A film built around a chase will always evoke the necessary dramatic tension if handled well; the idea is to sustain the tension, interspersed with pauses before the tempo picks up again. Independent Pakistani director Afia Nathaniel in her debut film DUKHTAR (2014) displays enough skill in employing the template to tell the story of a middle-aged woman and her 10-year old daughter who are on the run to escape the forced marriage of the young girl to an elderly tribal chieftain as promised by the girl’s father. Evocatively shot, mostly across the barren and beauteous landscapes of North Pakistan, the film is a sharp indictment of age-old feudal codes and needless tribal conflicts where women are still used as pawns to settle disputes. The theme could sound familiar, but what raises the film is the director’s earnestness.
Mention must be made of the performance of Samiya Mumtaz as the mother – her sensitive face is a landscape of subdued devastation that mirrors timeworn exploitation; Mohib Mirza as the young truck driver who helps the mother and daughter on their flight from tribal henchmen displays the right combination of callousness and warmth required for the character’s development.
This little gem is playing on Netflix.
Ranjan Das is a Mumbai based filmmaker and faculty.