The Independent calls it “a feminist Western shot guerrilla style in Pakistan”. Judging from the trailer, they’re not completely wrong.Unlike most movies made in, or about Pakistan, the trailer of My Pure Land does not feature over-the-top CGI or extravagant weddings. Instead, it shows a waif-thin Suhaee Abro holding a Kalashnikov with limited ammunition, trying to save her home from being taken over by enemies. This image alone is enough to catch the interest of people who have grown tired of formulaic films that are so common nowadays.
My Pure Land is British-Pakistani director Sarmad Masud’s debut movie. Shot completely in Pakistan, the movie tells the real life story of a woman and her two daughters. They fight off a score of armed men in an attempt to save their home and the adjoining agricultural land from being taken over, due to a family feud.
The Woman Behind the Legend
Nazo Dharejo, who has been dubbed the ‘toughest woman in Sindh’, is the central figure in this story. She belongs to the Qazi Ahmed Taluka in Sindh’s Shaheed Benazirabad district. Her father, Khuda Bakhsh Dharejo, treated his daughters and son alike. He taught his daughters, among whom Nazo is the eldest, how to defend themselves. Nazo also learnt how to shoot a gun before she turned 16 years old. It was this upbringing which helped Nazo and her family deal with 200 armed bandits when they came to take over her family’s land at the behest of a rival relative.
The movies director, Sarmad Masud, has also written the screenplay. Talking about the experience of shooting a small-budget movie in Pakistan, he remarked that “Anything is possible in Pakistan – but everything is impossible.” But it is obvious that the difficulty of the task has not discouraged him from undertaking similar projects in the future. He expressed his thoughts about making more movies in Pakistan,
“I want to make more films from there. This is a universal story. It’s not just Pakistani, or a western, or a feminist film.”
Speaking to a reporter from The Guardian, Sarmad explained that he originally wanted to make a film about police corruption in Pakistan. “Then in 2013, I came across a story of this woman who had defended her home and land from 200 bandits. That’s much better than a Pakistani Cop Land so I contacted [the journalist] who wrote the piece and through that, rang Nazo.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Shot in a sparse terrain and using guerilla-style cinematography, Sarmad chose to make the movie in Urdu language. It had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival held in June 2017, where it got rave reviews from film buffs and critics alike. The film released in cinemas in UK on September 15th.
Pakistani actors Suhaee Abro, Eman Malik, Syed Tanveer Hussain, Razia Malik, Atif Akhtar Bhatti, Tayyab Azfal, Ahsen Murad and Sahib Ahmad are included in the cast. Bill Kenwright heads the production department while Haider Zafar is the Director of Photography.