Darya Key Iss Paar highlights suicide in Chitral
By Saneela Jawad
Libas Now in conversation with debutant director Shoaib Sultan talk about the short film that highlights the increasing suicide rate in Chitral.
It is no secret that an interesting story and ace acting makes a good film. With that being said, the magic potion that uplifts the movie overall is the message it contains. Such is the case with the award-winning Urdu short film Darya Key Iss Paar. Directed by debutant Shoaib Sultan and produced by Nighat Akbar Shah is a 30-minute film focusing on the increasing incidence of suicides by women in Chitral. The story has highlighted the reasons which force women into preferring death to life. It gained recognition worldwide following its win at the World Film Festival in New York in the Best Director, Best Actress and Best Story Idea categories. Sultan, in this interview with Libas Now talks about the short film, the cause and shooting during a pandemic.
The team involved tried to raise awareness within the society about the situation, which is not only an alarming one in Chitral but in Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan area as well. Sultan told Libas Now that he was not expecting such a response and was grateful for his team’s dedication to the cause that needs to be highlighted before it’s too late.
He further said that Nighat, who belonged to Chitral is a social activist working for women’s rights approached him with the idea. It is no doubt that the film medium is the fastest way (mostly effective too) to create awareness about such issues.
Sultan, who is based in Lahore stated that making this film was not an easy task as the topic required a lot of research. “Living in the urban areas, most of us are quite unaware of things happening in these places. Not only that, but we also don’t know the reasons behind them, so before putting something solid out there for the audience with authentic information, it required field research which I carried out personally during my trip to Chitral,” the film-maker said.
After collecting all the required information on the topic from bureaucrats, teachers, social workers; the producer also gave the director insights as well before the writing process began. From socio-economic issues to domestic violence, from forced marriages to restrictions enforced on women and girls; all these reasons have been the trigger for all victims who resort to suicide in Chitral. Darya Ke Iss Paar follows the story of a young woman who develops psychosomatic problems in her teenage years which became worse after marriage. Being subjected to both mental and physical torture by the male members of her family, including her husband added to her misery which forced her to jump into the river to end her life (and her agony).
The pandemic and shooting for Darya Key Iss Paar
Following the research and studying the ground realities, the cast and crew members travelled to Chitral to shoot for the movie in September 2020 amid the rising number of covid cases. The director said that along with the logistical issues there were cultural, social issues that had to be kept in mind as it was being shot at the border. “We had to be mindful about the civilian’s privacy, cope with the early morning weather at the same time in Garam Chashma, one of the most beautiful and picturesque valleys of Chitral,” he added. Having said that, as the name suggests, jumping into a river was not the solution to the problem. The idea of a short film is to convey the message to the audience, something that resonates with them in a short span of time, especially during a pandemic.
“For each scene, we would make sure that there are not more than 3-4 characters involved and a total of 7-8 crew members, because safety was always a priority,” the debuting director said. Moreover, an advantage they had due to the pandemic was that there was ample space to maintain social distance at the hotels and the valleys that were outdoor was not an issue either. It is no doubt that the effort put in by the entire team to raise awareness about the issue at the national and international level has paid off.
Shoaib concluded the interview by saying that the essence behind this effort is to table this stigmatised social evil and to trigger the debate, at least, in the battle against depression and mental illness. Whether you choose to do it via a feature film or a short film, it is entirely up to you as long as you are trying to make a difference.