loss and the other Damon
their own choice
A Malik narrates a chilling account of his imprisonment and near-fatal
illness caused by negligence
was psychological torture to the worst degree," says Munir A Malik,
former President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), talking about his
three-week ordeal in prison before he was belatedly taken to hospital with
renal failure. "It can drive a person insane to be lying on a bed
staring at the ceiling for 16 hours."
was arrested on Nov 3 from his hotel room in Islamabad. His colleague Justice
(retired) Tariq Mahmood (who also got ill in prison) was with him earlier.
Both had just reached Islamabad when they heard about the emergency.
Expecting the arrest, Malik waited in his hotel room with the door open. The
police arrived at about 10.30pm and took him to Kohsar police station where
he deposited his cell phone. He arrived at Adiala Jail at 3am, half an hour
after Aitzaz Ahsan.
following day the superintendent said Malik was being transferred "to a
'better class', by which he meant B Class. Aitzaz threatened to bang his head
against the wall until it bled if they removed me. They left."
superintendent was transferred, having apparently lost the trust of the
agencies running the show. "The new Superintendent had a Taliban-style
beard and no moustache," says Malik. "He is the man who was Yusuf
Raza Gillani's, [PPP Leader] nemesis when he was in Jail. I was woken up at
2am and told he wanted to see me. We woke up Aitzaz. Hameed Gul (who was
brought in with his son that day) offered to go with me, but I said no,
Aitzaz is my leader. The superintendent said I was being transferred to
Attock. Aitzaz again wanted to resist, but I refused. They would have taken
me by force."
around 3am, Malik was put in a police mobile along with Siddique-ul-Farooque,
[PML Leader], who was being sent to Bahawalpur Jail -- via Attock! Farooq had
to endure the bumpy four-hour long ride to Attock, plus many more hours to
Bahawalpur in the south. It was bitterly cold. The prisoners did not have
adequate clothing. They arrived at Attock at 6.30 am, where plainclothesmen
took Malik through a side gate, and into a room.
was a mean-looking fellow, weighing about 200 pounds, with a shawl over his
shoulders. He thumped his chest and said, 'You know who I am? I am the person
against whom the first suo moto action was taken' [i.e. by Chief Justice of
Pakistan]. He wanted to know where Hamid Khan (another former SCBA President)
was -- he had said that if Musharraf's uniform would have to be peeled off if
it was a 'second skin'."
policemen searched Malik so thoroughly "that if they had been looking
for a needle in a haystack they would have found it." He was glad he had
removed his money from his socks and handed it in (it was deposited into his
account). He was finger printed and photographed like a criminal.
Plainclothesmen then took him to the old part of the jail to an area marked 'Maut-yafta
qaidiyon ke liye' - for prisoners condemned to death. "There was no one
else there. They opened a cell and pushed me in." The cell was bare,
with a high ceiling and a concrete slab for a bed. Malik was provided a rough
blanket, a rug and a pillow.
8.30am, someone brought a bucket of tea and raw 'nan' (bread) which they
offered through the bars. I refused it, saying I was on hunger strike -- that
is something I learnt from Aitzaz, as a very effective means of protest in
jail. I told them I was not a criminal; I was brought there under preventive
detention, not charged with any offence."
used his account to get another blanket and a pillow, but was still cold.
However, the cold was easier to endure than the isolation. "It was
difficult to pass the day. At 4pm they lock you in until breakfast. You can
only lie on the mattress and stare at the ceiling. I listened to the trains
and reconciled their timings with my watch. The first train went by at 6am. I
had no newspapers, nothing. I started scratching on the wall to record the
days, to retain my sanity and sense of time. On the second day, I was still
on hunger strike."
superintendent said Malik was not in solitary confinement, but there was no
other accommodation. "I asked if I could have something to read, but for
that, he said the orders would have to 'come from above'."
around 6 pm on Nov 7, Malik's solitary confinement ended, although he was
allowed no visitors until four days after -- close family and one legal
counsel (he appointed Tanvir Paracha, a local advocate). He was taken to the
new portion of the jail, 'Pehra number four', a quadrangle with sixteen
cells, about 8x4 feet each, with a concrete 'bed' slab. Malik was put in Cell
no. 6, "the 'qusuri' cell meant for prisoners who had violated a jail
rule or. They would be shackled if they were considered dangerous."
cells could accommodate one person ("and even that was
suffocating") but contained three to four prisoners each. They were sent
elsewhere when Malik was brought in. Apparently the barrack was needed for
lawyers and those resisting the emergency.
other lawyers were brought in at around 3am from Multan, having been picked
up from courts. Others came in and were released over the coming weeks. One
lawyer came in from Sahiwal.
