Jabbar backs daughter's pic, pans Musharraf


Javed Jabbar, the former Pakistan information minister, hawked his director-daughter's first feature and talked about freedom Monday at AFM, just days after his former boss, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared emergency rule and shut down all but state-controlled broadcast media in their homeland.

The first business of the day for Jabbar was to explain the story behind Mehreen Jabbar's "Ramchand Pakistani," the tale of a Hindu Pakistani father and son who are imprisoned in India after they accidentally cross the embattled border, leaving their wife and mother, played by Indian star Nandita Das, in dire poverty.

"By and large, Pakistani cinema needs still to deal with political issues," said Jabbar, adding that he just had sent a letter of protest about Musharraf's actions to leading newspaper the Dawn.

"Inevitably, there will be a sustained struggle between the media, civil society and the judiciary, which will have to combine their physical and intellectual resources to deal with the curbs on media freedoms," Jabbar said.

Jabbar served under Musharraf in 1999-2000 and helped write the media law that evolved into the PEMRA, Pakistan's corollary to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Jabbar and his daughter, who lives in New York, together researched actual events that inspired him to write the story on which the screenplay by Mohammad Ahmad is based. "In the end, my daughter's film is a story about reunion after years of sadness," he said.

"I don't anticipate difficulty with Pakistan's censors because it doesn't deal with current topical politics but with age-old troubles with our neighbors," said Jabbar, who is known in the film world as writer, director and producer of Pakistan's first English-language feature, "Beyond the Last Mountain" (1976).

"Ramchand Pakistani," which also stars Rashid Farooqui and Syed Fazal Hussain, was made on a modest budget with financial help from friends. Jabbar said this was "not at the expense of its look," which he said was helped greatly by New York-based cinematographer Sofian Khan and by postproduction in New York.

Jabbar said that Pakistan's 1965 ban on Indian films in cinemas had crushed pluralism in moviemaking and caused a decline in creativity and public interest in movies as a medium for more than just mimicking Indian song-and-dance films.

Earlier Monday, Islamabad-based commentator Fasih Zaka told National Public Radio that a new satirical show would not make it to TV as planned next week and that Musharraf had not shut down newspapers because of low literary levels among the poor.