We have strides to make within our Western societies but it’s easy to forget how stifling the rest of the world still is towards gender queerness and non-conformity. Let’s take a quick trip to South Asia where we find the khwaja-sera (transgender) community. Although they have served as caretakers during the Mughal empire, have made prominent contributions to art and culture, and allegedly can bring good fortune and fertility – they still occupy a marginalized place in present-day society.
I had the chance to interview Khaula Malik, a Pakastani-American filmmaker, who is determined to change the world’s perception of the Khwaja-Sera community within Pakistan in her upcoming film, THE NOBLE HALF, which is a few short hours from raising $15,000 on Kickstarter.com.
People often forget that filmmaking, like any art form, comes from within, from pain, from sadness, or from a question that the filmmaker has about the world. What has been your journey to this point and what prompted you to use this medium of storytelling?
Khaula: I really wanted to see and hear voices like mine in the media when I was growing up, but I didn’t think I’d end up trying to be one of those voices. I studied economics and anthropology in undergrad and it wasn’t until after I graduated that I seriously thought about pursuing a creative career which at the time I thought translated to pursuing PR or Advertising.
After getting laid off from a PR job after college, I decided I didn’t want to go back into that world. A few months later, while doing odd jobs, a friend of mine recommended me to a Pakistani director, Mehreen Jabbar, who was about to film a TV show in New York City. I went for the interview, thinking it was for a job as her assistant, but only after I got the job did I realize it was to be an assistant director.
Needless to say, it was baptism by fire! After that project, I knew this was the industry I wanted to work in. I think the arts — specifically film — give us an opportunity to transport people into the lives of those they may not be exposed to in their day-to-day. The desire to give someone insight into a person or a world they don’t know is what drives me to be a storyteller.
What drew you to the Khwaja-Sera community?
Khaula: My first in-depth exposure was when I was in undergrad studying anthropology, I visited Pakistan and met a member of the community at my aunt’s house. I realized that while I’d heard stories about this community as a child and had seen them at weddings, I had never met someone personally until that moment. After getting to know her throughout my stay and meeting a community of khwaja-seras in Karachi, I became interested in further exploring the community’s historical and cultural presence in the subcontinent.
I ended up writing my anthropology thesis about the third gender in South Asia through the framework of their historical and cultural presence. It’s a long story, but in short, gender queerness and non-conformity had existed and thrived in our communities long before conversation around the presence and rights of these communities became an area of focus in the West.
After my trip, I was inspired to make a documentary that didn’t feel too academic but didn’t fully realize how to do that until I went to graduate school for film and became familiar with the work of Alma Har’el, specifically her documentary, LoveTrue. She has a dignified way of capturing her subjects and giving them the freedom to guide the audience in an empathic manner. I think she’s pushing the boundaries of documentary as art and I’d like to do the same with this film and my subsequent films.
Bubbli, Eshaa, and Sharmeela seem like incredible women. What about them specifically intrigued you?
Khaula: They’re all so different and unique! I first met them while they were running the cafe at the National College of Arts campus in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It was really incredible to see how seamlessly they ran the whole place, but what really struck me were the strong bonds they had created with the students at the university. Hearing students talk about how their biases about the khwaja-sera disappeared when they met Bubbli, Eshaa, and Sharmeeli was really touching. It struck a chord with me because it showed how a space like a cafe could really break down barriers among people. I wanted to document Bubbli, Eshaa, and Sharmeeli’s lives at the cafe and then use it as a jumping-off point to explore their lives outside of work. Of course, when the cafe shut down, the film changed shape.
How did they feel about their lives being documented in this way? Did they pushback at all on certain elements?
Khaula: At first, they were really hesitant — particularly Eshaa and Bubbli — because they didn’t know what to expect. They have given interviews in the past to the media and were hesitant to share their story with me because nothing came of the interviews they had given to media outlets in the past. It took some time for me to gain their trust and has taken me going back and forth to Pakistan for three years for them to understand my commitment to their stories. I think the consistent exposure they’ve had to me over the years has helped deepen my relationship to them. When there’s pushback, it’s usually indirect, but I know if one of them isn’t picking up my calls, they aren’t in the mood to deal with me and I’ve learned to give them space.
