Film Notes: Filmistaan

Borders. When we think of borders, we  generally see them as straight or jagged lines on a map. That borders are rigid and defined is one notion – but there is the other side to this and that is borders are living, breathing entities where a lot happens. Towns located along any geographical borders tend to be interesting places with lot of shared history and culture. They also tend to be places where cultures mingle. For instance, music, films and foods do not recognize borders – they simply permeate through these well-defined border to different corners of our mind and heart. It is amazing how music, films and food slip across borders and become part of our lives.

In South Asia films – especially Bollywood films tend to unite people from different countries in the region. That films form a common bond between Indians and Pakistanis is an underlying theme of “Filmistaan” (2014). The film is about an aspiring Bollywood actor Sunny (Shaarib Hashm), who finds a temporary gig as an assistant director for a foreign (American) production company and therein lies a tale about films and borders.

While filming their documentary in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, the crew lands up in a sensitive border area with Pakistan. After placating the Indian security forces they complete their shooting and head back to their accommodation. Sunny takes care of some loose ends and is the last one to head out of this small desert town. He is tired and it is late as he drives through the featureless desert. Surprise, surprise he ends up crossing the border into  Pakistan and is captured by terrorists. They take him to a nearby village, where he is locked up in a house in a remote border town in Pakistan.

While he is locked up in village in Pakistan, who should he meet? Another film addict Aftab (Inaamulhaq), who brings pirated Bollywood film to this little border hamlet. As luck would have it Sunny is imprisioned in Aftab’s family home and the two strike up an instant and unlikely friendship. What happens next is what the film is about.

Director Nitin Kakkar does a great job of highlighting the shared history and the love for cinema in India and Pakistan in this aptly titled film “Filmistaan.” If you think about it the title pays homage to that common place where all Hindi/Bollywood film lovers hang out. It is this shared space that is explored in the film. The film does makes you think about borders, maps, films and music. While watching the film all I kept thinking was the fun that the director and the crew must have had while they were “roll, rolling and acting” and creating an interesting film.

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