“If you liked Slumdog Millionaire, you’ll love Ramchand Pakistani.” That’s what I’ve been told, many times since I’ve seen Slumdog. Now, I’ll readily admit that I’m not a big fan of foreign films. I’ve seen some, and my tendency has been to see more of the European area foreign films rather than the Middle-Eastern ones or anywhere else for that matter. But I really enjoyed Slumdog, I thought it was one of the finest movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. So, in my attempt to find another hidden gem, I decided to pick up Ramchand Pakistani to check it out. When I finally found the DVD, the box was adorned with positive reviews. The film won the International Critics Prize of 2008. So I went for it. I bought it. In these difficult economic times, it is understandably hard for people to pay for a DVD, especially for one that many in this country have not seen before. But I can honestly tell you that this film was worth every penny. Long story short: Ramchand Pakistani shattered my expectations and completely changed the way I will think about foreign films. The movie is a powerful tale about how one simple action can forever change the lives of a family struggling to survive in an area filled with war-like tension. For the curious, here is the official description, straight from film makers:
“Ramchand Pakistani is derived from a true story concerning the accidental crossing of the Pakistan-Indian border during a period of extreme, war-like tension between the two countries by two members of a Pakistani Hindu family belonging to the ‘untouchable’ caste, and the extraordinary consequences of this unintended action upon the lives of a woman, a man, and their son. The singular theme of the film is how a child from Pakistan aged eight years learns to cope with the trauma of forced separation from his mother while being held prisoner, along with his father in the jail of a country i.e. India, which is hostile to his own, while on the other side of the border, the wife-mother, devastated by their sudden disappearance, builds a new chapter of her life, by her solitary struggle for sheer survival. Belonging to one of the lowest castes in Hinduism, the family is also part of a small minority of Hindus in a country, which is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in which 97% of the people are Muslims. The boy and his father are held captive in India where, in contrast to Pakistan, the overwhelming majority of about 80% comprises of Hindus. The film portrays the lives of a family that is at the bottom of a discriminatory religious ladder and an insensitive social system, which is nevertheless tolerant, inclusive and pluralist. The irony is compounded by the fact that such a family becomes hostage to the acrimonious political relationship between two neighbor-states poised on the brink of war.”
First off, I must say that this film is in Hindi, with English sub-titles. If you can’t handle that, then you won’t be interested in this film. If that is the case, then that’s too bad, because this is a really good movie. Ramchand Pakistani is a powerful story that is filled with a touch of brutal realism. Much like Slumdog, this is a movie that you will watch and feel the pain of two neighboring states and the peoples that have to live there. A vast majority of Americans, even ones belonging to one of the lower income classes, living in the worst neighborhoods, will be shocked at the events of the film. This is not pure fiction, and that fact adds to the already powerful drama in a completely unique way. You feel for the characters. Some situations in this film will bring a tear to the eyes of even the toughest of people.
The cinematography and acting were great. The film is visually stunning. The story is well written. The dialogue may be a tad rough for “virgin ears.” There is a lot of vulgarity, which is understandable given the situations depicted in the film. It heightens the drama, and you would expect anyone in that situation to respond in the way that the actors in the film did. Still, some of the foul language felt a bit too much at times, so be forewarned. Please don’t let the fact that this is a foreign film prevent you from watching this. Ramchand Pakistani is a powerful drama that is filled with filled with political drama that is shocking at times. Especially when you come to the realization that this is all real. The actions depicted in the film, brutal as they may be, are commonplace in the area in June of 2002. I highly recommend this film to anyone who can handle the subtitles.