I was at CPH:DOX in Copenhagen in March listening to Mila Turajli? speak about filming her documentary, “The Other Side of Everything,” and she made an amazing point about how a documentary really takes shape when your subjects start thinking that you’re some kind of joke and will never finish the project. They no longer feel self-conscious about the camera, because they’re convinced you’ll never do anything with the footage. I feel like I finally reached that point with Bubbli, Eshaa, and Sharmeeli on my most recent trip to Pakistan in February!
It’s no secret that people judge a film by its title; it sets the bar for expectations. Why did you choose the title THE NOBLE HALF?
Khaula: I was at a documentary lab in Arkansas and everyone was brainstorming new names for their films. I started talking about the etymology of the term khwaja-sera and how khwaja translates to nobleman in Farsi/Urdu and depending on the source, sera can be translated to half or middle. Immediately one of the other filmmakers suggested The Noble Half and I loved it. Not only does it embody the meaning of the term, but I feel like it really embodies the place I think this community has occupied in South Asian culture and society. In particular their significance during Mughal Court society as protectors of the harem and advisors to the Emperor.
The community also has spiritual significance in both Islam and Hinduism. In Islam, the soul isn’t gendered, so the community who are seen as part of both genders, then becomes an embodiment of the divine. In Hinduism, the community derives its significance from the story of Lord Rama, when he was exiled from his home, he asked all the men and women of the town not to wait for him. When he returned, there was only one community of people who had been waiting all this time, and they didn’t identify as male or female—they were the khwaja-sera/hijra community. He blessed them, and from then on, they occupied a privileged space in Hindu mythology.
Why do you think it’s important, now more than ever, to be cognizant of how colonialism is impacting daily life in South Asian countries?
Khaula: I think we’re finally starting to talk about the impact of colonialism on our communities. I think the critique was present in the past, but with the rise of social media and the ease in how we can connect globally, there’s more space to express our sentiments. I also think we’re starting to survey how our narratives have been shaped through a colonial lens. What people might not realize is that the marginalization of the khwaja-sera community was systematic and fundamental to the British Empire’s strategy of divide and conquer. In the subcontinent, they didn’t just pit Hindus against Muslims, they also imposed their heteronormative ideals and framework on society. Because the khwaja-sera community didn’t fit into a heteronormative ideal, they systematically marginalized the community. That marginalization is what still stands today. There is so much erasure of our histories and so you have people who justify marginalization through the lens of religion or blasphemy, when in fact it came from outside our culture.
In the process of making this film, I’ve had to face my own reckoning of being a Pakistani-American and dealing with the generational trauma that people in our communities are struggling with. I think so many young people are fed up with how our identities have been hijacked and shaped by others. We want to reclaim our voices, our stories, and redefine who we are and what we represent.
We wish you all the best in your funding. Independent filmmaking is no easy task. Funding aside, what has been the most challenging aspect in documenting a community that is so underrepresented?
Khaula: Building trust with your subjects is the single most important aspect of documentary filmmaking. In underrepresented or vulnerable communities, it’s even more important because you are always walking the fine line of representation vs. exploitation.
Have you gotten any pushback or negative press in Pakistan? Or in general? How do you process that?
Khaula: Knock on wood, no negative press or pushback in Pakistan…as of yet! We have received some pushback around representation and how my making a film about a community that I’m not directly a part of can be perceived as exploitative. I think those concerns are valid.
Representation is something I take very seriously. I recognize that there are blindspots I will encounter in the process, but I’m also doing what I can to ensure that Bubbli, Eshaa, and Sharmeeli have a voice in their narratives. The film will predominantly be cinema verite and will unfold in real-time. Any voiceover in the film will come from the people represented in the movie and not a third-party narrator.
I also recognize that despite all these efforts, I might still fall short. But at this stage, I’ve already come so far in the process that there isn’t any turning back. I’m willing to take a chance, knowing that there might be some negative press or backlash for my work.
And what has been the most rewarding part of this whole process?
Khaula: Documentary filmmaking is a long and arduous process, and you often find yourself feeling like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But, Bubbli, Eshaa, and Sharmeeli have become like family to me. It is humbling that they have trusted me to tell their stories. It is a privilege and an honor.
What change do you hope this film inspires in how we view the Khwaja-Sera community?
Khaula: There are two things that I really hope this film can help do. First, I hope it can serve as a touchpoint for employment rights for the khwaja-sera community in Pakistan. Ideally, it would lead to direct action where we see an increase in opportunities for khwaja-seras in the workplace. I also hope it helps widen Bubbli’s activisms efforts to help her community where the things she is doing on a local level can get amplified across the country.
