I watched the film Ramchand Pakistani, which depicts the lives of a Pakistani Hindu Dalit community in the Thar desert for much of the film. The film is excellent, and I highly recommend it. The film takes some narrative liberties for entertainment purposes, but basically tells the true story of a Hindu Dalit Pakistani father and young son who were captured and imprisoned for 4 years in India for accidentally crossing the India/Pakistan border. A critical look is taken at how the case is (NOT) dealt with by both Indian and Pakistani official administration with special consideration of the low-caste minority religious status of the pair. The central female character, a woman who lost both her husband and son, goes through very difficult lengths to survive and stay sane. Her side story was especially thought provoking.
Among other thoughts I had on this film, my mind also wanders towards language issues.
The film is in Hindi and Urdu. One point I noted was that for some reason, the actors who portrayed the Sindhi Thar resident Dalits used “mereko” in place of “mujhe.” The film makers could not use authentic actors from that particular community because they probably don’t exist, and the well known Pakistani (and one Indian) actors who played the members of that community just spoke in Urdu for the sake of ease of both themselves and the intended film-going audience. So the native language of that community was not used at all. I have no idea what language that would be anyway, but it is most definately not Urdu (some dialect of Sindhi, Cholistani?). For whatever reason, the film makers seemed to think it more authentic to have the Thar residents say “mereko.” Any speculation as to why? Does that make them seem more authentically Dalit or perhaps more Hindu from a Pakistani perspective?
The film also depicted Indian soldiers and an Indian prison, and it was interesting to see some of the Pakistani cast members affect faux Hindi accents in their Urdu. One actress in particular made a strong attempt at Bombay style Hindi since her character was supposed to be from Bombay. The main character in the film, young Ramchand, spends four years in an Indian prison, and viewers witness his Urdu (which the real Ramchand probably didn’t speak, or at least didn’t speak well) turning into some dialect of Hindi common to uneducated speakers. The actor who played the 12 year old Ramchand did an excellent job at that accent.
Anyhow, I am just rambling about my impressions of the underlying linguistic issues in the film. Most people who are not huge nerds like me will just sit back and watch and enjoy. It is outrageous that so many people, including children on both sides of the border have suffered due to political issues which have very little to do with them. The message of the film is very strong, and will hopefully serve as a factor in raising awareness about the issue of innocent Indian and Pakistani political prisoners whose capture was just a stroke of bad luck; a fisher man’s boat drifting too far, a camel caravan traipsing on the wrong desert, or a boy chasing a toy across a line in the sand. Such public awareness could do a lot towards the freedom of those people. When the film reaches a theatre near you, do check it out.