'Anything is possible in Pakistan – but everything is impossible': Sarmad Masud on filming My Pure Land

'Anything is possible in Pakistan – but everything is impossible': Sarmad Masud on filming My Pure Land

The British Pakistani film-maker on how he brought a local legend to the big screen, despite a tiny budget and a difficult shoot

Nazo Dharejo had barely mastered the alphabet when her father, Haji Khuda Buksh, first showed her how to load a gun. The kalashnikov would be kept on the wall, hung above the living quarters of the family’s two-storey home, where she grew up with her two sisters, and their older brother Sikander in rural Sindh, Pakistan. They were comfortable, but not extravagantly well off; Khuda Buksh worked as a farmer and had inherited a few dozen acres of land from his own father. His wife, Waderi Jamzadi, raised their children and, once the girls left school, aged seven, taught them what she could at home.

The girls were moulded to be tough and resilient. Their father would dress them in trousers and shirts – “boy’s clothes” – instead of more feminine, traditional shalwar kameez. Nazo, the eldest daughter, was given the male nickname Mukthiar and was the first to be taught how to shoot, when she was 16. Two years later, with her brother murdered and her father in prison, the fierce but waif-like teenager was armed and leading a gunfight against a criminal army of bandits sent to steal her family’s home and land. Now 41, she has been dubbed “the toughest woman in Sindh” by the Pakistani press, and the story of that night has become local legend – one that British Pakistani film-maker Sarmad Masud has beautifully rendered in his debut feature, My Pure Land.

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