Writer Rida Bilal, who won the Best Emerging Talent trophy at the Lux Style Awards 2019 for her brave, progressive and realistic drama serial Khudgarz, doesn’t have too many scripts to her name because she only prefers to write strong, powerful stories.
Presently working on a number of scripts for web, Rida made a short film in 2012 as part of her university thesis in the final year; it revolves around the subject of divorce and how it affects children. She finally decided to screen the film, titled Bachpan, without making any changes on purpose (she wanted it to be a raw portrayal) at T2F in Karachi earlier this week, followed by a panel discussion on the subject.
“I wanted to talk about the topic of divorce and broken families for a very long time and I found this to be the perfect opportunity to screen my film since it was relevant to the topic,” Rida shared on the sidelines of the event. “The purpose, still, largely is and was to talk about this issue. I also intended to highlight media’s role about the mostly unnecessary inclusion/ portrayal of divorce and our social responsibility in general.”
Written, directed and produced by Rida Bilal, the short film features Maria Mumtaz as the protagonist Zeest, while Sarmad Khoosat plays the role of her father, alongside Arisha Salman (Zeest as a child) and Syed Nabeel Ali Jafri (boyfriend).
The short film follows the life of Zeest, whose parents constantly argue over every other issue in the house and are certainly done with each other. When her mother finally decides to part ways with her father, Zeest chooses to live with her. However, during this period she rushes into an uncalled-for relationship – with a university fellow – that leaves her with nothing but regret.
The screening was followed by Ali Gul Pir’s song ‘Sorry’ that also tackles a similar theme. The evening concluded with a panel discussion featuring Rida Bilal, Ali Safina, Ali Gul Pir and director-producer Arshila Hussain.
Speaking about how important it is to bring such issues to light, Rida asked panelists if the subject in question is highlighted enough. The panelists felt that nobody wants to talk about it and that more attention needs to be given to it.
“The concept of divorce is never explained to us; our parents never tell us it wasn’t our fault,” noted Ali Gul Pir, whose parents got divorced when he was young and felt that he was responsible for it.
Arshila, a single mother, was of the view that children blame both the parents for divorce and don’t support either of the two. “They are wild, they are spoiled and one has to somehow treat them like special children,” she maintained, adding that it is not easy for a single parent and that children too need to be considerate about their parents.
Adding to the discussion, Ali Safina, said, “Today, people say that one should not stay in a toxic relationship but they don’t realize that it stays toxic even after parting ways. Earlier, the relationship is toxic and later on, the person himself becomes toxic. And unfortunately that toxic person doesn’t even realize the toxicity.”
The discussion veered towards how society looks at and perceives children of divorced parents and how many of those children know how to handle the situation. Also, what their coping mechanisms are.
“Whether one’s parents’ divorce overshadows their own marriage or not is also something to ponder on,” added Rida Bilal. “The best part is, one knows what is it that they do NOT have to do rather than what they should do [as a child of divorce]. If I had not gone through it, I would only think of myself if a similar situation was in front of me God forbid; but now I would ask myself if my ego is bigger than the smile(s) of my children, who want to see me and my husband together.”
On a parting note, the panelists spoke about Pakistani dramas and if they are able to tackle social themes the way they should. TRPs are definitely a major concern for channels and that governs narratives on TV; they often end up trivializing an otherwise sensitive issue as if it is not a big deal anymore.