Urdu Film on Youth Suicides – A short film on alarming suicide phenomenon in Northern Parts of Pakistan
Tennessee, USA — Newly released Urdu film Darya Kay Iss Paar” (“This Bank of The River”) is an urgent call to action by producer Nighat Akbar Shah about the alarming rate of suicide in her native hometown of Chitral in North Pakistan.
Shah went home for a visit three years ago and was at a celebratory reunion with family outdoors in Chitral, when villagers’ cries announced that her young female cousin had just jumped off a water levee to her death. Two months later, in an unrelated incident, another cousin shot himself. As this goes to press, over a dozen people in the span of a month have committed suicide in parts of Chitral, Hunza, and Gilgit.
The traumatic experience has led Shah, an impact investor, and philanthropist, to produce Darya Kay Iss Paar, “This Bank of the River” specifically about the famous river in her native Chitral where many suicides occur, and broadly to raise awareness about the alarming rise of youth suicide in Pakistan and elsewhere. Her film company, Adur Productions, aims to address social issues in both Pakistan and the US, her adopted home, providing a bridge to her philanthropic work in both countries.
The short film has won a bevy of international film awards and Shah is determined that its message be amplified as a social campaign to mobilize resources that will spread awareness and address the issue head-on.
“A heartbreaking set of circumstances create the perfect storm,” said Shah. “And what is especially troublesome is that over the past few years the problem has skyrocketed with many young people, in the prime of their lives, choosing to commit suicide out of a sense of growing hopelessness.”
Shah attributes the high suicide rate to the cultural norms around how young people and women should behave, academic achievement-related stress, forced arranged marriages, extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and the absence of adequate mental health and family support. Compounding the sense of isolation is Northern Pakistan’s cold and gloomy mountainous landscape and the taboos that prevent people from talking about what is viewed as ‘family’ problems.
Darya Kay Iss Paar tells the story of a young girl’s feelings of growing depression. The pressures she faces as a student get worse after marriage and, feeling isolated with no one to acknowledge her feelings or thoughts, she decides to end her life.
The film captures the breaking point and the tragic moment when the protagonist of the film, Gull Zareen, plunges into the river. For most young girls leaping into the fast-flowing river is the final resort to end their troubles while others have hung themselves from ceilings or consumed pills or pesticides to end their lives.
“Every year approximately 1 million people die worldwide due to suicide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Pakistan, despite rising literacy rates, is no exception, but because of social taboos it has been difficult to rationally discuss, much less treat the issue,” she said.
“My film is a humble effort to raise this issue at national and international levels. My hope is that it will escalate a much-needed debate about depression and mental illness, and trigger action for those in need of help,” she said.
She added, “I see Adur Productions contributing to our social impact efforts, enabling us to create awareness and helping us to foster partnerships that will solve real problems.”
Over the years Shah, working through her family business Shah Holdings in Tennessee, has donated resources and conducted programs in Chitral, including subsidizing education, providing high-tech equipment to schools and hospitals, building a student hostel, and distributing Covid-19 care packages to residents of remote mountain areas. She is currently in the process of establishing a business startup incubator targeting disadvantaged youth and women.
Darya Kay Iss Paar was directed by Shoaib Sultan and stars Hibba Aziz in the lead role. The film trailer can be viewed on https://youtu.be/qH7h4Jdrs9c. The original soundtrack is available at https://youtu.be/kg96iammvUc