Films on social issues vital for opening up minds: Pakistani-Norwegian director

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Iram Haq (Photo Credit: Marie Mer Film)

By Natalia Ningthoujam

New Delhi– It is essential to make movies on social issues and human rights as they help to open up people’s minds, believes Norwegian-Pakistani actress-writer-director Iram Haq, whose film “What Will People Say” tells the story of her family, community and culture.

“What Will People Say” is about Nisha’s double life — obedient to her traditional Pakistani upbringing at home, typical Norwegian teenager to her friends. It comes crashing down when her concerned parents kidnap her and send her to Pakistan.

She isn’t the first female director to come up with such a strong subject. Directors like Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta have also made films on terrorism, homosexual relations and rural Indian widows. Women seem to have natural inclination towards social issues and human rights.

Iram Haq (Photo Credit: Marie Mer Film)

“I think we all like to make movies about stuff we are interested in, and I am happy that you say that women have an interest in social issues and human rights because those movies are important for opening up our minds,” Oslo-based Iram told IANS in an exclusive interview via email.

For Iram, it’s her life which provides inspiration for her movies. Asked about “What Will People Say”, she said: “I was sent to Pakistan when I was a young girl, which I used as the main inspiration for this movie. I always find inspiration from my own life and my own emotions when I start to write, and I use that as a backbone to form my stories into fiction.”

The movie is set to compete with films from Australia, Indonesia, France and more at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) next month.

“I am just very happy and thankful that my film has been selected to this great section together with all these other great films and movie makers,” she said.

She has tasted the flavour of international film festivals in the past too. Her 2009 short film “Little Miss Eyeflap” was screened at the Sundance Film Festival and “I Am Yours”, with which she made her debut in feature films in 2013, premiered at TIFF.

Does this mean she has the “film fest” kind of an audience in mind while making movies?

“When I work with my stories, I am very much into telling a good story. A story that feels true for the audience. Stories that we can believe in, mean a lot to me, and I am very happy that the festivals like to show them,” said the director, whose father was born in Jaipur.

Is there anything about Indian culture that she follows or likes?

“The food, the heat, music, culture, the people, colours, the smile and the humour, I love so much about India,” she said.

And so, it didn’t take her long to decide to shoot “What Will People Say” in India, with a cast consisting of Indian actors Adil Hussain and Ekavali Khanna.

“At a very early stage, we found a great co-producer in India (Sikhya Entertainment) that made it easy for us to choose India, and I must say it was a dream to work with an Indian crew,” said the “Fallen Angels” actress, whose mother was born in Pakistan.

“I would love to work with talents in India again. I had great actors with me from India and I know there are so many other great talents over there as well,” she added.

How did she select the location and actors for this film?

“We did location scouting in India. I fell in love with the nature of Rajasthan, and it suited my story, so it was an easy choice to film there. We had casting directors from India who did the casting job and there was plenty of great talents but I wanted people that really fitted my ideas of the character; I felt lucky that I found such great actors to work with,” said Iram.

Will “What Will People Say” release in India?

“We are still working on it. I hope so,” she said.

Asked about her next project, she said: “I am still in a process and working on different ideas.”

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