Secondly, on a more global level, I hope the film can start conversations around the history of the subcontinent as a safe haven for individuals who have not fit into heteronormative ideals. I’m tired of our part of the world constantly being stigmatized and seen as backwards. Our cultures deserve to be celebrated for their richness and their nuance, and I hope this film can become a more nuanced view of Pakistani society and one that the West is not used to seeing.
We at Brown Girl Magazine can’t wait to see the economic and cultural impact this film and Malik will have once the project is released. By donating to this campaign, you’re able to write a new chapter for the Khwaja-Sera community and many other underrepresented communities like this around the world.
“After so Long” is a poetry film created for Simha’s EP, which is streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. The poem was collaboratively written by Simha, a U.S. native, and Jae, who is based in India, during the 2020 lockdown. “After so Long” was recited by Simha and their parents. In 2022, I directed and produced the film through my studio, Star Hopper. “After so Long” premiered on Nowness Asia in March 2022.
This film is a worldwide collaboration among trans and queer south-Asian artists from the United States, India and Canada. It was recorded, shot and filmed during the lockdown of 2020 and 2021.
Awake at 10 am but out of bed at noon,
I want to be here where I lose myself in these sheets
Glancing through half-shut eyes
At the gold pressing past my window
The glimmer remarks on the ledge of my bed
But the voices are so loud
Like dust collecting in the corner of my room
I am unaware to why I’m still here
With the chilling doubt of the breeze…
I’m swept into lucidity After so long
Mil rahi hoon mein aaj iske saang barso baad,
(Today, I’ll be meeting them after so long)
Koi paata nahi diya tune
(But with no destination sight,)
(What should I do?)
(Where should I go?)
Shayad agar mein chalne lagoon,
(Perhaps, if I keep walking)
Inn yaadon ki safar mein
(Down this road of memories)
Mujhe samajh mein ayega,
(I will find out)
Yeh rasta kahaan jayega,
(Where this road leads)
Inn aari tedhi pakadandiyon pe baarte hi jaana hai,
(Through the twists and turns of this winding roads, I must keep going on)
Mujhe mil na hain aaj uske saath,
(I wish to meet them today)
(After so long)
I feel like I’m retracing my footsteps
From these concrete stretches
To broken cement walls
Chips and cracks forge their way for new designs
I see the old abandoned buildings
That once held the warmth of bodies
Now just hold memories
Supporting the nature’s resilience
In vines and moss
After so long
Dhoondli shishe mein jaaga leli hai
(These isty mirrors have offered refuge)
Bikhri hui laatao ne,
(To these scattered vines)
Zameen pe uchi ghaas pe
(Amidst the tall grass stretching from the ground)
Lehrati kamsan kaliyaa
(The swaying little buds)
Bheeni bheeni khushboo bikhereti
(Spreading honeysuckle scent through the air)
Phir wahi mausam,
(I lose myself in reminiscing, the same season)
(The same heart)
(After so long)
Phir bhi mein chal rahi hoon aaj
(Still, I keep carrying on today)
Khudko khudse milane ke liye
(In the pursuit of my higher self)
Inn galiyo se guzarna hain aaj
(I must pass through these streets today)
Chaalte chaale jaana hai aaj
(I must keep going on today)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor paar
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
(After so long)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor pe
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
(After so long)
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It is the strength of both British and South Asian cinema that every few years, and with increasing regularity, a film comes along that is able to successfully and thoughtfully bridge the highs and lows of both cultures. With the recognisable cross-cultural DNA of films like “Bend it Like Beckham”, “Bride and Prejudice”and others before it, Shekhar Kapur brings to the silver screen an honest and comedic representation of East meets West with “What’s Love Got To Do With It” — an exploration of love and marriage across international norms.
Written and produced by Jemima Khan, the film draws from elements of her own experience of marrying then-Pakistani cricket star and now ex-Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and relocating to the country for 10 years.
“Particularly in the West, Pakistanis would quite often be seen as terrorists, fanatics and backwards,” says Khan, as she reminisces about her time spent in Pakistan over Zoom. “My experience of living in Pakistan was very colourful, vibrant, and fun. I always felt like the rom-com side of Pakistan was more surprising than anything else.”
