Amjad Khan, the director of Gul Makai, a biographical film based on the life of the youngest Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai, was recently in Delhi as part of the film’s promotions. The film stars Reem Shaikh, Atul Kulkarni, Divya Dutta, Arif Zakaria, Mukesh Rishi, Chandra Shekhar Dutta, Pankaj Tripathi, and the late Om Puri (in his final film) in pivotal roles.
The film is written by Bhaswati Chakrabarty who researched on the script for over four years along with Khan who got fascinated by young Malala’s courage ever since she started blogging under the pseudonym of Gul Makai on BBC Urdu website against the Taliban oppression faced by people in the Swat Valley. “Gul Makai is a story based on the life of Malala Yousafzai who as a small girl stood against the might of the evil Taliban. Her spirit of fighting at such a young age inspired me to make this film. I want her story to reach out to the maximum people,” reveals Khan who is also the Goodwill Ambassador of an intergovernmental institution called ‘IIMSAM’ which is mandated by the United Nations to fight malnutrition across the world.
Khan has plans of taking the film all across the globe. But, he believes that the film cannot be released in Pakistan owing to the manner in which the film exposes the dubious involvement of the Pakistani army in strengthening the Taliban’s hold in Pakistan. It also questions the role played by Asif Ali Zardari, the 11th President of Pakistan, in the Taliban’s planned attack on Malala. “One of the outcomes of our extensive research on the film is that we now have enough reasons to look at Asif Ali Zardari as a major suspect in not just the attack on Malala but also the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Even Malala targeted Zardari in one of her blogs and we have tried to capture that in our film. It is pretty clear to us that Zardari shared a close association with the fundamentalist groups in Pakistan and he played a very dubious role in their rise in Pakistan,” explains Khan who is also targeting to release the film in Spain and Brazil where Malala is a very popular figure.
Khan organised a special screening of the film in January last year. The film finally got completed last year and with the help of the United Nations. “A special screening of Gul Makai was conducted in London last year. It was attended by over 400 people including intellectuals, diplomats, and politicians from all across the world. The film received a standing ovation,” recounts Khan. As part of his extensive research on Malala Yousafzai, he used contacts in Pakistan which included artists, writers, bureaucrats, journalists, poets, etc. to reach out to the local people living in the Swat Valley, Balochistan as well as the Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan. The film is shot across various locations in Bhuj, Mumbai, and Kashmir by Madhu Rao and Javed Ehtesham.
Amjad Khan also recently visited Jamia Millia Islamia and JNU to register his protest again the controversial Citizen Amendment Act. “In my view, CAA is not ‘Citizenship Amendment Act’ but it is actually ‘Citizen Abhorrent Act’. I visited JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia in order to show solidarity with the students and condemn the behavior of police and the government. I would like to say that we live in a democracy and it is the constitutional right of everyone to protest in a peaceful way. It is a big mistake made by the Modi Government which has no right to behave in such an autocratic and authoritarian manner,” avers Khan who believes that the name of Malala is no longer restricted to a country in particular but it is actually a symbol of courage and a source of inspiration to everyone across the globe.