Oscars bid for story of ‘Pakistan’s toughest woman’

This file photo shows Pakistani woman Mukhtiar Naz, left, known as Waderi Nazo Dharejo, meeting her daughters at her agriculture field in Qazi Ahmed in Sindh province on September 27, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 25 November 2017
0

Oscars bid for story of ‘Pakistan’s toughest woman’

QAZI AHMED, Pakistan: As 200 armed men surrounded their house on a hot August night in 2005, Nazo Dharejo and her sisters grabbed their Kalashnikov and puny stock of ammunition and climbed to the roof.
The gunfight which followed earned her the moniker “Pakistan’s toughest woman,” and became the subject of a film which has been entered in next year’s Academy Awards, vying for glory alongside heavy-hitters such as Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” and Joachim Trier’s “Thelma.”
A world away from Hollywood’s red carpet, at the ancestral home Dharejo fought for in Pakistan’s rural Sindh province, she described the night which could lead to Oscar glory.
“I will kill them or die here but never retreat,” Dharejo, now in her late 40s, recalled saying as assailants attacked her home.
Her husband begged her to stand down but she refused, facing down her own relatives — who were armed and had long sought to take her family’s property after her father died leaving no male heir, she said.
Her grandfather had several wives, and the male heirs in other branches of his family were laying claim to her inheritance.
But her family had defied rural Pakistani cultural norms of the time to educate their daughters and teach them they were as good as boys, and the sisters were willing to give their lives to prove it.
From their position on the roof their tiny army — the three sisters, Dharejo’s husband, and some loyal friends and neighbors — held off the onslaught, with household staff making daring runs for more ammunition until daylight broke.
A five-year legal battle over the land eventually saw her foes pay half a million rupees ($4,800) in compensation and offer a public apology — an act of utmost disgrace in rural Pakistan.
Born in a conservative feudal family, Dharejo was entitled to learn the Qur’an at home — and that was all.
She persuaded her father to allow her and her sisters to study English, which paved the way for her to gain her Bachelor of Arts in economics at Sindh University, where she could study at home and appear in public only for the exams.
But the modern justice system has made few inroads into rural Sindh, where little has changed for centuries in a society dominated by feudalism, and the bloody years-long fight over her family’s land threatened many times to derail her progress.
“It kept intensifying. Five, six murders took place and in 1992 my brother was also murdered,” she explained.
When her father died that same year, the women who visited to pay condolences taunted her mother and sisters that their family line had ended.
But Dharejo’s determination — particularly her defiant stand over her family’s property years later — slowly turned the tide.
Soon neighbors began to speak of her as “Waderi,” a new feminine version of the male honorific “Wadera” meaning something akin to a feudal “Lady.”
“She has become such a huge tree spreading soothing shade to the people around her,” commented Zulfiqar Dharejo as his wife, draped in a traditional printed Sindhi shawl, rocked gently on a nearby swing bed in their sparse drawing room, hung with more guns.
In 2013 Dharejo’s story came to the attention of a British-born Pakistani filmmaker, Sarmad Masud.
Fascinated, he got in touch. The result is My Pure Land, the 98-minute Urdu-language film version of Dharejo’s story starring Suhaee Abro, which became the UK’s official entry in the Oscar’s foreign language category.
It faces tough competition: a record 92 countries have entered this year. Other contenders include Jolie’s film on the Cambodian genocide.
Nominations will be announced in January, with the ceremony held in March.
Masud told AFP: “I was immediately inspired by (Dharejo’s) courage and heroism.”
But he conceded making the movie, filmed in some 30 days around Lahore, had been tough.
Temperatures touched 40 degrees during filming; both he and his wife, the production designer on the film, were briefly hospitalized; and the set was attacked.
Much to his frustration, they also never met their heroine in person, though they spoke often.
Despite its labeling by some critics as a “feminist Western,” My Pure Land has only a few action scenes in it, Masud said.
Ultimately it is a drama about a father’s loving relationship with his daughters, he explained.
“It was important to shine a light on characters and a part of the world which is very rarely accurately represented on screen,” he added.
Dharejo said she was “very happy” with the the final film, adding that the triumphant story belongs to Sindh and Pakistan.”
She said: “That is an honor for me.”


Prince Harry and Meghan start Aussie tour with baby gifts

Updated 16 October 2018
0

Prince Harry and Meghan start Aussie tour with baby gifts

  • The royal couple announced their pregnancy after arriving in Sydney
  • Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37 have stepped to the fore in the last year as the British queen reduced her public appearances

SYDNEY: A beaming Duke and Duchess of Sussex thrilled thousands of fans outside the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday during their first meeting with the general public since the former Meghan Markle’s newly announced pregnancy.
Prince Harry and Meghan spent longer than the 20 minutes allocated in their schedule to speak to and shake hands with as many well-wishers as possible. Meghan, wearing a beige trench coat over a sleeveless cream dress by Australian designer Karen Gee, accepted cards and flowers from an enthusiastic crowd.
The news of the pregnancy was announced after the couple arrived in Sydney on Monday and 15 hours before their first public appearance. The two are on a 16-day tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand that their Kensington Palace staff said would not be altered despite confirmation that the American former actress is pregnant.
Among those taken by surprise by the announcement were their Sydney hosts, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Lynne Cosgrove. The governor-general, who represents Queen Elizabeth II, Australia’s head of state and Harry’s grandmother, sent staff to hastily buy a toy kangaroo with a joey in its pouch and a tiny pair of Australian sheep skin boots for their pregnant guest.
“Here’s your first gift for the nursery,” the governor-general told the couple during the official welcome at his official residence, Admiralty House.
“Thank you, that’s so sweet,” Meghan said as she received the toy.
The pregnancy has made front-page news across Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald ran the headline: “A smooth ride to Sydney, but royals reveal bump on the way.” Darwin’s irreverent NT News chose the headline: “Ginger Pregs” — a play on a long-running Australian comic strip about a mischievous red-head boy called “Ginger Meggs.”
Outside the Opera House on Tuesday, Harry lingered longest with war widow Daphne Dunne, 98, whom he hugged as they chatted.
It was the third time that they had met since Harry’s eye caught sight of a Victoria Cross medal on her chest during a Sydney visit in 2015. She explained that her first husband Albert Chowne had been given the highest award in the British honors system after he died in Papua New Guinea in 1945.
This time, Meghan joined Harry in greeting the Dunne, who admires the prince’s work with veterans.
“Oh my goodness, is this Daphne?” Meghan asked.
Dunne later said Meghan told her “she had heard all about me; she’s so beautiful.”
“I wished them well with the baby on the way and said this is what Harry has been waiting for so long,” Dunne added.
Before Megan donned her coat, her tight-fitting dress barely revealed a bump as they were welcomed at the first event of the day at the Sydney Harbor-side mansion where the two are staying.
The main focus of that engagement was to meet Invictus Games representatives from the 18 countries competing in the event that starts Saturday. The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.
Several of the representatives congratulated the couple on their baby news. Meghan replied: “Thank you so much. We are very excited.”
The couple later traveled by boat to Taronga Park Zoo where they opened a research center and met two 10-month old koalas that had been named after them.
They watched an indigenous dance company rehearse inside the Opera House before meeting the public.
The announcement of the pregnancy confirms weeks of speculation from royal watchers about why Meghan was not joining Harry on his Sydney Harbor Bridge climb set for Friday.
Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37 — along with Prince William and his wife, Kate, the duchess of Cambridge — have stepped to the fore in the last year as the 92-year-old queen slightly reduces her public schedule.