Muzaffar Ali, best known for his award winning film ‘Umrao Jan Ada’, recently visited Pakistan. Artist, poet and filmmaker, Muzaffar Ali has made great contributions to the world of cinema. His belief is that creativity lies in “seeing the larger picture” and developing a sense of compassion and understanding towards the helpless in society.
Muzaffar Ali’s film career started with ‘Gaman’, the story of a young, unemployed man, who experiences various dire social and economical circumstances. The movie explores many philosophical issues which were influenced by the poetry and ideology of renowned and internationally acclaimed poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Faiz, in a letter to Muzaffar Ali, wrote, “Muzaffar Ali’s ‘Gaman’ is a poem in visuals. It’s tragic lyricism and muted eloquence is deeply perceptive. Its sensitively conceived and a truthfully captured slice of reality around us, the beauty and the heartbreak of the human situation makes it a sheer delight, a veritable tour de force.”
Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s centennial was celebrated this year with festivities all over the world. Of the many events commemorating this great poet, one was held at the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club. Muzaffar Ali graced the occasion as chief guest and showcased his film ‘Anjuman’ at the club’s luxurious and comfortable Audiplex. Ali, who was greatly inspired by Faiz’s poetry and Sufi thought, dedicated this film to him.
As with all of Muzaffar Ali’s films, ‘Anjuman’ deals with themes related to social and cultural issues and focuses on the exploitation of women. The story shows the plight of a young girl, Anjuman, and her mother as they make their way through life by capitalising on their embroidery skills, Chikan embroidery in this case, and how they are exposed to ruthless exploitation. As time goes by, it is this very talent that takes a terrible toll on their eyesight and disables them from continuing their work, leaving them unemployed, poor and helpless. In the face of an unpredictable future and potentially exposed to social stigmas, the eventual outcome of the two women seems bleak.
However depressing the storyline may be, Muzaffar Ali, through his vivacious artistic spirit and additions of strong cultural references, colourful festivals and even understated humour, brings us the end result of a movie that is more of a wonderfully painted work of art than anything else – an increasingly difficult feat that only someone of Ali’s caliber could accomplish. As one viewer put it, “It was truly, a work of art.”
Muzaffar Ali says, “For me women are not symbols of sex…they transcend their physicality and become mirror of a culture…they become the story… It is through this connection that costumes for them become important for the character…they define the personality…they project the culture…they become the cinema…they become my statement…”
The writer is a film enthusiast and a great fan of Faiz Ahmed Faiz