Every culture has its own version of Romeo & Juliet: stories of star-crossed lovers doomed due to the sociopolitical constraints of their time. In modern South Asian cinema, the trope is most often filtered through the lens of religion and the sometimes deadly plight of Hindu-Muslim couples. It's an unfortunate thematic boon exacerbated by the exit of the British Raj and subsequent bloody partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947. That happened a long time ago, but tensions remain to this day: both on the continent, and in the diaspora.
A new Karachi-shot film, Rang Raaz: The Secret Of Colour, is Canadian-Pakistani filmmaker Hamza Bangash's examination of how religious intolerance has played out in that country. "Sindh, the [Pakistani] province that the film was shot in, has an indigenous Hindu population — people who have been here for generations before Partition," Bangash told The FADER in an email. "I read a recent headline about the Hindu Marriage Bill [being] passed in Pakistan. For 68 years, Hindus couldn't legally get married! What this amounted to — especially in low income areas — is Hindu women being abducted and forced to marry and convert because they couldn't prove they were already married. I wanted to subvert that and show a love story where a Muslim girl wants to marry a Hindu guy, and how they go about it — and what happens after. In Pakistan, love is never enough to get by on."
Rang Raaz was filmed in December, and stars Amtul Baweja, Hadi Bin Arshad, Kashif Hussein, and Syed Jameel. Music was arranged by Danish Lochner, a fellow of RBMA's recent Lahore program. Post-production is what's left, and Bangash has just launched a Kickstarter, with a modest goal of $4,000, to see the project through to its end.
"As part of the pre-production, we visited local temples and met with religious leaders," Bangash said. "Pakistan wasn't always this intolerant, and I wanted to make a film that speaks to the change in perspective and, hopefully, offers a vision of a better future." Watch the trailer for Rang Raaz above.