Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Dukhtar (2014)

A review on Pakistani Drama feature length film, Dukhtar (2014). The film is a directorial debut by Afia Nathaniel and is also responsible for writing and producing the film. It is a Zambeel Films and The Crew Films Production and is distributed by Geo Films.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Afia Nathaniel 
  • Cinematography by Armughan Hassan & Najaf Bilgrami
  • Written by Afia Nathaniel 
  • Music by Sahir Ali Bagga & Peter Nashel
  • Edited by Armughan Hassan and Afia Nathaniel
  • Produced by Afia Nathaniel and Muhammad Khalid Ali

+ Note

Dukhtar is a film that tackles the unfortunate hardship of being a female in the tribal areas of Northern Pakistan. In order to settle disputes between tribes, young girls are used as “peacemakers” and are forcibly married off at a very young age. The film premiered at 2014 Toronto Film Festival and was also released in Pakistan that same year. Dukhtar was an official entry from Pakistan for the 87th Academy Awards but was not nominated.

+ Main Cast

  1. Samiya Mumtaz as Allah Rakhi
  2. Mohib Mirza as Sohail
  3. Saleha Aref as Zainab
  4. Asif Khan as Daulat Khan
  5. Ajab Gul as Shehbaz Khan
  6. Samina Ahmad as Rukhsana
  7. Adnan Shah as Ghorzang Khan
  8. Abdullah Jaan as Tor Gul / Hikmatullah
  9. Omair Rana as Zarak Khan

+ Plot

In the depths of Northern areas of Pakistan, two tribal families are in the midst of a battle for their honor. In order to settle the dispute once and for all, Daulat Khan is presented with an opportunity to give his young 13 year old daughter’s hand in marriage to Tor Gul, a man five times her age. The child’s mother Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz) sees no alternative but to run away with her daughter and escape the fate that she once also had to face many years ago. Along the way, they meet a sympathetic Truck Driver Sohail (Mohib Mirza) who tries to help them reach their destination. 

Will Allah Rahki and her daughter be able to escape fate and live their new lives away from the clutches of barbaric tribal customs of child marriage?

+ High Points

i – The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. Even though it’s not a hard task to present the Northern region of Pakistan as eye pleasing visuals, it takes skilled Cinematographers to present it so fantastically. Kudos to Armughan Hassan & Najaf Bilgrami!

ii – Speaking of beautiful images, the lighting or even the natural sunlight has been brilliantly used to its full potential. The seeping sunlight through the cracks of wooden boards, the busy street corners of Lahore, it’s simply amazing what visual poetry moving images can come up with.

iii – Although her dialogues were limited, Saleha Aref did a fairly decent job as Zainab and brought a convincing fictional character onto the screen.

iv – Music was not the most prevalent but was skilfully used during the dark times throughout the film and added the much needed ‘mystical’ element to the mother/ daughter’s plight and the dream sequences.

v – The mother/daughter relationship is very well explored and presented visually to its viewers. It captures well the innocence of the relationship that the filmmaker was going for.

vi – The quieter scenes where there are no spoken dialogue or music, only ambient sounds of bird chirping are mesmerizing to look at/ listen to.

+ Low Points

i – The script is almost a complete mess. The first act moves fairly well but upon halfway through the film, it falls badly off its rails. The tension is highly subdued, there are no stakes left for the viewer to be invested in by the halfway point. The pacing is uneven to say the least. It’s almost as if the film was originally a tele film but was prolonged to meet the feature length requirement of 90 minutes.

ii – The romance was forced, unconvincing and quite frankly, abysmal. Not every film needs a romantic plotline and felt like an obvious studio mandate. 

iii – The third act is sloppy, carries no weight to where it started from and the film then just decides to end.

iv – Some of the performances are (for a lack of a better word) cheesy as hell. Most prominent being Samina Ahmad who had her TV Soap Opera acting chops on, completely out of place for the realistic tone that the movie was going for.

v – Some of the shots in the movie were unnecessarily “shaky” and felt amateurish in execution. 

+ Overall

Dukhtar is definitely on the right path in moving away from the glitz and glamour of Lollywood and has its own unique, gritty realistic feel to it. But when it comes to writing, it just fails miserably and that is extremely disappointing. I really wanted to like this film because the barbaric culture of child marriages is very prevalent in some part of Pakistan and needs to be addressed by the artists of Pakistan. It is fairly obvious that Afia has all the right intentions of making this film but the script really needed some time in the oven before it was ready. It is unfortunate that Afia has not made a film since Dukhtar but I definitely would like to see more from her. Perhaps not as a writer but more so, her directorial work. 

But is it worth a watch? I’m really on the fence with this one but ultimately, Dukhtar gets the benefit of the doubt due to its gorgeous imagery and the intention of being different from most of Pakistani cinema.

Rate: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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