A film not just about the heart, but with a lot of heart of its own, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” touches on South Asian families, culture, individuality, and marriages in the 21st century. Set in the UK and Pakistan, this is a feel-good and fun story about childhood best friends and neighbours, Zoe and Kazim, AKA Kaz. And as the narrative unfolds, new light is shone on their friendship and questions are asked about the cultural norms and practices we have grown to accept.
It isn’t your usual ‘boy-meets-girl’ tale. On the contrary, they’ve known each other forever; the fabric of their lives intertwined. Kaz is a British-Pakistani doctor of “marriageable” age, opting for an “assisted” marriage set in motion by his own desire rather than parental duress.
“I think we’ve replaced the term “arranged” with “assisted” because South Asian parents now trust their kids more to make the right decision for themselves,” said Shahzad Latif, sitting next to Lily James, who nods in agreement. “It’s still a process. Some parents may have more confidence in their kids than others, but we’re getting there.”
Zoe – played by Lily James – is a professional documentary maker living on an inexplicably fancy houseboat (bit of a stretch for somebody having difficulty funding projects, but, at this point, a crucial ingredient for London rom-coms). As a white British woman, her method of finding love isn’t one that involves parents or family.
“It was a no-brainer for me to be part of the script,” says a smiling James in response to whether any culture shocks were encountered during filming and table reads. “Pakistani culture is so rich and colourful, and it was important for me to showcase this side of the country. So no, no culture shocks per se, just more singing and dancing in comparison to British culture!”
Zoe’s camera is the vehicle through which the film examines Kaz’s “contractual love”, as she trawls dating apps while following her best friend down the assisted aisle.
Emma Thompson’s Cath plays the comedic matriarch to Zoe, eager to witness the conclusion of her daughter’s swiping days by being with someone suitable. She’s found a family in Shabana Azmi’s Aisha Khan – a more layered mum — one that is embracing both tradition and modernity. It would be fair to say that Azmi successfully sells cinema-goers on the difficulty of that struggle.
“Today’s society is slowly coming to terms with providing children the space they rightfully require and deserve to make decisions,” says Azmi, reflecting on how scripts and films have evolved over time. “Gone are the days when parents would blackmail their children into marrying the first person they come across. Just because they are their kids doesn’t mean they are actually children. They are adults with views and minds of their own.”
Kaz is then introduced to Maimoona (Sajal Aly); a shy introvert from Pakistan, unsure about the idea of moving permanently to London. She’s dealing with internal battles of her own; battles between personal desires and societal expectations.
“Maimoona may not have verbally said much, but her face said everything,” explains Aly, looking beautiful and radiant as ever. “She is torn between what she wants and what society silently shoves down at her and eventually, she goes with what the latter expects.”
The film navigates between London and a fabricated Lahore filmed in the suburbs of the British capital; a feat that comes as testament to the film’s production design. Kaz and Zoe’s jaunts across Lahore, backdropped by its magnificent architecture, set the stage for Pakistani music legends to shine, including the mesmerising voice of Rahet Fateh Ali Khan.
And if this wasn’t enough, Nitin Sawhney and Naughty Boy add further melody to the film’s music, as they talk about their experience of creating appropriate tunes such as the foot-thumping “Mahi Sona”.
“It was a great process and experience to create an appropriate language and expression of music which added elements and flavours to the film,” says the duo enthusiastically. “It’s also an ode to our South Asian heritage.”
Even though the tone of “What’s Love Got To Do With It” is distinctly feel-good, the film thoughtfully explores the unconventional ways that relationships may be built, and what multiculturalism can teach one another. Is it, in fact, more sensible to be practical about relationships? Is it possible to learn to love the person we’re with? Is love really the only ingredient needed for a successful marriage? Why was Kaz’s sister shunned for marrying outside of their culture? And do Western relationships draw more on the ideas of assisted partnerships than we realise?
A clever reference is drawn from the moment Prince Charles shattered many royal dreamers’ hearts with his dismissive “whatever in love means” comment upon his engagement to Princess Diana, thus proving that these notions may be closer to home in the West than one might believe.
James and Latif are a charismatic pair, with Zoe married to her independence and Kaz gently questioning her prejudices. The film is also a vivid demonstration of British talent, with Asim Chaudhry playing a hilarious yet questionable rishta uncle, comic duo Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen appearing as a pair of TV commissioners with a briefcase of ridiculous ideas, and Nikkita Chadha as the confrontational Baby — the film’s feisty rebel, in love with dancing.
