For her new film, Nandita Das took on a role in a film by a young new filmmaker that has a topic that is very true to life. The script for Mehreen Jabar’s Ramchand Pakistani is based on a true story about a boy and his father’s accidental crossing of the Pakistan-India border and the trauma that follows.
Nandita said about the film, “The story is inspired by a real life incident and revolves around a small seven year old boy (Ramchand) who along with his father (Hindu Dalit settled in Pakistan) accidentally crosses the border. The story moves parallel between the father-son in Kutch jail and the mother left in a small village in Pakistan, unaware about the whereabouts of her family.”
Nandita’s role is that of the boy’s mother, “I play the mother of Ramachand, a Hindu dalit who is a Pakistani by Nationality named Champa. There are lot of Hindu Dalit families who were left behind during the partition in the Sindh area.The film also brings in the limelight the complexities of being a Hindu dalit and Pakistani at the same time, in an Indian jail.”
About working with Jabar, Nandita said, “I met Mehreen at Kara Film Festival where Bawandar was to be screened. Later on, we became friends and she narrated me this story which I found very powerful. She is a very intelligent and a sensitive director.”
Director Mehreen Jabar said about the cast and crew, “It was very important for me to use both Pakistani and Indian talents like actress Nandita Das, singer Shubha Mudgal, songwriter Anwar Maqsood and 20 Pakistani actors. No one felt that they were working with Pakistanis or Indians. It was like one big happy family.”
Jabar explained, “The reason why we picked this true story of a little boy and his father was because people already know that all these cases are innocent but this was the most heart wrenching story of them all. We have read about cases of Indians in Pakistan jails. Recently there was this man who was released after spending 35 years in Pakistani prison. And I think it just points at the sheer cruelty of the bureaucracy. It is the every day citizen, who inadvertently crosses the border by mistake and ends being a prisoner, suffers the most.”
Actor Rashid Farooqi added, “Who knows how many Indians and Pakistanis are in jails on both the sides? Films like these must be made to inform the public of the sufferings of such prisoners who are victims of a political divide.”
Ramchand Pakistani will be showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April and is scheduled to open in theaters in both India and Pakistan in May.