City Paper is not for tourists
One sunny afternoon in northern Pakistan, a 7-year-old Dalit (“untouchable”) named Ramchand (Syed Fazal Hussain) storms out of his village and, in a tantrum both shockingly self-centered and refreshingly reminiscent of first-world brats, accidentally stomps across the recently militarized border into India. His father, Shankar (Rashid Farooqi), sets off in pursuit, and soon the two get seized by Indian soldiers, denounced as Pakistani operatives, and detained for five years as unregistered prisoners, leaving behind Ramchand’s mother, Champa (a gorgeous Nandita Das), who struggles to pay Shankar’s debts. Director Mehreen Jabbar’s no-frills take on a sparse script by writers Mohammad Ahmed and Javed Jabbar allows the moments to develop into a beautifully apolitical piece about those who slip through the cracks of an international struggle. With heavy reliance on silence and the long pan (desolate landscapes give way to ruined temples and overcrowded prisons), Ramchand Pakistani seems to exist in a world untouched by time. The female performances are adequate but secondary; the real bright spots of this film are Hussain’s obstinate yet lovable Ramchand and Farooqi’s stoic gruffness as Shankar. Despite the heavy subject matter, Ramchand Pakistani is a fun and endearing movie that suggests that it isn’t the material comforts one misses in prison but rather the relationships that make a hut home.
Saturday at 4 p.m. Also at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 19. Both showings at Regal Gallery Place.