IT was 46 years ago, in 1976 to be precise, that the first Balochi film Hammal O Mahganj was made. Produced by Anwar Iqbal, who afterwards became a known actor, the movie was not allowed to screen in cinema halls. It was mired in controversy, apparently, for not being truthful to Baloch culture.

Thankfully, especially ever since ‘visual studies’ has been introduced as a discipline at various educational institutions, young Baloch filmmakers are coming to the fore, making top-drawer documentaries and short films.

Against this backdrop and given the fact that the pandemic has slowed down, if not stymied, the revival of the Pakistani film industry, the countrywide release last week of the full-length Balochi feature film, Doda — directed by Adil Bizanjo — assumes considerable significance.

The film’s director describes the plot thus: “Doda tells the tale of a young boxer who lives in Lyari. He wants to attain international fame as a pugilist.

But there are myriads of obstacles in his way to success set by society. The story basically focuses on how he overcomes those obstacles and moves forward. It is a realism-based narration, very rooted. There is no glamour in it.“

Boxing appears to be a recurring theme for shorts and features based in Lyari. It is obvious that the residents of one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Karachi love the sport. Bizanjo said, “The people of Lyari love boxing. I don’t think it has not been shown in our media the way it merits. However, boxing is just one part of Doda’s plot.”

On the challenges that he faced while making the film, the director said for independent filmmakers, the budget is always a major issue. Plus, taking the film to cinema halls, i.e. getting the cinemas to screen it, was also difficult.

The pandemic, too, put a halt to filming for more than a year.

Balochi is Bizanjo’s mother tongue. He’s comfortable making films in the Balochi language.

Another reason that he’s told the story in his mother tongue was to familiarise (aashna kerna) the mainstream media with it. Still, the project has also been dubbed in Urdu for cinemas in Punjab, KP and Sindh.

Shoaib Hasan plays the eponymous hero in Doda. Talking about his character, he told Dawn, “My role is of a sportsman from Lyari. He wants to make it big [internationally]. His younger sister also wishes the same for him. But something terrible happens which alters the course of his actions.”

Hasan trained for three months as a boxer to prepare for the part. He claimed he worked very hard to make his performance come across as close-to-life.

In the process, he was helped by his fellow actors and technicians.

The rest of the cast includes Abila Kurd (who plays Hasan’s love interest), Fiza Bibi, Imran Baloch, Shakoor Baloch and Anwar Iqbal. Doda was one of Iqbal’s last acting assignments before his death on July 1, 2021.

Originally published in Dawn, September 7th, 2022

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