Ramchand Pakistani (2008), and Phir Wohi Raaste lyrics and translation

A rare collaboration between artists from India and Pakistan gives us a film in which human values triumph. Ramchand Pakistani takes the difficult route as it celebrates that the people of the two countries have much that unites them. A delicate subject deserves delicate treatment, and the film provides this treatment. It seldom picks a side as it presents the true story of a Hindu family living in Muslim Pakistan, by the India-Pakistan border. Directed by Mehreen Jabbar, written by her father Javed Jabbar, and with music by Debajyoti Mishra, it is an excellent example of how a diverse cast and crew can deliver with credibility an excellent product of film on issues they might not agree on. Hit play and read on. More on the song below.



Champa (Nandita Das), her husband Shankar (Rashid Farooqui) and their son Ramchand (child actor Syed Fazal Hussain) comprise a Dalit family living in a small village in Pakistan. Their lives are rattled when little Ramchand accidentally crosses the border into India. Shankar, searching for his son, crosses the border too. Father and son are imprisoned, and Champa left helpless in the village on the other side. Five years pass, yet Ramchand (now Navaid Jabbar) maintains a surprisingly positive outlook on life despite the traumatic events. Why the positivity? Will they ever make it back to their home in Pakistan? Meanwhile, Champa has little hope of their survival, and even has an admirer. How will her decisions shape the futures of the three? See Ramchand Pakistani to discover. As uplifting as it is engaging, and as heartwarming as it is troubling, it is cinema at its finest with a message that is universal.

It deals with several real issues. Incorporated into the narrative is commentary on treatment of minorities (by religion, nationality, and caste), women (including widows), children, farm workers, prisoners, teachers, students, and knowledge. And the solace one occasionally finds in the company of solitude, or of a pet.

Each, as the film shows, applies across the human landscape. And each is addressed with sensitivity that is admirable. While it often toys with the intellect with respect to visual depictions of the struggles related to these issues, not once does it succumb to graphic visuals, which is testament to the quality of filmmaking and the strength of the narrative in implying what it needs to without showing it (because it would have been very easy to give in to the temptation to add shock value and still draw praises). Well done Ms. Jabbar!

My DVD is censored for language (which means there are occasional bleeps; I'm not sure if an uncensored version was released), but that works for those of us who believe that the use of expletives is quite obviously (and perhaps unbeknown to the communicator) an admission of the weakness of words that would have been used independent of them :)

There is lots more to like about Ramchand Pakistani, but the two big strengths are its screenplay and the accompanying performances that bring it to life, well enough for its audience to feel the emotional swings of the characters. One would almost want to compare these to strengths of typical Pakistani television shows (or 'drama serials', as they are referred to; they typically contain 13 hour-long episodes, and emphasize screenplay, character development, dialogue and delivery over production values, which are great in this film, though).


The performances are excellent throughout. Nandita Das is outstanding; we expect nothing short of that from her. There's this certain rare combination of acting talent and character assumption that she carries, which she is able to employ here to say more with body language than with words.


Rashid Farooqui is effective first as a teacher in the village, then as a prisoner and concerned father of a fellow inmate.


And the two child artists Syed Fazal Hussain and Navaid Jabbar steal the show with their depiction of Ramchand growing up in prison and finding a way to not hate life despite the miserable reality of his situation.


There is even the beautiful Maria Wasti (pronounced 'Maaryaa', a household name in Pakistan for her drama serials), an Indian policewoman who is Ramchand's confidant while in prison, and a character every movie buff can identify with! I'd rather not give away any more of why that is, it's a definite highlight in the film that deserves to be discovered in stride.


The cinematography is excellent, as is the art direction. Sample these color palettes:


Although used sparingly and to complement the background score (no playback singing involved), the music is delightful, and the team delivering it a brilliant assortment of prominent Indian and Pakistani artists. Music Director Debajyoti Mishra (who has the music to Raincoat (2004) and Chokher Bali (2003) to his credit) works with renowned lyricist Anwar Maqsood to deliver a fine soundtrack which includes the likes of Shubha Mudgal (who gets three excellent tracks), Shafqat Amanat Ali, Allan Faqir and others. There are three Pakistani folk songs as well.

