KARACHI: Pakistan will soon be releasing its first Sindhi-language feature film, 'Indus Echoes,' in nearly three decades, its filmmaker said on Saturday, calling it an attempt to earn "a little more respect" for the Sindhi culture, traditions, language and people.
Pakistan reportedly released its first-ever Sindhi film, 'Umar Marvi,' in 1956, while the country saw the release of its last Sindhi film, 'Himmat,' in 1997. Since then, only a few Sindhi telefilms and short-films have been produced, but no Sindhi feature film, which averages between 75 and 210 minutes, has been made in the South Asian country.
The latest project, which is currently in post-production phase and is expected to be released next year, is directed and produced by Pakistani journalist-turned-filmmaker, Rahul Aijaz, who is currently pursuing a filmmaking fellowship in South Korea.
“The idea of making Sindhi films has always been there for some reason, but it took me many years to realize that I should push for it even more,” Aijaz told Arab News.
“Nobody makes Sindhi movies now. [I am] trying to put a little more respect on that culture and the traditions and the language, and the people itself.”
In 2020, Aijaz also produced a short Sindhi-language film called, 'A Train Crosses the Desert,' which was screened in four countries, including at the Jaipur International Film Festival (2021) in India and the South Asian International Film Festival (2020) in the US.
Sharing the inspiration behind the name and storyline of his latest project, Aijaz said the Indus River fascinated him for a long time as it served as a “major symbol” of the Sindhi culture. The civilization in this part of the world probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for this river, he said.
“We don’t really pay that respect to the entity (the river) that actually gave us our culture, life, and civilization,” he said.
“A film that doesn’t just tell stories of the people but the stories of the river as a character itself. That’s the idea that evolved into Indus Echoes.”
The idea came to life last year while Aijaz was sitting at a roadside kiosk with a friend. He thought of making “an anthology film with multiple stories all in, around, and across the river,” though the film explores other themes as well, according to the filmmaker. The cast and crew came on board by the end of 2022, while the shoots began in February this year.
After Aijaz went to Korea for the fellowship, he said, he showed filmmakers over there what he had created so far and was able to get some international crew onboard too.
Indus Echoes, he added, is a collaboration between Pakistan's Film N’ Chips Media Productions, Shaam Films and South Korea’s Big Meta Films.
The film stars Sindhi-speaking actors, Vajdaan Shah and Ansaar Mahar, in addition to Samina Seher in key roles. They will be seen playing multiple characters in multiple stories, according to Aijaz.
Hyderabad, the second-biggest city of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, was the main production base of the film but several scenes were also shot in smaller towns of the province, including Kotri, Jamshoro and Wasi Malook Shah.
Aijaz said he hopes to finish the film by the end of this year and target international film festivals, after which he plans to release Indus Echoes in cinemas across Pakistan and worldwide early next year.
“The film has the potential to reach not just Sindhi audiences but all across the world and we can position this film as an introduction to Sindhi culture, heritage and the Indus River,” Aijaz said.
Pakistan actor and director Shamoon Abbasi has also joined forces as one of the executive producers of Indus Echoes. What intrigued him to come on board was “a sense of reality” in the subject and that the film will “serve a purpose to society,” he said.
“We see many Punjabi, Pashto, Urdu and even Balochi films in the cinemas but Sindhi-language films aren't being exhibited in Pakistan for a long time,” Abbasi told Arab News.
“[Producing] a film in the Sindhi language will elevate Sindhi filmmakers in Pakistan and give them the strength to share their narratives in the future.”