Dil Ne Kaha'. She has also produced TV serials and magazine weekly shows for Pakistani cable channels. Maria is currently working on three upcoming TV serials, including one that is being filmed in India.

NOMAN IJAZ – Abdullah
Noman has acted in over 90 Pakistani Television serials and 200 TV films, over the last 19 years. His first noted performance was in the hugely successful TV serial, ‘Dasht’ set in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. His other acclaimed serials are John Hopkins University sponsored TV serial, ‘Nijaat’, and ‘Yeh Zindagi’. He has always emphasized on character roles and wanted to be an actor not a star. Noman has won over 22 awards including The Lux Best Actor award twice and Pakistan Television Awards. He also starred in one of the first music videos of the legendary Pakistani qawali singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Noman has also produced TV serials and TV films for a number of channels in Pakistan.

Adrash started acting in Pakistani TV dramas since the age of 8. It has now been some 21 years. During this time he has been nominated for two PTV Best Actor awards and has won once. His other endeavors in acting have all earned him critical praise. In recent times Adarsh has been concentrating more towards Pakistani parallel cinema. He has recently done three feature films including “Ramchand Pakistani”.

Adnan first started acting in a theatre company called 'Tamashghar' in Lahore. His first TV appearance was in 1999 in the dance drama ‘Sassi Punno’. He then went on to star in the hit TV series, 'Sub Set Hai'. He won critical praise for his role as an extremist religious activist in the
internationally acclaimed film, 'Khamosh Pani' (Silent Waters). For the last 8 years, he has starred in numerous TV films and serials as well as music videos and TV commercials. His most recent work was on theatre in a play called ‘Jinay Lahore nahin vekhiya’ (Those who haven't seen Lahore).

Zhaley started work on TV in 2000 in the sitcom ‘Punterz’. She then hosted live shows and started modeling in 2003. She has also been a radio DJ on Radio Pakistan in 1999, has worked in theatre and studied MIME with the French instructor Philippe Bizot. She was nominated for the most stylish actress at the Indus Style Awards in 2006 and is currently a VJ on MTV Pakistan.

Atif began his acting career in 1994 in the theatre group, 'Tehrik e Niswan'. He's worked with Pakistani and Indian theatre directors and his noted plays are, 'Zikr e Nashunida', 'Kaisey bitaen Jeevan' and 'Jung Abhi nahin ho gee'. He has acted in several Pakistani TV serials and sitcoms and conducted theatre workshops at the Agha Khan Medical University.

Saleem has been an active member of the theatre groups ‘Katha’ and ‘Tehreek-e-Niswan’ for many years. His first TV appearance was in a TV film from the series 'Aik Mohabbat Sau Afsanay' called 'Afsoon Khuwab' directed by Mehreen Jabbar. He has appeared in several TV films and TV serials since then and is regarded as a noted character actor.

SHAHOOD ALVI – Superintendent Asif
Shahood Alvi has over 12 years experience in television as a model, actor, director and host. He has worked in over 300 TV short and medium length films, as well as in 150 TV serials. He has also directed films for television as well as 2 TV series. Apart from this, he has participated in several TV commercials and fashion shows as a model, as well as hosting game shows on TV.

Farooq has been directing TV serials and TV films for the last 7 years. He has also directed 3 music videos and is currently working at AAJ TV channel in Pakistan. He has appeared in small cameo roles on TV. This is his first film as an actor.

NAVAID JABBAR - Older Ramchand
Navaid is a student of grade 6 and lives in the city of Mirpurkhas in Pakistan. He works part time as a mechanic at his father’s shop and this is his first acting appearance.

Written and Produced by : JAVED JABBAR
Cinematographer: SOFIAN KHAN
Associate Producer: MARIAM MUKATY
Creative Consultant: SONIA REHMAN QURESHI
Sound Recording & Sound Design: JESSE JAMES MAILINGS
Production Designer: AQEEL UR REHMAN
First Assistant Director: MOHAMMED AHMED
Second Assistant Director
and Script Assistant: FARRUKH FAIZ
Second Assistant Director: SABOOR HAIDER
Third Assistant Director: NADIR ARBAB NADIR
Third Assistant Director: NAJEEHA REHMAN QADRI
Production Assistants: SULTAN KHAN,NAHEED MALIK
Head Gaffer: NINA KUHN
Still Photographer: KOHDAYAR MARRI
Senior DI Producer: MATHEW REEDY
DI colorist: SCOT OLIVE
Re-Recording Mixer: PATRICK DONAHUE
Special Acknowledgement: JEREMIAH HAWKINS

NAVAID JABBAR Ramchand (older)
SHAHOOD ALVI Superintendent Asif
SAIF E HASAN Landlord middle man
RAO SALIM Indian Border Security
Force Interrogator
SAJJID SHAH Indian Border Security
Force Inspector
ANIS CHACHAR Pakistan Rangers Captain