THE GOOD WITCHES PG

Hamza Ban­gash’s short, 1978, shines a light on Pak­istan’s Goan Chris­tians

India Today - - LEISURE - —Meenakshi Shedde

Pak­istan is very good at cen­sor­ing films, but not as good at en­cour­ag­ing pro­duc­tion or dis­tri­bu­tion of cinema,” says Pak­istani-Cana­dian di­rec­tor Hamza Ban­gash, dryly. His spunky po­lit­i­cal/ mu­si­cal short 1978 was in the Lo­carno Film Fes­ti­val’s Leop­ards of To­mor­row of­fi­cial se­lec­tion in Au­gust (no In­dian film was se­lected there). In fact, there has been a spate of re­cent films by younger gen­er­a­tion Pak­istani/ di­as­pora film­mak­ers, stak­ing their claim on the world stage. These in­clude Saim Sadiq’s Dar­ling, which won the Oriz­zonti Award for Best Short at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val, 2019; Ban­gash’s 1978 at Lo­carno; Sar­mad Khoosat’s Zindagi Ta­masha, which won the Kim Ji-Seok Award at the Bu­san Film Fes­ti­val, 2019; and Iram Parveen Bi­lal’s

I’ll Meet You There, which was se­lected by the South by South­west Fes­ti­val in Austin, Texas, this year. The year 1978 was a turn­ing point for Pak­istan. Gen­eral Zia-ul-Haq had im­posed mar­tial law and sharia-based Is­lam in 1977, curb­ing civil lib­er­ties, the press and shut­ting down cin­e­mas, night­clubs and bars. In 1978, set dur­ing this era, Lenny D’Souza, a Goan Chris­tian rock star at a night club, faces pres­sure to ‘Is­lamise’ his iden­tity in or­der to get a job, but he fights to re­tain his iden­tity. “Just like the US and Turkey, In­dia and Pak­istan, too, are see­ing a resur­gence of re­li­gious, right-wing na­tion­al­ism,” says Ban­gash. “We have been through this be­fore and will pay the price for it. As

Pak­istan goes fur­ther down the rab­bit hole, I wanted to re­visit that pe­riod when the change first be­gan…I made this film as a warn­ing to world cinema au­di­ences of what may come—and a re­minder to Pak­istani au­di­ences of what was lost.”

Ban­gash’s film shines a light on one of Pak­istan’s mi­nori­ties—the Goan Chris­tians. The screen­play is notable for re­fus­ing to make Lenny a vic­tim: he pees on a wall with po­lit­i­cal posters, smokes weed and even leches at girls at Sun­day mass. “We’re mov­ing past vic­tim­hood,” Ban­gash says. “I’m not in­ter­ested in show­ing a dis­en­fran­chised com­mu­nity in a piti­ful light; I want to show badass, com­plex char­ac­ters.”

Rashid Maq­sood Hamidi and Abid Aziz Mer­chant are both ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers on the film, which is pro­duced by Carol Noronha. Ban­gash says, “Hamidi grew up in 1970s’ Karachi that thrived on mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and tol­er­ance, and was con­sid­ered the ‘Paris of the East’,” and he seized the chance to “re­visit that pe­riod.” Noronha, who has Goan-Chris­tian roots, con­nected Ban­gash to sev­eral mu­si­cians, in­clud­ing the legendary Nor­man D’Souza. “Lenny rep­re­sents the fall of a vi­brant com­mu­nity, a lot of which now prefers to stay quiet, hid­den, to stay safe,” says Noronha. Ran­domly ar­rested and ha­rassed dur­ing and since the 1965 Indo-Pak war, In­dian mi­nori­ties in Pak­istan of­ten mi­grated. “The hard­est part was to find some­one to play Lenny,” says Mer­chant, who also runs the Sanat Ini­tia­tive art gallery in Karachi. “After three days of au­di­tions, Rashid sug­gested I call Zee­shan Muham­mad, a gifted vis­ual artist I know. As soon as he came in, I knew we had found Lenny.”

MAK­ING MU­SIC A poster for 1987; and (in­sets) a Goan Chris­tian band in Pak­istan, 1971 (left); and Nor­man D’Souza

Photo cour­tesy: (from left) Ci­tyLights Me­dia Pro­duc­tions, Legendary Mu­si­cians of Karachi Face­book Page & Nor­man D’Souza

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