The Pakistani-Indian Co-Produced Ramchand Pakistani


Adapted from real events that began in 2002, when an eight-year-old boy from the “untouchable” Hindu Dalit caste in the Thar Desert accidentally ran across the Pakistani-Indian border, director Mehreen Jabbar’s dramatization uses the story of one family’s struggle against social and religious discrimination to contextualize the complicated tension between the two countries. Not only has this underreported story found its way stateside, but even more potent in its cultural significance is that Ramchand Pakistani is a Pakistani-Indian co-production. Attempting to chase down young Ramchand (Syed Fazal Hussain) before he crosses over, father Shankar (Rashid Farooqi) and son are apprehended by Indian border guards on high alert and thrown into prison, while matriarch Champa (Nandita Das, of Fire and Earth fame), alone for the next few years, tries to move on. For the incarcerated duo, it’s a harrowing nightmare of abuse and humiliation, in which they’re only given two outfits a year (one to wear, one to wash) while some of their fellow detainees are dying in cramped quarters. In the end, however, Ramchand Pakistani sadly negates its intentions with frequent TV producer Jabbar’s soapy storytelling and too-clean production values. Learning of true-life atrocities via fresh-faced actors makes it hard to fully engage the work, especially when this place of poverty and squalor is shot with a gracefully swooping crane and slick dollies.