Veteran actor Jamal Shah is set to release his directorial debut Revenge of the Worthlessthis spring. Originally slated for release next month, the film will now premiere in Islamabad in May. Without giving away the plot
Based on the mayhem that swept Swat Valley nearly four decades ago, the story focuses on the impact of the insurgency in 2009 and how some people decided to retaliate. “People started fleeing the valley but some decided to resist the onslaught. To me, they are unsung heroes. These people did something momentous but it has not been recorded, barring one or two characters,” says Shah. The film depicts the way lives were affected by militancy and how, with the rise of an ‘unreasonable’ power, the cultural narrative and values changed, creating a sense of fear and insecurity. In essence, it is a story of the ensuing monstrosity, struggle and resilience.
Although set in a time when the ANP-PPP coalition government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) decided to engage the Taliban in talks, which aggravated the law and order situation, the film is still relevant to the current socio-political scenario. “It’s ironic… this issue should have been eliminated in the very first decade but remains alive and relevant,” said Shah, adding that when he started out to make the film, people said the issue was outdated. “We are talking about a certain time period but the issue of militancy still affects our lives,” Shah asserted.
The choice of cast seems to be well-thought-out. “I wanted to ensure that the cast looks convincing. Just like the people we are talking about, their characters should be believable,” said Shah. While names of some of the characters have been changed, their identities remain intact. Most cast members hail from K-P and Balochistan and are multilingual. The idiosyncrasies of language and communication had to be kept in mind, as did the appearances. Most of the male cast grew beards and locks to look the part.
Mainly in Urdu, the dialogue also features Pashto and English. The star cast comprises a mix of established artists and fresh faces, including Firdous Jamal, Ayub Khoso, Myra Khan, Iftikhar Qaiser, Najeebullah Anjum, Iram Rehman, Tariq Jamal, Qazi Zubair and Imran Tareen. It also stars Turkish actor Emil Karakose, who plays the role of Shah’s daughter in the film. Film star Noor appears in a cameo and, as Shah put it, she has a short but an important role in the film.
The crew filmed in authentic locations, such as an actual hideout of Taliban in Piyochar. Shah said the film crew was provided logistical support by the army and government institutions, without which the project wouldn’t have been brought to fruition. “Swat is a beautiful place and I’m surprised nobody has filmed there before. Maybe they were fearful of a backlash but it’s getting better, it’s safer than Karachi.”
Since the film has been shot in digital format, it will be screened in multiplexes. Owing to the relevance of its artwork and story, Shah said it is expected to have massive box office appeal. “The film is very alive and playful. It talks about a serious issue but we have explored various angles. I think people will find it entertaining and Taliban should also watch it. They’ll enjoy it because we do not brand people in black-and-white, there are shades of grey.”
The sets and costumes have been designed by the art departments of Hunerkada College of Visual and Performing Arts Islamabad and Swat. Some of the inspiration for the film came from Shah’s documentaryRoad to Swat, based on the same subject. The film comprises four songs, including a Pashto theme song, Pashto rap and an Urdu classical song. The director of photography is Amir Rao, who has shot the film along with some other cameramen, who wish to stay anonymous, owing to the sensitive subject matter of the film.