Tuesday, April 28, 2009

World Movie Series - 24 - Safar e Ghandehar

We enjoy our lives. We have everything, and life is a swansong for most of us. Our women express their thoughts, concerns and ideas to their friends and the outside world. Imagine the situation where women are not even allowed to show their faces to their husbands. Imagine a place where women have to walk around fully covered by a burka, and the place where musical instruments are totally banned, and the mere possession could bring you death. A place where books are a taboo and a place where you can’t even clap, as clapping is a taboo too. A place where kite flying is prohibited. A place where you can’t trim the beard, as it is against the law. A place where statues are destroyed since it is totally against the law.

Feels like hell, isn’t it? Welcome to the world of Taliban.

‘Kandahar’ is about the perilous journey of a woman from Canada when she comes to know about her sister’s suicide attempt in Kandahar – a city of Afghanistan.

The film begins when Nafas - a Canadian Afghan – is on her way to Kandahar to stop her sister from committing suicide on the last solar eclipse of the 20th century. She has received a letter from her sister, who was left behind when the family escaped to Canada, stating about her suicide. She manages to reach Iran without trouble, and the journey from Iran to Afghanistan is a perilous one, she is being told. But since she has only 2-3 days left for the eclipse, she insists on the travel and so, joins a family which is moving to Kandahar, its native city, from Iran.

While on the way in an Auto - an automobile which runs in three wheels (yes! An Auto), they are moving through a desert, and are robbed. Having lost all their possessions including the auto to the robbers, the family decides to return back to Iran, as they feel it’s hazardous to continue the journey, but to Nafas, she has to travel to Kandahar at any cost. Hence, she seeks the help of a boy who has been dispelled from a Madrasah for being not able to recite the Qu’ran perfectly.

The boy agrees to show her the correct route, but demands money as he and his mom are the only members of the family and they need money to survive, as he is expelled from his school. She agrees to pay him 50 dollars. The boy takes her through the desert, and on seeing a skeleton, he takes out its golden ring and pleads Nafas to buy it. He keeps on saying to her that it suites her eyes perfectly, but she refuses to buy it.

She becomes ill while walking in the desert and the boy takes Nafas to a local doctor. The doctor is an African-American Islam convert and is able to talk English and Nafas comes to know that he has a false beard, as it is customary for Afghan people to grow beards. The doctor explains about the Taliban’s rules to Nafas, and he agrees to guide her through the rest of the journey.

They hire a cart and the journey continues through the desert. At one point, Nafas witnesses many people with mutilated legs. The doctor tells her that they were the result of the landmines buried in and around Kandahar. A majority of these people don’t have proper prosthetic legs and they keep complaining to the Red Cross about it. They plead the Red Cross to give them good prosthetic legs but since there is no stock, the Red Cross can’t do anything.

Nafas suddenly witnesses the people running away in a flock, and she sees false legs being dropped from the airplanes. The people run to the place where the legs are dropped and collect them.

Now, the journey has reached a particular place after which the doctor doesn’t want to continue and he decides to return in the cart. The cart’s driver and Nafas keep walking in the desert when they encounter a marriage party on its way to Kandahar. They both join the party saying that they are the relatives of the groom. Since everyone is burka-clad, there is no suspicion. Even the driver is clad in the burka.

Some time later, the party is stopped by Taliban, and they start checking on every member. They discover that there are some males in the party, and they are taken away. Woman who were possessing books and musical instruments also are taken away, and the rest are freed. Nafas is unveiled and is captured too.

The movie ends with Nafas hearing the sound of guns being fired at the unfortunate captured people. Nafas never reaches Kandahar, and we presume that she too dies in the hands of the Taliban.

‘Kandahar’- released in 2001 and directed by acclaimed Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf - is a touching film which portrays the idiosyncrasies of the Taliban. All the people we see in the film are affected, one way or the other. Nafas keeps recording all the incidents she witnesses in her pocket tape-recorder, and she loses that too, to the Taliban at the end.

This film narrates how backward Afghanistan is in the hands of the Taliban. There was no improvement in any sector. The only improvisation in Afghanistan is the weapons.

There are many powerful scenes in this movie. The sight of men hopping fiercely to pick the prosthetic legs is a touching scene. Also the scenes involving the little boy pleading to Nafas to buy the ring and the scenes where the family is getting robbed, creates an impact on the viewer.

The movie was filmed in Iran, but some parts of it were filmed secretly in Afghanistan as well. The movie was screened in many film festivals and it won the Federico Fellini Prize – UNESCO in the year 2001.

The music was realistic, and throughout the film, I was amazed with the ‘Suprabatha’ of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, repeatedly being played at the background throughout. Also, the voice of Bhimsen Joshi (I presume) adds emotion to the film, in the background.

The role of the doctor is played by Hassan Tantai AKA David Belfield and is under accusation in the United States for the murder of Iranian Diplomat Ali Akbar Tabatabai in 1980.

The actress Nelofer Pazira, who played as Nafas, says in an interview that “"It's the awareness of the rest of the world that could bring change. I am an optimist in that sense. With Kandahar, we tried our best - we set up a little movie theatre in the village, we started a school for women and we introduced them to a world they'd never seen before. That could be a crack in the wall. Much more could be done practically, but I can't simply do it. We've done our little share of responsibility. Now I want people to take this message away and think about it."

Overall, Kandahar is a striking film which shows us the reality prevailing in Afghanistan.

What are we going to do about it?

See the trailer here.


Shree said...

A good post and looks like a movie that could move me.

Seekrama DVD kudu.. wanna watch it.

The initial part was like revising the books Princess Trilogy.

The S c o r p said...

:) I'll give it in a couple of days da.. All the gud DVDs. U'll like it. >:D<

Vel said...


Hav u seen the movie "Children of Heaven". I jus watched that film last night in Star Movies. Try watchng that movie. Simply superb.

The S c o r p said...

Oh Yea Vel. I have seen it. It's one of the most memorable films I have ever seen. I will write about it soon after I can grab the DVD, as I saw it some time ago..

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