Azmaish, a film that compelled two women to set off on a journey to re-discover India and Pakistan
Posted on 5 April, 2017 by Team Wishberry
Pakistan witnessed one of the ugliest faces of terror in the form of Peshawar attacks on 16th December 2014. Seven gunmen went on a random firing spree killing 141 people, 132 of them being students. Across the border, India struggled with its secular identity under the weight of rising Hindutva groups during the same period. Films and other media were also seen invariably sensationalizing the India-Pak divide. This religious extremism and media mystification in the two countries gave birth to the idea of Azmaish - Trials of Life in the mind of Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar.
Addressing key issues
Azmaish is a feature-length documentary, which aims to capture the people’s sentiment in India and Pakistan towards these acts of religious extremism.
In the larger spectrum, it depicts a reality beyond the feeling of conflict portrayed by the sensationalist media in the two countries.
In the process, it also ends up covering other key aspects by deep diving into what makes these countries truly similar and what can they learn from each other. The documentary explores these answers by shooting travel experiences of Sabiha along with renowned Indian actress Kalki Koechlin across the two nations.
The thrilling experience
Sabiha met Kalki as a jury member at MAMI (Mumbai Film Festival) in October 2015. When Sabiha told her about Azmaish, the Indian actress was immediately sold on the idea. She joined in as the Indian partner with Sabiha, whose first feature film, Khamosh Pani, won 17 International Awards. The duo travelled to parts of Sindh, Karachi and Lahore and in India, they covered places in Haryana, Mumbai and Delhi.
The journey was thrilling for both the women. They shot in the local trains of Mumbai, inside a truck in Sindh and played Holi with the fishermen community in Mumbai.
Together, they met ordinary people from all walks of life, trying to understand the pulse of both the countries.
The outcome and learning
One of the key learning’s for Sabiha was that the people in Pakistan were least bothered about the religion of their leader. Their main concern was the developmental changes that he/she would bring in, such as building of schools, toilets and other basic infrastructure. In India, she did observe reluctance in people to open up on the topic in front of a Pakistani. These were times when she took the backseat and allowed Kalki to interact. On the other hand, Kalki’s reception in Pakistan was filled with overwhelming warmth. She would attract huge crowds in some of the remotest regions, as soon as the word spread about her stardom. People were keen on knowing about the documentary and were forthcoming to share their views on the topic.
The crowdfunding journey
After completing filming, Sabiha initiated a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise funds for the post-production. Unable to raise adequate funds, she resorted to Wishberry for raising INR 20 Lakh to complete the film. This is where Sabiha finally got the funds for the post-production, in spite of two major hurdles faced during the campaign — demonetization announced in India, and the rising tension between the two countries post the Uri attack. To some extent, demonetization did slow down the process of fundraising in between. However, people of India and Pakistan didn’t let political tensions come in the way of offering their patronage to this film.
Around 60% of the funding came in from India and Pakistan, which consisted of 25% contributed by the people of Pakistan. People from US, Singapore, Germany, Argentina, Israel, Netherlands, UK, Canada, Denmark and Australia came forward with the remaining amount. Email marketing and social media played a key role in attracting funders. The word was spread through regular posts on Twitter and Facebook. Kalki also went live on Facebook for a Q&A session, which received a great response. Media coverage in India and Pakistan throughout the course of the campaign also helped a great deal in spreading awareness about the project.
Post completion, the film will air on German and French TV along with being screened at festivals around the world.
Sabiha also plans to set up a travel cinema, taking the film to small villages and towns in both the nations. She aims to encourage discussions in these regions, around the theme and issues that Azmaish raises.