The Free Press Journal
Our film is a protest against violence: Afghan filmmakers
Pre-Islamic Persia and Byzantium's all-encompassing burqa is mandated as a sign of female modesty and Islamic identity but polygamy is attributed to Afghan tribal culture in a feature film screened at the 44th International Film Festival in Goa.
Made in Dari, a most mellifluous Farsi dialect spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan (with subtitles in English) ‘ A man's desire for a fifth wife’ is the first Indo-Afghan venture since 1947. It is also strife-torn Afghanistan's first locally funded cinema project.
"We made the film to show Afghan culture in protest against violence against women and the lack of human rights in Afghanistan," chorus director, actor and script writer Sediq Abedi and producers Sadruddin Rahmani and Murad Hamidi in response to this reporter's question why Afghanistan is unable to follow Muslim countries like Tunisia, Turkey, and Egypt which have banned polygamy.
Post-Taliban Afghanistan has around 15 cinemas operational. Unfortunately, ‘A Man's Desire for a Fifth Wife’ will not be shown to Afghan audiences which need to see it the most, even as it is a hit on
the festival circuit (it was adjudged Best Feature at the Colorado Film fest, and nominated for an award at the Boston International Film Festival 2013).
‘A Man's Desire for a Fifth Wife’ was shot over a month and a half by Indian cinematographer Ramesh Nath on location in Mazar-E-Sherrif, Fariyab and in the village of producer Rahmani with the most stringent security in place. "We were surrounded by gunmen on all sides. No one was allowed to enter or leave the sets; not only the producers but the authorities in the region provided full protection,” said assistant director and Doordarshan veteran Neelofer Shama who travelled to Afghanistan with the Indian crew. Ravindra Jain composed the background music while the production design is the work of her husband Sanjay Bhan.
Indian filmmakers in the past have produced a number of films in Afghanistan including Amitabh Bachchan's 1992 film Khuda Gawah and John Abraham’s 2006 film Kabul Express. India came into the picture for the joint venture after film-makers from countries like Russia and Iran expressed reluctance to lend the Afghans expensive equipment for use in their war-ravaged country. It is important to note that a week before Neelofer and crew were scheduled to travel to Afghanistan in September 2011, the country's former president Burhanuddin Rabbani was killed by a bomb.
"Afghan women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe and not allowed to expose even their hands," Neelofer said, adding "we were afraid, very afraid but I could come back to India whereas the lives of the Afghan filmmakers continues to be at risk in their native country."
Since Afghan women have yet to be emancipated, women's roles are usually played by young actresses from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Producer Murad Hamidi said, "An Afghan actress was forced to leave the country and she now lives in London. This gives you an idea of the conditions in which we are forced to live."
Lovely Tajik actress Takmina Rajabova who has acted in nine films plays the role of the third wife in the film. She says she found the role "interesting...I was sceptical at first but now I cannot thank Sediq (who plays the male protagonist) enough for giving me a role in the film,” she said.
Neelofer hopes the film will pave the way to more Indo-Afghan collaborations but Hamidi would like India to start a university and film school in his war ravaged country.