Brilliantly Directed ‘Gul Makai’

A Biopic on Malala Yousufzai by Amjad Khan

by Suraja Roychowdhury 

The India International Film Festival of Boston in association with Priya Samant Parulekar and BDC-TV screened the premiere of a biopic on Malala Yousafzai called Gul Makai on November 10, 2019. What an incredible movie! Brilliantly directed by H.E. Amjad Khan (Goodwill Ambassador IIMSAM-UN-ECOSOC) ,written by Bhaswati Chakrabarty , produced by Sanjay Singla and presented by Pen India by Dr Jayantilal Gada and Aksshay Jayantilal Gada.

L-R Sanjay Singla, Priya Samant and Atul Kulkarni
L-R Anwar Hakam Priya Samant Atul Kulkarni, Sanjay Singla and Sunayana Kachroo

The film showcases the evolution of the young, happy Malala to a frightened but passionately interested student to the outspoken and fearless crusader for girls’ education that earned her the Nobel prize.  A Buddhist proverb says that “The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.”  In the case of Malala Yousafzai the mud has two connotations- the filth of the murderous Taliban rule; and the incredible nurturing fertility of ideas and actions of her father Ziauddin Yousafzai.  

L-R Sanjay Singla, Atul Kulkarni and Razia Mashkoor

Malala’s role was ably portrayed by newcomer Reem Shaikh. Her fresh-faced innocence is heart warming to watch. However, Atul Kulkarni, two time National Film Award winner, was the true hero of this film. He did an outstanding job as Ziauddin Yousafzai, fearless educator and the ‘wind beneath her wings’. He was ably assisted by Divya Dutta as Malala’s mother. The late film thespian Om Puri played his final role as General Kayani. The film focuses less on Malala’s efforts to spread the word under the pseudonym Gul Makai, and more on the circumstances surrounding the conditions of the Swat Valley under the Taliban and the political climate in Pakistan (the assassination of Benazir Bhutto).

It focuses on as Ziauddin’s activism and courage to keep his school and the cause of education going under their oppressive rule. Watching it is not for the faint of heart. The sheer scale of brutality and violence that the Taliban inflicted on the people of the Swat valley is beyond belief, and the film does not spare the viewers. The courage it takes to stand up for one’s rights in the face of certain death is mind boggling- and not just the Yousafzai family, but the press, and innumerable others who get murdered point blank by these villains. The film was shot on location in Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat, as well as on set in faithful recreations of the Yousafzai family home, right down to the curtains and furniture. An outstanding film that will remain in the hearts and minds of viewers everywhere!

Tapasya Srivastava taking interview of Atul Kulkarni and Sanjay Singla


L-R Pratibha Shah, Suraja Roychaudhry, Meera Sidharth, Anu Sharma


Razia Mashkoor

After watching this film, I realized that how they suffered mentally, emotionally as well as tortured by religiously. Unfortunately, it is (and from) coming from the religion who teaches us “Peace, Read, Learn”

In her opening remark Mrs. Razia said, “they (Taliban) misogynist ruler, abused women for years by discrimination against them in many ways, for the ‘crime’ of being born as a girl. The Taliban enforced their version of Islamic Sharia law. According to them women and girls were banned from going to school or studying, working, leaving the house without a male, showing their skin in public, being involved in politics or speaking publicly last but, not least from accessing healthcare provided by men? And these are just few the list of brutality is so long. The Taliban ruled from 1996-2001 with a fundamentalist and often brutal interpretation of Islamic law. What they were/are doing on the name of Quran and Prophet Mohammad (SAW) is wrong. One can imagine the first word of the Holy book of Quran is “IQRA” which means READ. How can the religion that says “Read” will exclude women from education? It doesn’t say “Only men may read, women stay home.” The Quran doesn’t discriminate woman. The true words say that all humans are equal, man or woman. The Taliban destroyed their own country in the name of religion, which preaches that all are equal, and nobody has more power than anybody else. It harms the image of Muslims across the globe. Thanks to Amjad Khan, who made this film which we are screening today. We are fortunate to be showing this movie to you well known actor Atul Kulkarni who played the father of Malala, and Sanjay Singla who co-produced the movie. They came all the way from India to present this screening. We are thankful to Dr. Jayntilal Gada Saheb who made this whole screening possible. Without further ado, let’s watch the movie. Thanks everyone, and cheers.” ……Razia Mashkoor

Priya Samant

“As an impact advisor to Gulmakai- Story based on Nobel Peace Prize Laureate  my goal was to bring this movie to audiences in the US as they come with wide perspective from various parts of the world and they can become ambassadors in the cause they believe , spread the message of peace and importance of education. Malala’s life is one of inspiration, courage and perseverance. We all should learn from her journey. I was humbled and honored for the love and support we got from the audience after they watched the movie. The lead actor in this movie, National award winner Mr Atul Kulkarni who played Ziauddin Yosufzai and producer of the movie, Mr Snajay Singla graced the event.  —  Priya Samant 

Sanjay Kaul

“Had an opportunity to watch the screening of Gul Makai in Boston arranged by IIFFB team led by Razia Mashkoor, Priya Samant & Kavita Chhiber. Though the movie is a biographical drama based on the life and struggle of Malala Yousafzai, it depicts the trials and tribulations faced by common populace who become victims and targets of fundamentalists and terrorists. The story written by Bhaswati Chakrabarty depicts the hidden agendas of religious zealots and the emotions of a caring family that believes in humanity. The director of the movie Amjad Khan has done well to make the movie real and focus on the real message rather than be driven by characters. I enjoyed the theme of the movie that religion be respected and practiced by its believers within the confines of their home and not enforce a version to promote a certain agenda. Additionally, I enjoyed meeting Atul Kulkarni who played the role of Malala’s father and Sanjay Singla who produced this movie. Kudos to the entire team for a beautiful movie with a clear message. And, thank you Razia & Priya for bringing it to Boston.”

Meera Siddharth

“Life reflects film and film depicts life. The screening of the film Gul-Makai describes the experience of how Malala’s simple life unfolds in front of viewers. I was eager to watch this movie as Malala’s story is set on location around the mountain region of my ancestral home of Peshawar and its surroundings. However, the backdrop of this beautiful natural habitat was overshadowed by the continuous terror & torture inflicted by the Taliban on its local innocent people. To be able to bring these events on to the screen is an eye-opener and exemplifies that extreme cruelty can exist in human beings. Malala’s life is shown here in an exemplary film and kudos to its film producers, director and the actors who have successfully brought the real true story to the big screen. One valued lesson from the film showcases what humanity should be and what human brings should not promote. The strength of the story in the film is successfully carried by Malala’s father figure acted by the famous actor Atul Kulkarni and Malala’s character played by Reem Shaikh, promises us that we will see her more”….Meera Siddharth

My best to the team for their success in their future endeavors.

Thanks to Razia Mashkoor, the energy behind South Asian art, entertainment and literary activities in Boston, that I had the opportunity to attend the preview of upcoming Indian film Gul Makai. The film beautifully recounts the trials and tribulations of Malala Yousafzai and her family in Swat Valley of Northern Pakistan during the most traumatic time. ……..Anwar Hakam

Kudos to Razia Mashkoor, the chair person of the IIFFB,  Priya Samant Parulekar who was the impact advisor for the film and team IIFFB for bringing this movie to Boston.  In attendance at this premiere were Atul Kulkarni and producer Sanjay Singla. The lively post film discussion was moderated by Sunayana Kachroo with closing remarks by Kavita Chhibber.  

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