Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha (Circus of Life), which had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival last year, is now Pakistan’s official entry to the Academy Awards. However, the drama has been mired with controversy, including objections from religious groups, release postponements and multiple reviews from the country’s censor board.
Zindagi Tamasha, set in Lahore “is an intimate portrait of a family as well as a scorching political commentary on little gods on this earth who police our private passions,”
Arif Hassan, Eman Suleman, Samiya Mumtaz and Ali Kureshi star in pivotal roles. The film follows a pious, elderly man who becomes a viral sensation after a video of him dancing to an old song is uploaded on social media.
After the trailer was out, it was criticised by conservatives of the country, and Khoosat even received anonymous death threats. Interestingly, Khoosat derived inspiration for his story from a real-life YouTube video where a Pakistani man is dancing to Punjabi songs and apologising for it.
“I put my 18 years of experience into it. I didn’t want to do anything sensational – all the dramatics were kept at bay,” Khoosat tells The Guardian. The filmmaker calls Zindagi Tamasha an “honest and slightly different representation of Pakistan.” He adds that the story does talk about minorities, social media and “and the monster that it is,” according to Variety.
Zindagi Tamasha’s release was greenlit by the Pakistan Senate Committee for Human Rights but eventually stalled due to the pandemic. Due to COVID-19 , the Academy relaxed its submission guidelines, allowing online releases to qualify. Zindagi Tamasha was made available for streaming on Vimeo only in Pakistan.
Khoosat told Variety that he had stopped talking about his film to avoid putting his crew members in danger before Pakistan chose it as its Oscar entry. Now, he and his team are working to give it international visibility.
Khoosat and his team are working towards making the film visible internationally at the moment.
Meanwhile, as revealed by Variety, Khoosat’s next film is a tragic love story Kamli. It stars Pakistani superstar Saba Qamar (Hindi Medium), Sania Saeed (Manto), Nimra Bucha (Ms Marvel) and Hamza Khwaja.