Unsung star who took Pakistan to Cannes
By: Asad Farooq
KARACHI: Regardless of the current scenario sketched by international media, Pakistani youth have enough potential to lead the world as the same has been proved by the series of international awards won by Pakistani youngsters from Arfa Kareem to Shayan Aneeq Akhter and from Humaima Malick to Arslan Khan whose documentary film, ‘Kingdom of Women’ was acclaimed one of the world’s best documentaries, at none other than the Cannes Film Festival in France.
Arslan Khan holds the honour to have debuted with a documentary film that was screened at the short films corner of Cannes Film Festival. The youngster focused the renowned ‘Mina Bazaars’ of Karachi, where women are both sellers and the buyers.
Talking about the film, Khan said that he tried to portray the real picture of society with various success stories about underprivileged women. He was of the view that negative angles of society are often exploited deliberately. Elaborating his viewpoint, Khan said that the total population of Pakistan is about 180 million with the ratio of women being 52 % i.e. 100 million. He further said that around 250 cases of acid attacks were registered last year, which is a miniscule number of women being subjected to such violence. “On the other hand, around 200,000 success stories are annually reported about Pakistani women”, he added.
Khan further said, “The influential international media illogically highlights the minimal negative stories while ignoring the positive ones and those involving Pakistani women’s achievements.” As per his opinion, the worst face of Pakistan was presented to the global community under Western conspiracy. He said that domestic violence prevailed across the globe and even Western countries were its victims, however, only Pakistan’s case is the one exploited. He said that circumstantial crimes couldn’t be eliminated even in most developed parts of the world and one couldn’t declare a segment of society as deprived on its basis. Khan further said although a part of Muslim community merges its family tradition with the religion and imposes irrational embargos on women, Islam indeed is the religion that bestows women with uttermost respect and freedom.
He said that he was astonished to see that men were strictly prohibited entries in ‘Mina Bazaars’, places where a large number of women had been successfully running their businesses. Khan further said that he produced the film under acute shortage of funds. He also said that the achievement came as a result of teamwork and particularly his director, Amna Khaishgi’s endeavours. “At the time when we were facing problems in the editing of film, fortunately Abu-Dhabi Film Commission offered us its post-production facility and then selected the documentary for the top-nine category of documentary films at Abu-Dhabi Film Festival in October 2011.
Following the competition, the film became only Pakistani documentary film to be placed at festival film archives of New York University, Abu Dhabi and UAE National Film Library. The library also recommended them for entry in the Cannes festival, where finally the film was selected for screening.
Khan’s life tells us that he is an absolute self-made man. He has been bearing his expenses since matriculation. Living on his own rules in a third-world country was a tough task for him. Following his philosophy of life and desire to prove, he sacrificed various opportunities to earn money, go abroad and financially stabilise himself.
Khan decided to become an actor, writer and director, rejecting an attractive executive job abroad, when he was an unemployed youngster who refused assistance from his family. Before becoming an icon among his social and media-related circles, he faced ignorance, and rejection but remained steadfast. Finally, success knocked his door and he got a chance to become a writer, director and actor all at the same time. Gradually, he started getting opportunities to write dramas and perform with mainstream media groups of the country, including the state-run television. Now he works independently and is writing two feature films that revolve around various social issues. In his message to the youth, he said that a man has to decide his destiny determinately and then leave the rest to nature, which helps him achieve his goal. “Trust in Almighty Allah and yourself”, he advised.