Acclaimed drama director turned filmmaker and actor Sarmad Sultan Khoosat is currently in South Korea for the 24th Busan International Film Festival, where his latest feature, titled ‘Zindagi Tamash’a (‘Circus of Life’), will be showcased in the section ‘A Window on Asian Cinema.’
The film is already in the running for the festival’s Kim Jiseok Award, alongside eight other entries from Iran, India, China and other Asian countries. A jury comprising the LA Times film critic Justin Chang, Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo and international film festival consultant Hayashi Kanako will select two finalists who will receive a prize of $10,000 (Dh36,724) each.
Back home, the makers of ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ recently dropped the film’s first trailer, to great response. Award-winning novelist and journalist Muhammad Hanif commented, “Get ready to repent for all your na-zeba [indecent] and fahash harkaat [obscene activities].
“Zindagi Tamasha is gonna change your life,” he added.
Actress Saba Qamar, who has previously worked with Khoosat on a number of projects including ‘Manto’ and ‘Pani Jaisa Pyaar’, and is also working in his next, ‘Kamli’, posted on her Instagram page: “The trailer is lit, and I am in love with it!”
A low-budget indie fare, ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ deals with an individual who has a guilty pleasure versus a highly conservative society that wouldn’t understand him. It tells the story of an elderly man named Muhammad Rahat Khawaja who is well regarded among his acquaintances for being a devout Muslim, until a video goes viral that shows him dancing at a wedding a la old Punjabi film heroines. Overnight, his life becomes a living hell, as his friends and neighbours turn on him, and even his daughter and her husband feel ashamed of him. Only his bedridden wife has the capacity to understand his inner desires. There is a hint of Khawaja writing a suicide note. The trailer ends leaving the audiences in horror.
The dark and gritty theme of ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ is somehow reminiscent of 2012’s harrowing real-life incident in which three Pathan boys and five young women were honour-killed in a remote village of Kohistan, in northern Pakistan, after a mobile phone video showing the men dancing at a wedding was leaked. But it is not yet official that the film is inspired by any such incident.
Zindagi Tamasha has been shot extensively in Lahore’s old neighbourhood — the Walled City — and its characters speak a mix of Punjabi, Urdu, and even English. It boasts an interesting casting line-up — Samiya Mumtaz, Eman Anjum Suleyman, and Arif Hasan. Fashion model Ali Kureshi makes his acting debut.
The film is set to release in Pakistan early next year.