By Aditi Patwardhan. Posted on April 22, 2016
Cannes Classics - The retrospective section at Cannes Film Festival, looks back upon the history of cinema and pays tribute to filmmakers from across the globe for their cinematic genius. Each year, the Cannes retrospective lineup has an interesting and eclectic mix of old films from different parts of the world and it puts the spotlight on great filmmakers who are lesser known to the world. This year's Cannes Classics section is all set to showcase one such film named Jago Hua Savera, directed by A. J. Kardar from Pakistan.
The film has a special place in Pakistani film history, as it was Pakistan's first official entry to the Oscars. The film had also bagged a Golden Prize at the 1959 Moscow Film Festival and is said to have put Pakistani cinema on the international map. Made at the time when Bangladesh was still East Pakistan, Kardar's film was written by renowned Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and had quite a few Indian connections. The film's music directors Tamar Barran and the assistant music director Shantikumar Charthedee hailed from India and it starred Indian actor Tripti Mitra as one of the film's protagonists.
The film was based on the lives of the fishermen of East Bengal and was shot a few miles from Dhaka on the bank of the river Meghna. After studying filmmaking in Britain, Kardar returned to Pakistan to shoot his film. Oscar winning cinematographer Walter Lassally, who has shot films like Zorba The Greek, Joanna and Before Midnight shot Jago Hua Savera. And through his lens he has captured the mesmerising visuals of the riverside life of fishermen. The beautiful panoramic view of a tropical delta is one of the highlights of Lassally's work in the film. The titles of the film are enough to give us an idea of the genius of Lassally's work as a cinematographer.
As per an article by Bangladeshi filmmaker and cultural activist Alamgir Kabir, the film was a commercial failure at the time of its release in Pakistan. Says Kabir in his article, "The film failed to attract even the intelligentsia who could have provided it with at least a week’s business. Nevertheless, it still remains the only example of efficient film making in Pakistan... ...The film, though awarded a prize at Moscow Film Festival proved a miserable flop mainly for the reason that it not only discarded all the tested conventions of popular cinema but also failed to be understood by the ordinary spectators as the language used in the film was a peculiar mixture of Bengali and Urdu easily understandable to neither communities."
Kardar started his filmmaking career with Jago Hua Savera, alternately titled Day Shall Dawn in English and went on to become a renowned documentary filmmaker later in his career. Though a fictional feature film, Jago Hua Savera has an undercurrent of a documentary, according to various experts. The film tries to capture the lives and hardships of fishermen in a seemingly realistic way.
This year the Cannes Classics section will screen the restored version of the film. Though the original negative of the film has been lost, the film has been restored by Nauman Taseer Foundation with the best elements possible. The Classics section this year includes an eclectic and a truly global mix of films. In the list, you can see films of world-renowned masters of cinema like Andreï Tarkovsky, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Jean-Luc Godard, besides popular names like Marlon Brando and James Ivory. The section also showcases films made by renowned filmmakers from far corners of the world like France Stiglic (Slovenia), Jindřich Polák (Czech Republic), Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (Cuba), Thavi Na Bangchang (Thailand), Károly Makk (Hungary) and Mitsuyo Seo (Japan).
After doling out stereotypical films for years, one has seen Pakistani film industry waking up from their deep slumber in recent times and make quite a few acclaimed films. According to Wajahat Ali, "Many (filmmakers) are experimenting with their craft, exploring new genres while trying to figure out the market needs in a country that had largely forgotten about the art, some even devising their own recipes for success."
We have seen some noteworthy films from Pakistan in past few years such as Khuda Ke Liye, Na Maloom Afraad and Dukhtar. Pakistani films are making their presence felt at Cannes as well, with documentary films like Postcards from Lahore and short film Baat Cheet being screened at the last two editions of Cannes. At a time when Pakistani cinema is experiencing a revival, Cannes paying tribute to one of Pakistan's earliest art film surely holds significance.