The top two songs (and it's difficult to narrow it down to two) are Phir Wohi Raaste by Shafqat Amanat Ali, which you must save for the film (please stay away from its YouTube clips too), because its integration is phenomenal but part of the climax. (This note added 4/28/2009: Its lyrics and translation are at the bottom of the post.)

The other fantastic song is Allah Megh De by Amanat Ali and Mudgal, which I hope you listened to (it's the song embedded above). It's a very popular Bengali folk song, first recorded in the 1940s by vocalist Abbasuddin Ahmed. Here is his rendition of the song. It has been used in Hindi cinema too. There's this variant composed and sung by S. D. Burman and with lyrics by Shailendra in Guide (1965) starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rahman. And there is this one sung by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle, with music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and lyrics by Gulzar, from Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein (1977) starring Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini. The version from Ramchand Pakistani holds its own. In each case, it's essentially a prayer for blessings (and rain!).

While it seems increasingly difficult, I hope Ramchand Pakistani is a precursor to more efforts by the South Asian film fraternity to remind us of all the good will that can be shared, within and among countries that remain remarkably (and foolishly, indeed almost disgustingly) oblivious to the long-term consequences (and perhaps -- and I know this sounds pessimistic -- the inevitability) of their unwillingness to give peace a legitimate chance. A splendid film overall, one I would highly recommend. It's a film with a soul, and a delightful undertaking well worth lauding. Want cinema that's real? Don't think twice!

Movie rating: 4/5 (Excellent!)
It's featured prominently in the international film festival circuit, for which there's good reason. Here is a compilation of reviews. There's a quiet, confident revival of cinema ongoing in Pakistan. First Khuda Ke Liye (2007), then this! And thank you visitor and commenter Salek for your recommendation -- it finally released on DVD.

My classification: R (for content -- no graphic depictions, but implications are obvious)

Official website: RamchandPakistani.com

Picture source(s): Official site and DVD by Eagle Home Entertainment.

Added 4/28/2009:
Following the request by visitor Alina, here are the lyrics and my translation to the remarkable song Phir Wohi Raaste.

24 comments:

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

You have convinced me to see this, which has been languishing on a shelf at home for months now. Plus, I really want to check out this new rendition of "Allah Megh De." thanks!

theBollywoodFan said...

I hope you like it, Shweta. There's very little of 'Allah Megh De' in the film, though. A couple of songs are used more extensively, and the one with the climax is just brilliant.

ajnabi said...

Oh wow, "Allah Megh De" is so beautiful. I'll see this when I've braced myself for serious content. ;-)

Mehreen said...

Thank you Bollywood Fan for such a lovely review of our film. Am so happy that you liked it. Very well researched and written blog :)

regards,
Mehreen

Nida said...

You were the first to bring this to my attention sometime in the summer...and its been calling my name ever since. But after reading your review and the plot synopsis...Well, I just can't afford to this one!Especially since its dealing with the India/Pakistan relationship...

I'll have to order it soon!

theBollywoodFan said...

Ajnabi: It's a beautiful song. I think it's fair to say the first four tracks in the soundtrack (album) are as good as any other four-track sequence I've heard in a long, long time! I hope you get around to seeing it, it's beautiful and well, well worth it.


Mehreen: Salaam, and what a privilege! Thank *you* so very much! I'm truly humbled by your visit and comment.

My compliments to you and your entire team for this marvelous achievement. You all have a lot to be proud of. Thank you for all your hard work in providing us with a beautiful film of such high quality. Best wishes for all your upcoming projects, which I'll hope to follow!


Nida: Definitely go for it, I think you'll really like it. There are few films that are as subtle in conveying the essence of the subject matter, in which this is refreshingly authentic. And yes, I remember us discussing this in August...time flies!

