A feature film from Pakistan made a rare appearance in a segment dedicated to airing restored movies at the 69th Cannes film festival in the month of May 2016. This Urdu language film ‘Jago Hua Savera’, which means wake up – its dawn, was set in the 1950s in a fishing village and carries a lot of historical baggage. When director Aaejay Kardar began making the movie in 1958, the political landscape of Pakistan was under transformation.
General Ayub Khan had become the first military dictator of the country in a coup in the 1950s, positioning the country firmly in the American camp during the Cold War. However, just days before the film were to premier, the new government of Pakistan (under Ayub Khan) asked the film's producer, Nauman Taseer not to release the film. The writer, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, was later imprisoned by the government for his communist beliefs.
According to AnjumTaseer, son of producer NaumanTaseer, "Three days before the release of the film, the government asked my father not to go ahead with it. The government branded the young artists and writers involved in the making of the film as Communists. It did not help that iconic poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who was a known revolutionary, had written the script, lyrics and dialogue of the film. Gen Ayub Khan imprisoned my father and many other artists. It was decided to premiere the film in London, but the military government instructed the Pakistan high commission to boycott the event. But on that day, then high commissioner and his wife defied the order”.
The movie is a true representation of an unusual collaboration between Pakistani and Indian professionals, only a decade after the bloody partition. Faiz's script was inspired by a story written by popular Bengali author ManikBandopadhyay. Towering Indian musician of his time, Timir Baran, who lived in Kolkata (Calcutta), provided the music. The movie is inspired by the early works of iconic Indian director Satyajit Ray and is molded in neo-realism which is a genre shaped by Italian greats such as Luchino Visconti and Vittorio De Sica.
It was shot in black and white on location on the banks of Meghna river in Bangladesh, the then East Pakistan. The film portrays the hardships of a fishing community in Saitnol village near Dhaka, which is at the mercy of loan sharks. The script was inspired by an original story by Bengali author Manik Bandopadhyay.
The only professional actor in the film, Tripti Mitra, was Indian too. Bengali actor Tripti Mitra and her husband Sombhu Mitra were both members of the Left-leaning Indian People's Theatre Association of the 1940s. With Faiz, Baran and Mitra on board, the producer commissioned British cinematographer Walter Lasally, who later won an Oscar for his work on Zorba the Greek.
Nobody strangely talked about it for another 50 years until two French brothers Philippe and Alain Jalladeau, founders of the Three Continents Film Festival in Nantes, France, decided to screen a retrospective of Pakistani films in 2007. According to Philippe Jalladeau, “It was then that Shireen Pasha (Pakistani documentary filmmaker and head of the department of film at the National College of Arts, Lahore) said you can't have a retrospective of Pakistani films without Jago Hua Zavera”.
Recently it was screened along with classics such as Russian maestro Andrei Tarkovski's Solaris, French director Regis Wargnier's Indochine and Egyptian auteur Youssef Chahine's Goodbye Bonaparte at the festival, which was held in May, 2016 . The film was selected as the Pakistani entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 32nd Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee. It was also entered into the 1st Moscow International Film Festival where it won a Golden Medal.