A Pakistani Gypsy Girl Inspires A Cross-Border Documentary

She is chirpy. She is ecstatic. And, she is a young ‘Pakhiwa’ (gypsy).

Riffat, who hails from Kamalia – a small town in the Toba Tek Singh district in Pakistan’s Punjab province – will soon feature in a celebratory film on her life.

Chandigarh-based filmmaker Shumita along with filmmaker Danyal Rasheed, sound expert Shehryar Khan, consultant Amen Jaffar and others have begun working on a 40-minute documentary ‘Riffat, the Pakhiwas Girl’.

“The film will focus on Riffat and her sister Shaziya who sings exceptionally well. Pakhiwas women as artisans play a major role in sustaining their families,” says Shumita.


Riffat HT

Riffat HT

So, how did Shumita got the idea for the documentary? She says:

“On a visit to Harappa in June, I had a chance meeting with a group of ‘Pakhiwasis’.I struck a special chord with young Riffat, who was about to get married, and her elder sister Shazia who sang lovely songs. I took their pictures and video clips which were appreciated by friends in India.”

Riffat, who invited Shumita for her wedding, said, “I don’t have parents. Why don’t you come and be my ‘ammi'(mother) at my wedding!”

Besides attending the wedding, Shumita decided to document Riffat’s wedding.

Displaying a sense of her intuition, Riffat told Shumita that she knew the latter was up to something when she first clicked her picture at Harappa.

As reported, there are around 10 million gypsies in Pakistan living a scattered existence and are part of a vulnerable and disadvantaged group that is often the target of prejudice.

Shooting a scene from gypsy life at Kamalia in Pakistan HT

Shooting a scene from gypsy life at Kamalia in Pakistan

Filmmaker Danyal, who is working on the documentary, said:

“They are the poorest of the poor living a very hard life. The children are without education and the men folk is addicted to narcotics. Yet their zest for life is remarkable and this is aptly visible in their cheerful persona and celebratory songs. Theirs is a world within our world that needs to be probed,” adds Danyal.

The money for the documentary has been arranged through crowd-funding.

For this people-to-people initiative, artistes, writers, friends and well-wishers from both countries as well as the diaspora have come forward to chip in Rs.500 to Rs.10,000.

Shumita said:

“I had around Rs.50,000 kept aside for a rent deposit that I pumped into the project. However,  we needed more money wfor renting a car, buying fuel, memory cards, batteries and many other things. I sent out messages and contributions started pouring in. So far we have collected nearly $1,900. A sack of rice and a pair of silver ear-rings have also been gifted to us.”


Filmmaker Shumita HT

Filmmaker Shumita

The final round of shooting will be held during Riffat’s wedding in September.


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