A day ago, the Academy announced that 15 films have made it to the next round of voting in the International Feature Film category of the 95th edition of the Oscars, and one among them happen to be Pakistan’s Joyland. The drama, directed by Saim Sadiq, is the first Pakistani film to be shortlisted in this category. It also became the first Pakistani film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last year and won the Jury Prize and Queer Palm for the best LGBTQ themed film at the film gala. Starring Salmaan Peerzada, Rasti Farooq, Ali Junejo, Alina Khan and Sarwat Gilani, Joyland is the story of a family patriarch, who craves for the birth of a grandson, but his younger son secretly joins an erotic dance theatre and falls in love with a transgender dancer.
In an exclusive chat with News18 Showsha, Sarwat, who plays Nucchi, a stay-at-home mother in the film, says that being a part of Joyland and its selection at the Academy Awards is ‘a dream come true’ for her. It has not only helped her push the envelope as an artiste but also re-instil faith in her own choices. “I remember I was doing a very commercial film at some point. I spoke to my writer and asked him, ‘Why can’t we make independent and artistic films?’ He told me, ‘Not in your lifetime, Sarwat.’ That made me feel like I won’t ever be able to do the kind of cinema that I want to do,” she recalls.
Though Joyland didn’t offer her the opportunity of playing the protagonist, she considers herself lucky to be a part of a project that helped break age-old norms and stereotypes. “When Joyland came to me, the character that I was told to be doing wasn’t a main lead, but at the same time, the script was so amazing, powerful, honest and touching that all pre-conceived notions were shed off very easily,” she says.
Shedding further light on her takeaway from the film, Sarwat remarks, “When you don’t realise your own power, you don’t know what you can do. A piece of Joyland made us realise and remember that our strength is within us and we don’t need to seek it in big budgets and external places. And it’s great that we could enjoy the fruits of our strength and power.”
While Joyland talks about women in a patriarchal household, it also delves into the life of a trans-person. Sharing her thoughts on how the film has tried to make an important statement on the queer community, she says, “Joyland makes you take a sneak peek into their lives. But that’s something we generally tend to avoid because we don’t think that they’re the victims, we think that they’re very different from us and are doing pretty okay dancing, singing, begging on the roads and dressing up and doing their make-up like women.”
For Sarwat, inclusivity and equality is of paramount importance and the fact that Joyland could show the struggles of the transgender community through its storyline brings her immense joy. She says, “While we really don’t understand the intricate details and sorrows of their lives, Joyland showed us that. And we couldn’t be happier to show those struggles because we tend to sugarcoat these things even in our own heads. If a trans-woman is begging on the road, we think that’s what they’re meant to do. But there are cases where they beg on the roads and then go study for law and are now barristers.” She adds, “Joyland shows you a human side of them and since it’s on the big screen, it’s really in your face. I think it did a lot for the trans-community and for them to see their side of the story.”
So, what are her thoughts on the acceptance of the LGBT community back home? “There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the LGBT community. A lot of people don’t understand what ‘T’ stands for. A lot is being done in the process also and we’re trying to build their community as a stronger community, give them more protection and talk about their rights. In the last few years, Pakistan has definitely changed its stance. We’ve a trans-lawyer, a trans-doctor and have issued ID cards for trans-women. They’ve also been given rights over properties. The change is slow but steady and is headed in a good direction. We’re getting there,” elaborates the Churails and Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam actor.
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