Sad and sensitive tale will touch your heart

CLASS ACT: Bollywood’s Nandita Das, Pakistani actor Rashid Farooqi and child star Syed Fazal Hussain give impressive performances in the sensitive and sad Ramchand Pakistani
Ramchand Pakistani (7/10): This is a very sad, yet extremely sensitive, film about a Hindu family from Pakistan that falls victim to the cross-border conflict with neighbour India.

It’s a Pakistani production based on an actual event which highlights the price that innocent communities have to pay for conflicts over which they have no influence or control.

The year is 2002 and, in the aftermath of a daring attack on the Indian Parliament by suspected Pakistani militants, tensions between the two countries are running high.
On the Pakistan side of the Thir district that borders both countries, the Dalit community has no idea of what the leaders in Islamabad and Delhi are contemplating; for them eking out a living is all that matters.

In one particularly basic rural home Champa (Nandita Das) and her husband Shan-kar’s (Rashid Farooqi) biggest concern is their petulant eight-year-old Ramchand (Syed Faz-al Hussain), who has made a habit of bunking school, and on this fateful morning after yet another reprimanding, Ramchand wanders across the border into India and is arrested.

Shankar, who goes looking for him, is also taken into custody and with it this family’s ordeal begins, with Champa alone on the other side and completely unaware of what has become of them.

The film’s central theme deals with a child who has to deal with the trauma of a situation he feels responsible for.

Coupled to it are the desperate separation issues as well as other borderline issues, like the discrimination of the Dalit’s (Untouchables), which is still evident in certain parts of the sub-continent, as well as the rich irony of a Hindu father and son who are held prisoner in a country that is predominantly Hindu on the pretext that since they are they from Pakistani, they can’t be trusted.

Suspicion in such circumstances knows no bounds, and director Mehreen Jabbar constantly forces her audience to acknowledge that although the two countries are separate entities, fiercely proud of their individual identities, they share much by way of culture, religion and tradition in common.

She also manages to convey a message that politics is responsible for the high cost of human suffering and does so without siding with either India or Pakistan.

Although the plot isn’t exactly riveting, it’s the plight of the central characters that sustains interest and this is mainly because of her sensible direction and a host of noteworthy performances from a cast made up predominantly of Pakistani actors.

Uppermost among them is child star Hussain, who touches a chord with his portrayal of the young Ramchand. It’s as good a performance by a child actor as you are likely to see. Farooqi, who plays his father, also impresses.

The only Indian actor on board is the ever-dependable Nandita Das, with Jabbar making her character’s plight a parallel point of interest alongside those of the imprisoned. Das excels at roles in which her character’s resilience is constantly tested and this one’s no different.

Ramchand Pakistani, set against a stark semi-desert backdrop, offers sufficient proof that a good story will invariably translate into an interesting movie and, coming on the heels of another Pakistani film, Khuda Kay Liye, it suggests that the Lahore film industry is worth keeping an eye on.

The original DVD of Ramchand Pakistani was supplied by Global Music (011) 836-9445.

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