Bhargav Saikia said...

Hey, thank you so much for writing this post :) I really want to watch Ramchand Pakistani now and yeah, Allah Megh De is fantabulous! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

That chorus to the Allah Megh De song sounds a lot like a Bengali song from Bangladesh. I'll try finding out the name of the song.

theBollywoodFan said...

Bhargav: Thank you, and you're welcome! I hope you like it. I should have mentioned above that Debajyoti Mishra also has the music to Dharm (2007) to his credit. I hate to sound like a broken record (pun intended :), but I was pleasantly surprised at how good the music was. Almost want to compare it to Aamir (2008) with music by Amit Trivedi. They've made the most of it within the scope of the film, certainly admirable.

Anonymous: Thank you for your insight. That's interesting, and perhaps it might make sense given the roots of the song?

Saadia said...

One of Mehreen Jabbar's TV serials, "Doraha" just ended on Geo TV. Thoroughly entertaining and thoroughly natural. The actors too have all done a perfect job. See if you can get any DVDs. Filmography

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you Saadia (in lovely Lahore!), and welcome! I'll look forward to seeing 'Doraha' soon (assuming I can find it), appreciate the recommendation. There are several other serials available on Mehreen's site, and I'm wondering which to start with. Any thoughts? Cheers.

Id it is said...

A compelling review, and the pictures capture the readers imagination with an immediacy. I watched this movie after "Project Kashmir", another much spoken about film that was shown at Lincoln Center in NYC a while ago, and one which disappointed me no end. Ramchand Pakistani is a well made movie with some stellar performances, and i hope it gets the recognition it rightly deserves.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Id it is, and welcome! Thank you for your visit and comment. A friend of mine who went to a screening of 'Project Kashmir' here in L.A. had a very similar assessment, thank you for sharing your insight. I too hope Ramchand Pakistani gets recognized for its excellence. It's great to see it win several accolades, let's hope its audience continues to grow!

Anonymous said...

My twin gave me this DVD but somehow I never got around to watch it.

I may give it a try and then read your review.

theBollywoodFan said...

Go for it Anonymous, the least we can do is give it a chance!

JJC said...

I saw Ramchand P. after seeing your rating of it..i dont read reviews beforehand, spoils the movie for me..I liked it..the little boy was so cute

JJC said...

And i loved the cop lady that loves sridevi and copies her ..Shes not the only one that does so ;p

theBollywoodFan said...

Glad you liked it, JJC. Reviews often play the role of spoiler, the balance therein is always challenging. Sridevi is just fantastic! And that cop was so easy to relate to, wasn't she? Thank you very much for visiting and commenting!

Anonymous said...

Like JJC, saw this after reading your review, & really enjoyed it. Many thanks, TBF.

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you, Anonymous. Good going checking this out!

theBollywoodFan said...

All: The lyrics and translation to Phir Wohi Raaste were added to the bottom of the post. Great song...

Anonymous said...

phir wohi raaste this 1 is the gud song in the movie, can any 1 send me this song lyric on my email id :sohail_mus2002@yahoo.com

Sujoy said...

The scene that grips me is when Little Ramchand is just a few days in prison, and one night, in the cell the lunatic Vishesh bangs himself on the wall. Little Ramchand desperately grabs his father's arms. The reaction is so real that it made me shiver. The fear in the eyes of a 9 year old and the helplessness of his father - how worse can it get.

It was a gem of a movie.

And I also watched - Khamosh Pani, also a very good movie, and Kirron Kher nailed that one. Will be soon reviewing it

theBollywoodFan said...

Sujoy: That's a well thought out scene, and brilliantly acted out too. Glad you liked Ramchand Pakistani, it's so real and so sad in many ways, but encouraging in many others.

Havn't seen Khamosh Pani, thanks for the recommendation!

Have you see Tahaan?


Anonymous: The lyrics have been part of this post for a while. Hope you enjoy them.