Iram Parveen Bilal’s debut film Josh is the only feature film from Pakistan to be screened at one of the region’s most prestigious film festivals, the 14th Mumbai Film Festival being held from 18th October to 25th October, 2012. The film is based on the story of Fatima, a committed schoolteacher living the cosmopolitan high life in Karachi, whose life is shattered when her nanny, Nusrat, inexplicably disappears. Josh is the story of Fatima’s search for a dangerous truth in Nusrat’s feudal village.
In this exclusive interview with fashioncentral, Iram Parveen Bilal talks about the making of Josh and the challenges of making this film.
Q1: Josh is based on a real life story: how did you stumble across Khaana Ghar, the real life charity which has formed the basis for Josh?
Parveen Saeed was a character we were following for the 2010 Sundance selected BHUTTO documentary, which I crewed on. A peer of mine, Mariam Mukaty, highlighted doing a piece on her and then slowly instead of a short documentary piece, we decided to make it more of a cinematic piece. Now, whilst the film is a completely fictional story, it is inspired by the truth of Khaana Ghar.
Q2: Do you feel film making in Pakistan has entered yet another golden era, considering the number of independent films which are being released?
I don’t know about what metallic era we have had or what this is. But yes, it is a very exciting time and we are honored to be a part of this wave which I hope only increases in amplitude! I began work on Josh about 4 years ago and at that time I don’t recall any other Pakistani feature actively in pre production whereas now, we are hearing of a lot in production.
We need to start embracing independent films and points of views as a bigger context of the industry. Film is not only meant to be the stereotypical commercial film in my point of view. Filmmaking is storytelling and storytelling can be loud and musical or subtle and quiet, it can be happy or sad. Films attempt to honor and at the same time dismiss or escape life and life is a rainbow that has all colors.
Q3: How did you feel when you heard that Josh has been accepted for screening at the 14th Mumbai International Film Festival?
Honored. I have grown up watching and adoring Bollywood. Whilst JOSH is not a Bollywood type of a film, Bombay and its industry have had a special corner in my heart.
Q4: What do you wish viewers will take away from Josh when they watch the film?
Never give up. And also, if we stand united, nothing can beat us. The “we” can be a nation, a family, a group of friends, a village.
Q5: Do you feel the political climate in the country is the only reason the outside world is paying so much attention to film making within Pakistan?
Nothing is black and white ever. We are Pakistanis and our films are first seen as a representation of Pakistan and hence the climate affects those perceptions. That being said, I don’t think a terrible Pakistani film shall get notoriety just because it is Pakistani.
Q6: The music of Josh is particularly captivating and it’s hats off to you that you have managed to rope in Ali Azmat who agreed to give you the film rights of “Na, Ray Na”: why did you want this particular song for Josh?
Indus World Music that comprises veteran musician and composer, Shahi Hasan and his partner Noor Lodhi has done a tremendous job on the original songs they have created for JOSH. In addition, award winning British composer Andrew T. Mackay has been the soul of the score. To top it all, I have respected and been completely star struck with Ali’s voice, poetry and musical talents. I gave it a shot, and they agreed. It was pretty amazing. Na Ray Na to me is a song that defines longing and our lead character longs for answers and clarity. It is a very universal song that can pull ones heart strings in many situations.
Q7: What is your ultimate dream for Josh?
We want the film to be watched by thousands of people and in the process, we want the film to inspire people by atleast one element or thought in the film.
My ultimate dream is that the entire team of JOSH gets really good work and recommendations out of the film and that we can all grow in our careers and continue to contribute to Pakistani cinema, media, activism. All of it.
Q8: Is there pressure on film makers from Pakistan to produce films which portray a “positive face” of Pakistan?
I think there is definitely that pressure and responsibility but first and foremost, I believe that being honest to one’s intention and story is the best way to make a film. There will always be critics and expectations and trying to fulfill everyone is mere foolishness as it is just not possible. Josh is a representation of a story that often occurs in Pakistan because it’s based on sociopolitical issues evident in the rural areas. It also celebrates the empowered young professional generation we currently have in the country.
Q9: Do you have a favorite scene in the film?
Yes but I can’t share it or the mystery will be given away!
Q10: What for you is the turning point of the film?
You need to watch the film before I can speak about that. So when it is in theatres, buy a ticket and please come watch it!