Dukhtar: A mother’s plight against child marriage

Published: September 19, 2014
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The movie’s premise revolves around a woman’s struggle, resilience and unwavering perseverance in the face of extreme odds.

Rarely do movies of such calibre come along that transcend generations and provoke our greater thought process, not because of impressive visuals, A-list actors, extravagant set pieces and locales but because of its strong story-driven narrative – narrative that is deeply entrenched into the harsh realities of life, as opposed to a work of fiction. 

Dukhtar too has a potential to lay claim to all of that and then some, thanks to its excellent subject matter.

Dukhtar means ‘daughter’ in Farsi and Urdu dialects. The movie is predominately a story about the plights, miseries and ultimately the bravery exhibited by the principal protagonist of the movie, Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz). Under the banner of The Crew Films, Dukhtar is directed by Afia Nathaniel, who is a graduate of Columbia University School of Arts.

Photo: Dukhtar Facebook page

The movie’s premise revolves around a woman’s struggle, resilience and unwavering perseverance in the face of extreme odds. Rakhi undergoes many trials and tribulations to make sure of the fact that her daughter Zainab (Saleha Aref) doesn’t fall into the dreaded shackles of the same fate, of getting married to an old tribal chieftain, that she had encountered when she was 15-years-old.

Photo: Dukhtar Facebook page

The mere thought of her daughter’s marriage to a much older man sends shivers down her spine and she vows to protect her infantile daughter, who is only 10-years-old, from this draconian custom. Subsequently, as events progress during the course of the movie, she decides, as a last resort, to run from her husband’s home with her daughter to escape the ominous fate which would surely befall her daughter and which seemed more than imminent had she stayed there.

Thus, her journey to escape the picturesque and serene northern areas of Pakistan and to reach her hometown of Lahore begins. On the run from her husband and the whole tribal clan, her path gets entwined with an ex-mujahid truck driver, Sohail (Mohib Mirza), who helps her in whatever capacity he can.

Photo: Dukhtar Facebook page

Rakhi’s actions and the movie itself will make the audience question the logic behind this antediluvian custom. This archaic tribal ritual of child marriages (child brides) is used as a mean of settling old feuds between rival clans under the guise of “honour”. If bluntly put, this practice is nothing more than satiating one’s vile paedophilic, sadistic and masochistic tendencies coupled with the false bravado associated with it.

Photo: Dukhtar Facebook page

The dialogue delivery of the cast members, especially Mumtaz, is unwavering and strong. Mirza also exhibits a strong portrayal of the character that he plays. The child actor, Saleha, is surprisingly good as well. They are augmented by a strong cast of seasoned actors such as Asif Khan, Ajab Gul, Adnan Shah (Tipu), Abdullah Jan, Samina Ahmed, Zeeshan Shafa and Omair Rana.

Photo: Dukhtar Facebook page

In terms of the visual elements, Dukhtar in a nutshell is breath-taking to look at. Set against the backdrop of gorgeous and surreal locations of Gilgit, Hunza Valley, Skardu and Kallar Valley, it will be, aesthetically speaking, a visual feast for moviegoers. The director does well to differentiate and saturate the visual tones between showing the beautiful, albeit rugged, terrain of northern Pakistan and the monotonous urban concrete jungle that is Lahore.

Photo: Dukhtar Facebook page

In terms of the auditory elements, the music and soundtracks composed for this movie are powerful and complement the storyline very well. Cases in point are, Jeenay Chaley by Shafqat Amanat Ali and Naina sung by Hina Nasrullah.

While the movie depicts a specific backdrop (actors who play Pakhtuns) that can be limited to northern areas, this movie should not be misunderstood as portraying negative stereotypes of a certain ethnicity. It should, instead, be seen as shedding light towards a serious matter in general that is as much prevalent in other parts of our country and has also plagued Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab in equal measure. Additionally, it should also be seen as a catalyst that will hopefully bring attention of relevant authorities towards this menace of child brides, for implementing regulatory frameworks to cease this practice once and for all.

The movie has been praised internationally as well. Recently, on September 5, 2014, it was premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and received widespread acclaim for its story.

Photo: Dukhtar Facebook page

Dukhtar opened nationwide in all major cinemas across Pakistan on September 18, 2014, and I would highly recommend people to watch it.

Salman Junejo

Salman Junejo

The author is an agriculturist by profession and runs an agriculture company by the name of GRJ AGRO(www,grjagro.com). He has a family background in politics and agriculture. He tweets @salmanjunejo (twitter.com/salmanjunejo)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    It’s great to know that quality movies are being made…….definitely will watch this one.Recommend

  • “Plight” : not the same as “fight”Recommend

  • Raja

    Why you guys don’t have any topic to make movie on other than Acid Throwing on Women, Child Marriage, Terrorism and Islam, Honor Killing etc that always create bad impression about Pakistan… I know these are bitter truth but enough is enough.. bring positive thing about this country..Recommend

  • http://Zubariajan.blogspot.com/ Zubria Jan

    Although the review is well written, but it’s time our film industry should stop focusing on such depressing story lines and should in fact divert the attention of the people
    (specially international viewers) towards positive things happening in our country, so our already distorted image portrayed by Western media can be changed. Are we never gonna stop seeing our selves as victims? Just for the sake of gaining sympathies of the West and lust of success to get awards like Oscars after portraying just ‘MALALAYS’. Do we not have real heroes and heroines too to be actually proud of?!Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    The primitive custom of child marriages should be dealt away with already.Recommend

  • sarah

    thanks for sharing will certainly watch itRecommend

  • sarah

    thanks for sharing will certainly watch itRecommend

  • MIS

    ‘Dukhtar’ wasn’t worth watching. It didn’t do justice to the subject it set out to portray…far from it. Shot in Gilgit Baltistan, the conversations were in Pushto (contradictions contradictions!), the lead female unable to portray a tribal woman..it seemed the very subject was not researched at all, the mental workings of tribals not delved into. The only upside was the child’s performance.Recommend

  • MIS

    ‘Dukhtar’ wasn’t worth watching. It didn’t do justice to the subject it set out to portray…far from it. Shot in Gilgit Baltistan, the conversations were in Pushto (contradictions contradictions!), the lead female unable to portray a tribal woman..it seemed the very subject was not researched at all, the mental workings of tribals not delved into. The only upside was the child’s performance.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Watched the movie today….liked it….. it surpassed my expectations.Recommend

  • siesmann

    For example?Recommend

  • siesmann

    you just disowned one of the few heroes/heroines Pakistan has.Recommend

  • http://Zubariajan.blogspot.com/ Zubria Jan

    I don’t consider her a heroine, everybody’s got their own opinion.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Haven’t seen the film yet, but looking forward to it.
    Surprised by the reaction of a few here. Seems when someone makes a movie portraying a very real problem in Pakistani culture, it’s a “depressing” topic showing Pakistan in a bad light, or just geared toward attracting Western attention, but if someone were to make a glamorous, light and entertaining film with no moral to the story, just for the sake of entertainment, the comments would likely point to the negative reality in Pakistan people face day to day and criticize people for enjoying some light-hearted and mindless entertainment when the country is plagued with so many problems. Sigh.Recommend