“It’s incredible to be part of such a diverse and stellar cast,” smiles Chadha animatedly, while sipping on tea at Soho House in London. “My character is defiant and nonconformist — perfectly conflicting with the name “Baby “. I’m really excited for everyone to watch the film.”
Divorce is still stigmatised in South Asia — a theme often carefully avoided in desi films and television. Khan gently addresses it as a twist in the film – with a reminder that be it love or assisted marriage — amicable and mutual separations are a possibility.
As a complete package, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” deftly wraps up all the emotions associated with love and family in its joyful, musical, and vibrant 109-minute runtime. With its cast, music and direction, this classic rom-com is set to make you laugh, cry and, even more importantly, make you think about the multi-dimensional nature of love within and across cultures. The film is now showing in cinemas worldwide, and we highly recommend it.
Desk bound by day and travel bound all other times – Queenie thrives on her weekly dose of biryani and chilli paneer. She recently released her first book called The Poor Londoner, which talks about comical expat experiences people face worldwide. With degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing, her work and research on gender inequality in the travel industry is taught in universities across the globe. Her travels and everyday fails can be found on Instagram (@thepoorlondoner) and YouTube (The Poor Londoner).
Originally from Karachi, Pakistan and now blended into the hustle-bustle of London, Marium is a trainee technology consultant, by day and sometime also night, and also finishing her bachelors in Digital Innovation. In the midst of striving to be someone, she enjoys dreaming about the impossible (impossible according to desi standards and sometime Harry Potter impossible as well), and writing about them. She enjoys baking, decorating things and a cup of chai!
Haider wades his way through Karachi’s expansive beach, climbing and tumbling over rocks, in Mumtaz’s memory. The vast landscape is perfectly encapsulated in the 4:3 aspect ratio — an unconventional yet welcoming choice. He vanishes into the sea, leaving his storyline open-ended. The screen fades to black. The film comes to a close. The gentle humming and lapping of the waves disappear. However, I stay put. Stumped, and unable to comprehend the masterpiece that Saim Sadiq, director of “Joyland”, has blessed Pakistanis with.
“It’s so important to narrate these stories in today’s world, where we’re often divided and seldom united,” says producer Apoorva Charan during an exclusive chat with Brown Girl Magazine.
It’s her feature film debut as a producer, and she’s justifiably beaming with pride.
Joyland is such a win for South Asia, but particularly, Pakistani storytelling. Every person I met, I felt like there was some characteristic or quirk about them that mirrored our characters in the film.
Set in the depths of androon Lahore, “Joyland” primarily revolves around Haider (Ali Junejo) — a meek, unemployed house husband in a borderline, passionless marriage. He’s happily helping Saleem bhai (Sohail Sameer) and Nucci bhabi (Sarwat Gilani) raise three kids, while the fourth one breaks Nucci’s water in the opening scene. Another girl is born, despite the ultrasound’s previous declaration of a baby boy.
“If I were to receive an award based on my character in “Joyland”, it’d definitely be for “best at single-handedly increasing the population of Pakistan,” says Gillani, as we howl with laughter during our spoiler-riddled chat with the cast of the film. “I think that, combined with the ‘coolest bhabi’ — those two will have my name on them.”
But Nucci’s wasn’t just a bhabi who pumped out a new baby every year. Sarwat’s character was given some level of agency — a woman who reminisced about a career in interior design before marriage and kids while smoking a cigarette in secrecy.
I think my philanthropic work plays a part in how I started saying no to bechari roles. How can I be a role model to these women I’m trying to help, while playing the same characters? The change came about with “Churails” and I vehemently stuck to it. My characters need to have a voice; a backbone.
On the other hand, Haider’s wife, Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), works as a beautician at the local salon, busy dolling up brides in Lahore’s unpredictable load-shedding.
Both Haider and Mumtaz seem to have a relatively stable marriage based equally on societal expectations and gender-flipped roles. While Haider stays home, helps in the kitchen, and attempts at searching for a traditional job, Mumtaz carves autonomy and independence for herself. This is in spite of an oppressive family life characterised and dictated by Haider’s overly conservative, traditionalist father and patriarch, Rana (Salmaan Peerzada), who wishes for the couple to procreate a cricket team of just boys.
