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Pakistan waits for never-seen-before show on ‘Mother of the Nation’ Fatima Jinnah

Sajal Aly to Samiya Mumtaz, Danial K Afzal’s Partition drama, ‘Fatima Jinnah: Sister, Revolutionist, Statesman,’ boasts of some big names from Pakistani cinema.

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The fault lines of Partition changed the contours of the subcontinent, the effects of which reverberate across India and Pakistan to this day. Now, a new web series from Pakistan aims to bring the tumultuous era to our screens—but through the eyes of Fatima Jinnah.

Director Danial K. Afzal aims to tell the story of Mader-e-Millat (Mother of the
Nation) in Fatima Jinnah: Sister, Revolutionist, Statesman. The prologue of this
series releases on 14 August on aur.digital, and the show is slated for a February
2023 release.

“I’m seeing it from a human point of view. I’m not taking any sides,” Afzal tells
ThePrint.

Fatima, the younger sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was born in Karachi, studied
in Bandra, got a dental degree from the University of Calcutta, opened a dental
clinic in Bombay and played an essential role in Partition and Pakistan’s political
arena even as she championed women’s rights in the subcontinent.

With Fatima Jinnah, Afzal wants to “break the saas, bahu, aur shauhar” routine of
South Asian television. “In South Asia, women-centric stories sell, and we love to
live in nostalgia. We jump the gun on everything nostalgic. For Moazzam
Majeed [Executive Producer] and me, it was a no-brainer. South Asia has such
compelling women leaders—like Fatima Jinnah, Indira Gandhi, and Benazir
Bhutto—and such a rich history. We see the West celebrate their heroes, we
desperately need to celebrate ours.”

The web series will tell Fatima’s story in three parts: her 30s during the pre-
Partition era, her 50s during Independence, and her 70s in Pakistan. It will run for
three seasons of 15 episodes each.


Also read: Pakistanis latch onto ‘Notes on a Scandal’, true crime podcast on death of a poet


A premium cast

The casting of Pakistani actress Sajal Aly along with Sundus Farhan and
Samiya Mumtaz to play Fatima at different stages of her life is the talk of the
town.

The cast and crew of Fatima Jinnah on their way to the sets | Danial Afzal
The cast and crew of Fatima Jinnah on their way to the sets | Danial Afzal

Twenty-eight-year-old Aly will play a middle-aged, independence-era Jinnah. “I
knew she was the one the minute she walked in. [When] she was walking from her
get-up room to the set, she walked like Fatima Jinnah. That was the walk I
needed,” Danial told ThePrint. “She’s a pretty big deal.”

 

While fans have lauded the casting choice, there have also been a fair share of
detractors. Many have criticised Aly’s casting, saying she looks nothing like
Fatima Jinnah. But Afzal dismisses the criticism. “Does Claire Foy from The
Crown look like Queen Elizabeth? Is it the height? We’ll fix it with heels, and it
will be historically accurate as Jinnah was a fashion icon anyway,” he says over
Zoom.

Samiya Mumtaz and Sundus Farhan will play Jinnah in her 70s and
30s, respectively. “They easily slipped in. They act because they want to tell
impactful stories. I’m very privileged that Samiya Aapa gave me her confidence,
given how selective she is with her roles,” he said.

Mumtaz was in A Circus of Life by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, which was featured at
the Busan Film Festival in 2019. Comparing her to Jaya Bachchan, Afzal recalls,
“Once Aapa was having her hair done, and I asked her how much progress she had
made with a reference book I had recently given her. She had finished a quarter of
it without breaking a sweat.”

Afzal and Farhan collaborated in his critically acclaimed film Blue: A
Kaleidoscope. “She’s an actor of method; she purposely avoids commercial roles,”
he said.


Also read: Pakistan: Imran Khan to be held accountable, his threats to institutions doomed to fail, says PML-N leader


Authenticity is key

Afzal is fascinated with shows like  Paatal Lok , Made in Heaven, Delhi Crime, The
Crown and has tried to capture their raw nature for his own project. He explained that with this show, the priority was to portray Fatima Jinnah as a “human first and
then as raw as possible.”

He and his team used Reza Pirbhai’s book Fatima Jinnah to build the character as
authentically as possible.

Speaking of authenticity, Afzal fondly talks about how he undertook the mammoth
task of creating Bombay in Lahore. “I kept calling a friend of mine in Bombay
asking her about crown mouldings, fireplaces, windows-you name it-to make sure
that our set was as close to the real Bombay as it could be.”

Afzal is confident that the show will be received well. “I’m not nervous because I
know the quality of the show and the narrative has never been seen before. My
Partition isn’t happy, it’s raw and emotional-it will make the audience feel.”

 

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