My Pure Land doesn’t beat around the bush. It throws you right in and keeps you at the edge of your seat without ever letting you go. It’s an intense story packed with gunshots, but that is not where the tension lies, funnily enough. Rather, it is the eyes that won’t let you rest, the long pauses that send chills down your spine. The gazes are penetrating and the lack of dialogue more deafening than any bullet storm. The darkness and vastness of these Pakistani eyes aren’t helping, for they are characters of their own, communicating such anger, sadness, fear and often kindness and love, that dialogue becomes redundant. Sarmad Masud’s film is a suspense thriller that keeps you gripped like very few films of its kind have managed to do. And what’s more, it achieves this with subtlety, long pauses and nerve-wrecking close-ups, without once trying too hard or going overboard. The fact that it tells a true story only makes matters worse.
Sarmad Masud’s film very quickly becomes Nazo Dharejo’s and Suhaee Abro’s film. This is an all-female film, even though the majority of characters are male, the society in which it all takes place is very much male and the hardness is in stark contrast with the softness and beauty of the women we get to know. This is feminism at its best and strongest, badass women, succeeding in humiliating their male oppressors while in dresses and perfect make-up. And fighting for their honour with much fewer weapons and much more dignity than their opponents. Just three women, while countless jeeps keep arriving packed with armed men, is not exactly what we’d call a fair game – but then again nothing is fair in these women’s lives and they seem used to it by now. They still prefer to die with their heads up high, than to ever bow down to any of these people.
Nazo is fighting to stop her uncle from taking her family home, as he keeps claiming that it’s his – much like the land where it is situated. Her father has been imprisoned and her brother killed. This has now become her battle, along with her mother’s and sister’s. And so what would normally be a court battle in our parts of the world – and of course still needing a hell of a stomach for any woman to take – becomes an actual, physical, gun war in Pakistan. No wonder that Nazo has been labelled “Pakistan’s Toughest Woman” – I have never witnessed such physical and emotional strength in a female character before – action heroes aside. The courage displayed here is unprecedented and although fear is clearly projected in this woman’s face, hesitation is not.
But in such a hostile context where men seem to be everything that is wrong with the world, there comes a father who is so beautiful and dignified, kind but strong, so loving towards his family and proud of his two daughters, so quietly defiant and morally superior to his fellow men, that he makes up for his sex, his country, his society and all the injustice that his family has had to endure. Haji Khuda Buksh (portrayed by Syed Tanveer Hussain) is a rational and gentle man who strongly believes that everything happens for a reason, but instead of using this notion to simply walk away from struggles, he courageously accepts it and stands tall in front of such God’s will. His relationship with his two daughters is heart-warming and soothing – the on-screen chemistry of Syed Tanveer Hussain and Suhaee Abro is even more something to behold, as when those pairs of huge, black eyes meet, enough power is generated to in fact fuel a revolution.
And how beautifully expressive Suhaee Abro is, makes for a film of its own. From the opening scene, we’re captivated by a face that is all at once soft and merciless, eyes that smile and spark, and a body that is slender and a rock. This is a beauty and a warrior, just like the many graphic-novel superheroines – those that our fantasy loves to generate but reality never meets. And Abro’s talent screams, while her face stays beautifully blank. Her performance is discreet and everything about her delicate. Sarmad Masud‘s My Pure Land was particularly lucky to land two actors like Suhaee Abro and Syed Tanveer Hussain, for even such a remarkable story could not have been told so brilliantly without them.
Watch here the trailer of the film.