But Rana, known as Abba Jee, is also layered with his own 50 shades of grey, struggling with loneliness and a lack of intimacy, mirrored in his relationship with next-door neighbour Fayyaz (Sania Saeed). His emotional desires are symbolised by his physical impediments — the former handicapped with “what will people say”, and the latter with a wheelchair. The rules that he has for his children are the same that his children have for him, bound by tradition, norms, and society. They are not allowed to stray from what is considered “normal”.
The film’s women are strong which is pretty much a reflection of the women in Sadiq’s life. While Abba Jee shuns the love and companionship that Fayyaz offers, she stands her ground until firmly asked to leave. The complexity of each person’s emotions versus expectations is what makes “Joyland” relatable on a human level.
Alternatively, Mumtaz’s relationship with Haider is based on convenience and habit, where two people share the same bed but sleep facing away (partially because one of Saleem and Nucci’s young daughters crashes with them every night, illustrating the confined space both Haider and Mumtaz are allowed to be themselves in). The dynamics of their marriage drastically evolve once Haider’s eye catches Biba (Alina Khan), covered in blood as she walks numbingly into the hospital where Nucci gave birth. The introductory scene mirrored the brutal reality of violence inflicted upon Pakistan’s trans community; one of “Joyland’s” most haunting moments.
Mumtaz is asked to quit her job once Haider lands a gig as a “theatre manager” — a cover-up for his job as a background dancer at the nightclub Biba coincidentally performs at. The film portrays the traditional Pakistani marital social dynamic; men must work, and women must housekeep. Even when some level of independence is allowed to a married woman, she must forego her right to a career later in life. Understandably, it leaves Mumtaz devastated.
“It’s so strange how that’s just an acceptable act in our society,” Farooq chimes in, voicing Mumtaz’s thoughts. “Even if a woman is good at a 100 things, ultimately, she’s expected to quit her job to be a homemaker because that’s ‘her job’.”
With time, Haider falls into a routine and rhythm of working at the theatre and spending more time with Biba, allowing him an insight into the widespread transphobia she’s regularly faced with. Biba confides her innermost desire to be what she termed as “a complete woman” in order to land the same dancing opportunities as her counterparts.
Haider’s daring closeness to Biba leaves Mumtaz — who at this point is reliant on him as a best friend more than the physical intimacy he fitfully provides her — alone, isolated, and depressed. For Haider, it is liberating to leave problems at home and escape into a secret world centred around his deepest desires. He doesn’t want to be a bad person. He doesn’t wish to hurt or leave his wife. But his happiness now seemingly lies in dancing and exchanging stolen kisses with Biba. Farooq agrees:
I think Mumtaz and Haider were best friends at this point. They had an unspoken love for each other, which stemmed from the sanctity of their relationship. They might not be in love but they did love each other. In the eyes of our society and otherwise, they were married, but they’d drifted so far apart. There was love but it wasn’t possible to return from how distant they were.
This point of no return brings Haider to a crossroads — one where he is torn between his loyalty to Mumtaz and his love for Biba. Ultimately and ironically, in a particularly passionate moment, it is his curiosity pertaining to Biba’s sexuality that drives her to throw him out of her life. Defeated and guilt-ridden, he comes face-to-face with a pregnant and non-confrontational Mumtaz, who, by now, is aware of what Haider has been up to but doesn’t have the mental capacity to verbally digest his infidelity alongside a child she doesn’t want.
Her apprehensions about bearing and raising children are indicated throughout the early days of her pregnancy. The clutching of her stomach, the tightening of the rollercoaster belt during a visit to Joyland park, and her unease during the ultrasound are just a few examples of Mumtaz’s angst.
Abba Jee’s 70th birthday was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Mumtaz, surrounded by family and friends and feeling emptier than ever, takes her own life. A tragic full circle where one life ends as the other begins. Her suicide is harbingered by Rana’s birthday speech as he recalls a palmist once saying his bloodline would end with Haider.
“Joyland” is replete with polarity. There is a seamless hand-in-hand flow of happiness and devastation, longing and antipathy, birth and death. Pakistani society’s struggles with misogynistic gender roles are depicted in the most gentle, sensitive, and nuanced ways. The struggle is also ironic, considering Pakistan has one of the most progressive transgender legislations in the world. Trans people have the right to self-identify their gender in Pakistan – a right still denied to the trans community in many progressive countries, such as the UK.
A deeply reflective film with memorable and emotional characters doing justice to their performances. It’s currently running in cinemas here in the UK, and we highly recommend watching this poignant piece of art.