The trailer for Sarmad Sultan Khoosat’s new feature, “Zindagi Tamasha (Circus of Life)”, has just dropped. From the looks of it, the film will explore a lot of issues that directly impact Pakistan’s society as a whole.
The trailer begins with a shot of Badshahi Masjid in the background of a roof in old Lahore. There, an old man named Muhammad Rahat Khwaja (played by Arif Hasan), is recording a video apologizing to all the people that were offended by his “vulgar actions”.
The trailer then shifts to scenes of smog covered Lahore. We are told that this old man is a renowned Naat Khwaan and that a video of his, published on Facebook, has caused a moral controversy that has ruined his image. What the controversy is about is only hinted at. There’s mention of song and dance being involved, but that’s about it. According to initial reports, the film is set around the occasion of ‘Eid e Milad un Nabi’. Perhaps that’s another clue about the central plot.
Rahat Khwaja’s neighbors taunt him, people malign him behind his back, and there’s even a shot of a poster of his blacked out with ink. His wife (played by Samiya Mumtaz) is quite clearly devastated by the problems his actions have brought. Even his daughter, Sadaf (played by Eman Anjum Suleman), can’t seem to look him in the face.
Surrounding all this is an atmosphere of dread and gloom. Lahore’s streets look particularly morbid, and there are no friendly faces or comforting words to be found. Dim bulbs and smoky marketplaces dot the entire trailer. One moment even showcases a pretty serious spat between Rahat Khwaja and a local cleric where an accusation of child abuse is seemingly thrown at the latter.
It’s clear in the world that Sarmad Khoosat has built for the film that people will not forgive. While this mirrors reality all too often in Pakistan, “Zindagi Tamasha” is not treading unfamiliar waters here. We saw a similar examination of societal problems and religious questions in “Khuda Kay Liye”(2007). Even as far back as the 1960s, the Late Allauddin berated a cleric in the film “Farishta”, an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”.
However, “Zindagi Tamasha” presents a real chance to examine the deep social problems that hide beneath the surface in Pakistan, i.e. the circus of Pakistani life. Its setting within old Lahore and its characters, those of lower middle-class background, are picture perfect for this examination. Sarmad Sultan Khoosat seems to have done this all by design. This is not a commercial extravaganza; it’s a chance to look inwards and perhaps find a solution.
We wish the film all kinds of success and hope that it can page the way towards a deeper, more self-reflective cinema for Pakistan.