Filmmaker Nighat Akbar Shah announced the completion of her feature drama “Gunjal” (“Entangled”) this week, coinciding with the 28th anniversary of the death of the film’s subject, Iqbal Masih on April 16. Sold as a young child to a carpet manufacturer, Iqbal escaped the torment of bonded labor and became an outspoken voice against child labor until his murder in 1995, hardly a pre-teen. The film is a fictionalized narrative, based on true events from the activism that garnered attention worldwide and brought the Pakistani carpet industry to its knees. (To date, Iqbal’s murder remains unsolved.
“Of the title, Ms. Shah explained “The Urdu word ‘Gunjal’ translates to ‘entangled’, which can be carpet threads — or the truth. I felt it was an apt depiction of the story.”
The story is told through the eyes of Investigative Journalist Shahbaz Bhatti, who grows in his awareness of the horrors of child labor all around him as he seeks the truth about the murder. The role is powerfully portrayed by award-winning Pakistani actor Ahmed Ali Akbar, and co-stars Resham and Amna Ilyas in the principal cast. Rising star Syed Muhammad Ali shines as the child at the center of the drama. Of the title, Ms. Shah explained “The Urdu word ‘Gunjal’ translates to ‘entangled’, which can be carpet threads — or the truth. I felt it was an apt depiction of the story.”
Director Shoaib Sultan reprises his work with Adur Productions for this 120-minute drama. Filmed on location in the Punjab Region of Pakistan, it is spoken in Urdu, Punjabi, and English, with English subtitles. It features an original soundtrack with music by acclaimed Pakistani musicians Xarb, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Ms. Shah is currently pursuing a brief film festival run and is in negotiations for worldwide distribution later this year.
“Gunjal” is Ms. Shah’s sophomore production, as she delves deeper into worldwide abuses of social justice. Her freshman offering “Darya Kay Iss Paar” (“This Bank of The River”) portrayed the growing problem of suicide among young people in her native Pakistan. It won awards worldwide and is hailed as ‘bold’ and ‘insightful’.
The story of Iqbal Masih has been in her vision for some time, as she founded Adur Productions to champion social justice stories through filmmaking. Ms. Shah says “as a mother and as a human rights advocate, this story moved me deeply and begged to be told. Iqbal and his family deserve justice, even now. Sadly, child labor remains an international problem today – even in developed countries!”