Made In Pakistan: A Review

 Talking Filmain is a Pakistani film company consisting of a trio of young men – Nasir Khan, Adil Sher, and Rizwan Saeed – who have apparently ditched their original careers in business, finance and the like, to become filmmakers. Having already produced a number of projects for television, their latest venture is this documentary, which follows a week or so in the lives of four Pakistani professionals as they negotiate the varying bumps and potholes in their careers. There is Tara Mahmood, an upcoming event manager organising a fashion show for HSY. Waleed Khalid, a young lawyer participating in the lawyers’ movement. Mohsin Warraich, an aspiring politician canvassing for his father for the 2008 elections. And Rabia Aamir, co-editor of Pakistan’s first (only?) free lifestyle magazine, The Fourth Article.

 Taking a cue, presumably, from the infamous Newsweek article proclaiming Pakistan to be the most dangerous nation in the world, Made in Pakistan sets out to examine and question the reality of that statement by showing the alternate face (one does have to refrain oneself from saying the words ‘soft image’) of Pakistani society through the experiences and persons of the abovementioned four individuals. There are a few problems though, the first being that all four of the film’s ‘protagonists’ are from very similar backgrounds. They might belong to different professions but all are from the same English-speaking, middle- or upper-middle class milieu. It would have been interesting to see someone from a less privileged background who still embodies the values that the film seeks to highlight. Secondly, probably not by design though, the film seems to reinforce certain gender stereotypes by depicting the men as the ones with ‘important’ jobs to do, while the women are left holding the ‘fluff’ (not that that seems to bother Mahmood, who comes off admirably as quite the go-getter). At other points, certain thoughts aired by the participants beg further interrogation which is not forthcoming. For example, Khalid speaks proudly of the fact that the striking lawyers did not give a thought to their lost earnings during the boycott, but does not address the plight of the thousands of clients affected by the strike.

 Ultimately though, these are minor quibbles, for Made in Pakistan is actually a laudable effort for the things that it does get right, of which there are many. Apart from the fact that the film showcases four articulate and self-aware individuals, it is also handsomely shot and masterfully edited (the subtitling, though, needs to be proof-read). More than that, the film is a success because it manages to incorporate a number of interesting and often moving asides in the form of other people and events. The explosion near the lawyers’ rally in Lahore, and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto rudely punctuate the lives of the four, with Mahmood quite poignantly (and, in the current scenario, also rather ominously) expressing her feelings: “I hate to call a place where I’m living a dangerous nation, but things like this are happening, leaders are getting assassinated. But we are fine, we are safe… for now.”

 Not to end on such a dark note, one must mention the one laugh-out-loud moment in the film which momentarily elevates it to the level of social satire, when a red-carpet host proclaims, “One problem we have in this country is that we don’t have good-fitted jeans.” Hear hear!

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