In 2019, one of Pakistan’s most talented directors, Iram Parveen Bilal, along with producer Abid Aziz Merchant were the first Pakistanis officially invited to the Cannes Film Festival due to the sheer extent of their talent in the film world. They were chosen to represent their in-development motion picture titled ‘Wakhri’ aka “One of a Kind” at Cannes Cinefondation L’Atelier, becoming the first official selection of a project from Pakistan there. “Wakhri” features Pakistani actors Faryal Mehmood alongside Gulshan Majeed, Shees Saji Gul, Akbar Islam, Bakhtwar Mazhar, Sohail Sameer, Saleem Mairaj and Tooba Siddiqui along with well-renowned social media influencers. feature film
Inspired by the stories of unapologetic and often perceptively controversial social media influencers like the slain Qandeel Baloch, the film highlights social media trolling and bullying in modern-day Pakistan. The storyline revolves around a character named Noor played by Faryal Mehmood, a schoolteacher who accidentally unleashes the power of social media, unabashedly challenging the patriarchy. As she tries to keep her online identity a secret, she’s gradually exposed to society’s dangerous underbelly and forced to manage the repercussions. The movie touches on the sensitive and very relevant subject of social trolling.
The film is being produced by Abid Aziz Merchant’s ‘Sanat Initiative’ banner (“I’ll Meet You There”, “Sandstorm”), “Delhi Crime” producer Apoorva Bakshi and Monisha Thyagarajan’s ‘Awedacious Originals’, alongside Iram Parveen Bilal’s ‘Parveen Shah Productions’ (“Josh”). Roman Paul (“Paradise Now,” “Wadjda,” “Waltz With Bashir”) of Razor Film Produktion is co-producing “Wakhri”.
Iram Parveen Bilal has previously called the film, “grounded masala” which promises thought-provoking subject matters whilst also featuring entertaining, loud Punjabi-language club tracks and Urdu-language rap songs to dance and chant with. From direction and production to acting and soundtracks, the producers brought forth the best of the Pakistani music industry. It features the voices of multiple renowned singers with the likes of Meesha Shafi, Eva B, music producer Abdullah Siddiqui and several other exciting names which will be unveiled shortly.
Bilal was named one of the directors to watch by the Alliance of Women Directors in 2020. Her previous film, “I’ll Meet You There,” was the Grand Jury Nominee at SXSW in 2020, and she along with EP Abid Aziz Merchant hope to overturn the ban on its release in Pakistan.
Masterminding the production design is the visionary Kanwal Khoosat while Aarti Bajaj is the film editor who is known for “Sacred Games” and a host of other films. The film is also a Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) and CAA Foundation Full Story Initiative grant recipient and recently participated at the Busan Asian Project Market in 2022. “Wakhri” was also a 2018 Locarno Open Doors selection, where it was one of two Pakistani project selections, the other one being what is now Saim Sadiq’s “Joyland.”
‘Wakhri’ is inspired by bold women also known as society’s ‘misfits’. Making its way on the map, Wakhri presents a great opportunity to bring important conversations to the forefront, which often are the root cause of social dilemmas. With the provocative subject matter, and a dynamic team of exceptionally talented actors, musicians, and filmmakers, ‘Wakhri’ holds promise as one of Pakistan’s best productions yet. The film is all set to become an example of female empowerment while breaking stigmas and stereotypes. An overly dominated male society put us in dire need of a female perspective which comes through the voice of Wakhri. Here’s hoping the film releases soon.
Cover Image Via Wakhri