Historical Boundaries

A film explores the nervous ties between India and Pakistan though a taxi driver,who wants to visit the Taj

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Published: May 10, 2013 1:11:59 am

A film explores the nervous ties between India and Pakistan though a taxi driver,who wants to visit the Taj

Most of us would not think twice about visiting the Taj Mahal. But for Karar Hussain Haidary,a taxi driver from Pakistan,and his family,it almost became his passion and mission in life. The 45-year-old taxi driver and father of two from Rawalpindi,Pakistan,becomes the protagonist for a 51-minute documentary feature titled Dreaming Taj Mahal,directed by Delhi-based filmmaker Nirmal Chander Dandriyal.

The film,which was recently awarded the National Award in the Best Promotional Film category,captures the struggles of Haidar and his family in getting an Indian visa. While on the surface,the film appears to be a story of a man’s efforts to fulfil his desire of visiting a historical monument,Dandriyal explores the idea of how political barriers have been created by both nations (India and Pakistan).

“My protagonist acts as the metaphor to introspect on what the politicians in India and Pakistan do by imposing rules and political boundaries. As a result,ordinary citizens cannot freely travel anymore to either country,” says Dandriyal,39,who has directed,produced,edited and also done the cinematography for the film,with his wife Reena Mohan.

Dreaming Taj Mahal was an accidental project,as Dandriyal had not scripted the story,when he was shooting the footage and interviewing Haidar. It started with a trip to Pakistan in October 2007,while he worked with a sports channel as programmes producer of the India-Pakistan bilateral cricket series. During the trip,Dandriyal met Haidar,who chauffeured him around Pakistan for the cricket matches.

“He narrated several failed attempts at getting an Indian visa to visit the Taj Mahal. In between my off days,I would chat with him casually and record footage at his home with his family,” says Dandriyal,who shot the film in 30 days,primarily in Haidar’s village near Rawalpindi. The film was in the editing stage for over a year,until it was completed in 2010,after which it travelled to film festivals a year later.

The documentary flows organically,where the characters,including Haidar’s wife,two children and niece are shown going about daily chores at their home,interacting with Dandriyal and his wife Reena Mohan. It captures moments between Haidar and his family,for instance,waking up in the morning,having dinner together,as well as candid conversations between Dandriyal and Haidar’s friends over cricketing rivalries and politics.

“It was his passion to visit a country,that convinced me to edit my footage into a film,” says Dandriyal,who has screened the film at the Taiwan International Documentary Film festival,the Tiburon International Film festival,the River To River Festival in Florence in 2011,and the IFFI 2012.

His earlier documentary,All the World’s a Stage,was also well-received. The last Dandriyal checked,the family was still struggling for an Indian visa. “I have considered visiting him in Pakistan. But since I am not working,it will be tough to get a visa for Pakistan,” he says.

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