In Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar’s Good Morning Karachi, we meet Rafina, a strong-willed woman who wants to establish herself as a model in the evolving Pakistani fashion industry. Undeterred by all the objections and criticism around her, Rafina (Aamna Illyas) does not lose sight of her objective, despite personal strife. “This film is about the youth realising their dreams and it is a very real portrayal of the changes in Pakistani society at present. It’s a coming-of-age-story about the young men and women in the country,” says the Karachi-based filmmaker. Good Morning Karachi premiered in India at the just concluded 15th Mumbai Film Festival. This is Sumar’s second feature film after Khamosh Pani (2003) starring Kirron Kher, which won the Locarno International Film Festival’s award for Best Film and Best Female Actor.
After a world premiere at the Raindance Film festival in London this year, Good Morning Karachi will travel to the third San Francisco International film festival in November with a theatrical release in Europe after the Berlin Film Festival. In her 85-minute feature film, one catches a glimpse of a young and vibrant Pakistan where youngsters want to overcome society’s norms. While the protagonist represents a voice of modernity, the other character Arif (Yasir Aqueel), dreams of a better Pakistan through political action. Rafina’s story is the story of people living in Karachi who try to reconcile to the demands of tradition and modernity in their evolving society. “When private media mushroomed overnight in Pakistan, it brought out people from the woodwork. Young people such as Rafina are a product of the economic demand that wanted youngsters to come and run these channels,” says Sumar, who shot this film primarily in Karachi’s Akhtar colony, a predominantly lower middle-class suburb.
The film in inspired by a novella, titled Rafina, written by Shandana Minhas but Sumar adapted the story and set it in 2010 in Karachi, referencing the characters against the backdrop of the return of politician Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan and a time when the political landscape was undergoing a change in the country. “We took some creative liberties to separate from the book. Beyond the political turmoil I wanted a story, which was between the haves and have nots who form the vernacular educated of our country. The opportunities are so few for the people who have studied in the vernacular medium,” explains Sumar, who co-wrote the script in 2008