Director Amjad Khan on ”Gul Makai” (A Biopic on Malala Yousafzai)


Director Amjad Khan makes Gul Makai — the real life story of Malala Yusufzai, keeping everything real, from names, items at home to actual situation in Pakistan and more.

What is an out of the box thinking? To create something that is unique and difficult to achieve..

Director, singer, composer, painter and lyricist Amjad Khan did just that by making Gul Makai, a film on youngest Nobel Prize for peace winner Malala Yusufzai. The film that he announced in 2012, 10 days after she was shot, had gone on floor following year. It has been moving in the festival circuits across the globe for the past two years. It is now being screened at India International Film Festival of Boston, today.

Malala, as many know by now, was upset for the extremist outfit Taliban had entered Pakistan and didn’t want Muslim girls to study in schools, it allegedly broke nearly 12 schools in one go and damaged the spirit of education among girls in the nation.

Gul Makai was the pen name of Malala under which she used to write for BBC Urdu, these were extracts from her daily diary and more. However, she was caught and the entire drama began of making her slow down the brave efforts of her’s.

Khan, also a diplomat and a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for working towards the cause of malnutrition, “had no issues extracting information for the film from different sources across the countries.”

The film Khan says is about her real life from the time she was shot to her travel to the UN with one underline message — education as the only tool for power. “It’s not only Malala’s film. It’s about every child who wants to study, wish to have wings but stopped and their wings clipped. The gist of my story is “Iqra”, the mention of education, that comes in the first verse of the holy Quran.The misconception about Islam be warded off, is my aim. I have shown two surgeries of Malala, with real pictures. It’s about her journey from when she is shot to the UN.”

Khan has more details to share. “I had lots of academic friends in Pakistan, I sought some help to gather information. Bhaswati Chakravarty, my assistant did extensive research and I wrote the film soon after I felt touched by Malala’s life”.

He, however, was not able  to contact Malala in the initial stages. There  were a lot of people in between as she had created Malala fund for education after she received the Nobel Prize. So it became very complex situation for him. “But I needed information so I contacted her neighbors and thankfully got lot of authentic information”, he recalls.

“I sought no permission from Malala. If anyone had tried to accuse me of anything I would have spoiled that person because everything that I showed in the film is authentic, documented and already shown on spaces like BBC, Geo TV and other channels.”. Khan had showed this film  London early this year in the presence of a minister from India, political, academics and other dignitaries from Pakistan and film critics from across the globe, “to an immense response” as he claims.

Making of the film

The film was big enough. First version was of 4.5 hours. It had many things that would have created conflict among few countries, “I would have cost the nations a war so I deleted them all”,  he says.

He has shown the killing of Osama Bin Laden to Benazir Bhutto in the film, apart from how the Talibanis tried to break schools and stopped families to prevent girls from studying.

The film exhibits her bravery, what she goes through when shot and how..He recalls, “Malala’s father saw it and started crying, Her mother screamed in horror and got up after five minutes. She said I can’t see it’ because they all revisited the past”. To make it more credible, Khan had kept everything authentic — the same color bed sheet, sofa, curtains, carpet, television, her pen and book, etc. .

Khan chose Dantan, a remotest hamlet some 50-60 kilometer away from interiors of Kashmir, for shooting. He used 12-16 cameras to shoot. “Not even a single shot has been cut but is in continuation. So in one take shots were cleared. No editing, no cutting, so viewers will see no jerks. Notably, Khan has also designed the fight scene all by himself, which is basically a technical domain.

“I could design it because I was a world martial arts champion for five years so I know how action all around happen. For instance, a shooting scene that I have created in which 200 people on side and 200 on the other people shoot. It covered an area of two kilometers. For one scene which took several hours and shooting with drones up and down under the hills, is of three minutes in actual in the film.”

Those days drones were allowed there. In his most memorable moments Khan shares how the “Kashmiri people did not allow him to use the Talibani’s slogan Shahadat Ya Shariyat  or banner of Pakistan Zindabad. “These are such patriotic people and how certain section of media and politicians project them as anti national is so shameful,”, he rues.

The human angle

Khan had also shot in the interior areas near Kashmir, called Ganderwaal. This area is covered in snow for almost four months a year. Notably, he barely had any issues there because locals were really supportive. Supportive because not only did they get employment for few months but also food for free. “I had a way to win the locals. I kept the food for the whole hamlet free till the time I shot and few locals actors and others were paid too. It was heart wrenching to see how poverty has struck them.. If I would give them just  500 rupees, they would look at it with great surprise and wonder. They are immensely poor without any basic facilities to take care of them during killing snowy winters.”

This singer composer had penned songs and scored its music too, He has also sung a song with Piyush Mihra in the film. “Maula Mere de de sari khushi” is sung by Kailash Kher, is a beautiful dua, another song, asung by Azmat the former little champion of Sa Re Ga Ma, titled “mere saare khilone le lo, bus kitabe de do” and one English song is penned by Bhaswati.

Khan who hails from Dantan, a remote area on the Midnapur Bengal  Studied in Bengal, came to Mumbai 1992, got first black belt at the age of 14, has declared that he will give away his first days’ earning to Malala’s fund. The only hitch he has is that he feels the film is almost made for intellectuals and may draw them better than common viewers perhaps..


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