Between judging films at the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), Afghani actor-director Aziz Dildar has one wish. If possible, he wants to meet Judith D’Souza – the Kolkata girl who had shot to news after being abducted from his hometown Kabul. Dildar wants to ask Judith to visit to his country again.
Judith, who used to work for Aga Khan Foundation as a senior technical adviser, was kidnapped from outside her office in the heart of Kabul on June 9. After a month of wait, she was finally rescued. She returned to Kolkata on July 24. Dildar, who teaches cinema in Kabul University, is keen to meet Judith. “I have my good wishes for her. I want to tell her that she should go to Kabul and not be afraid,” said Dildar, who has directed a feature film titled “The Hot Days of Tourkham” and has written two feature films including one titled “Letter to the President” that has been directed by his wife Roya Sadat.
Incidentally, Roya is the first female film-maker of Afghanistan. “Before the Talban regime, Afghanistan didn’t have any female directors. For four years now, we have been hosting an International Women’s Film Festival in Afghanistan,” said Dildar who is a member of jury board for the Asian select (Netpac Award). Last month, they hosted the fourth edition of the festival that had 12 Indian films in competition. “We even had an Indian film-maker as the jury who travelled to Kabul to attend it,” he said. Isn’t it a problem to host such a festival in Kabul now? “Security can be an issue. But then those who look at Afghanistan from outside have a very different perception from those like us who have been living there,” said Dildar who has directed documentaries on women and children issues plaguing Afghanistan.
How does it feel to be married to the first female director of Afghanistan? Does he have people asking him why his wife makes movies? Dildar smiled and said, “Those questions were thrown some five years back. Not any more. After Roya, many other women have also joined the movies. They are married too.”
But his memory is crowded with stories of the Taliban oppression on women. “I have heard stories of how my sister-in-law was made to wear men’s clothing so that Roya could easily go outside the house with her as their ‘male chaperon’. She had even changed her name to Sohrab – a boy’s name. That was during the Taliban regime,” he said.
The saving grace is that the threat of Talibans doesn’t loom that large over Afghanistan now. “Sometimes, they orchestrate bomb blasts. But they can’t come back and rule over us. Such blasts happen from time to time but life for us also goes on,” he said.
On being asked about his worst fear, Dildar said that would be the spate of “suicide attacks”. “There have been three or four times when I have had narrow escapes. There have been suicide attacks in places which were just 100 metres away from where I stood. Yet, I’ve never thought about leaving my country. Escaping from Kabul elsewhere isn’t a thought I’d ever consider,” he said.
Finding Afghani heroines is a tough task. “Many families don’t want to send their daughters and wives to act in movies. For our last film, we had a tough time getting a heroine,” said Dildar who also spoke about Mithun Chakraborty’s popularity in Afghanistan and his interest in watching Tapan Sinha’s “Kabuliwala”.
Making films in Afghanistan isn’t easy because except the three or four theatres in Kabul, no other Afghani city has any theatres. “Funds and security are major issues. Yet, youngsters are fighting to make good cinema. Now, a lot of television channels show our films. Short films are becoming popular,” said the director, who has watched “3 Idiots” and ‘Black”.
Speaking about Indo-Afghan and Pakistan-Afghan relations, Dildar insisted that Afghanis have a lot of people for Indians. “Our relations with India is better than the relations with Pakistan,” he concluded.