was among the 41 who were injured during a torch-lit procession during the
lawyers' movement to restore the chief justice. The police threw acid at
them. His face was still disfigured. The Sahiwal bar has given the greatest
sacrifices. The police filed an anti-terrorism case against them. The lawyers
filed a direct complaint against police brutality. The Chief Justice of the
Lahore High Court froze their file to protect the police," alleges Malik.
ended his hunger strike because the local PML-N representative, former MNA
Sheikh Aftab sent breakfast for the prisoners. "He was very generous and
sent food for all of us, even when at one point there were 26 of us (when PPP
workers were arrested and brought in)."
first four cells of the barracks were apparently reserved for Nawaz Sharif:
carpeted, air-conditioned bedroom with mattress, kitchen with fridge, study
with table, and a bathroom. The bedroom was the only place with an electric
socket where an ECG machine could be plugged in when a doctor from Attock
General Hospital came to check the prisoners after newspapers reported that
Malik was unwell. "He checked all the prisoners, we got to lie on the
mattress for 30 minutes." They were allowed in the open courtyard from
7.30am till 4pm, but it was difficult to pass the time after being locked in
for the night. The cell was cold and uncomfortable. Malik would fall asleep
around 10pm. The light bulb hanging from the ceiling stayed on 24 hours.
Friday, Nov 9, Malik started getting ill. The jail doctor catered to 1,400
prisoners (the facility has a capacity of 340). The medicines prescribed were
often not available in Attock, and someone had to go to Rawalpindi to
purchase them. Malik's medication was frequently changed. It did not work,
and he had to take sleeping pills at night.
I had visitors, I had to say I was fine. It was for them to judge from my
body language. There was always someone from ISI standing behind me and I
feared repercussions. By the next Friday (Nov 16) I could feel the fluid
shifting from one side to the other in my stomach. Specialists from outside
hospitals came to see me. They all said I should be transferred to hospital,
but no one did anything." One specialist extracted water from Malik's
stomach with a syringe. Contrary to the impression of his family and friends,
he was never transferred to the jail hospital.
the third Friday (Nov 23) I was completely incoherent, unable to even get
up." He doesn't remember much of the next couple of days, after being
finally taken to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad. By then,
he was near death. Doctors say it is a miracle he survived. He has undergone
dialysis four times since then. He was transferred from PIMS to the Sindh
Institute of Urology & Transplant in Karachi, on Nov 29.
still weak, but recovering and able to take a small daily walk. The doctors
are still investigating whether any permanent damage has been inflicted on
his kidneys. He still has trouble sleeping, as the tubes inserted for the
dialysis procedure do not allow him to turn on his side.
imprisoned lawyers around the country were released after they signed
undertakings promising not to take part in politics. However, Malik received
no such offer. In any case, he says that he "would have died rather than
sign such an undertaking".
Nihalani has a way with dark themes. Whether it's Aakrosh (1980), his debut
feature that strikes you for its frighteningly realistic depiction of a
victim of the faulty judicial system, Ardh Satya ('83) that exteriorises the
moral dilemma of an honest police officer in a corrupt system; Tamas ('88), a
hard-hitting chronicle of the travails of a Hindu family forced to leave
Pakistan at the time of partition; Drohkaal ('94) -- set in the backdrop of
terrorism; or Hazaar Churasi Ki Maan ('97), about the awakening of self of a
revolutionary's mother -- this celebrated Indian film
director-cum-cinematographer has mostly addressed strong social and political
issues impacting an individual. Even his comedy -- Party ('85) -- was in the
Black genre. All these movies remain his career milestones.
cinematographer, he has worked on Richard Attenborough's Oscar-winning epic,
Gandhi, and Shyam Benegal's National Award-winning Junoon.
avowed part of the so-called 'parallel cinema' movement in the 70s and the
80s -- that was a reaction against the popular mainstream Bollywood -- and
having worked with its doyen "Shyam babu", Govind is today raring
to "move on and explore the other genres of film making". Though
2000's Thakshak and, more recently, Dev, have already seen him make a
departure from his 'usual' style. Up next is a colourful animation. He is
also planning a musical and a thriller.
was recently in Lahore to attend the RPTW's World Performing Arts Festival
2007, where he had been especially invited by the Peerzadas to showcase some
of his best works, when he took time out to speak to TNS.
on Sunday: Is this your first time in Lahore?
Nihalani: Yes; and also my first time in Pakistan. Though, I was born in
Karachi (in pre-partition India), I could never go back. In fact, I've been
thinking about a film with Lahore as the backdrop, which was basically the
idea of Usman Peerzada whom I met early this year in Delhi where he was
performing Patay Khan. The idea couldn't materialise, but when Usman invited
me to attend the festival I jumped to the occasion.
What are your early memories of the place?
Unfortunately, my first memory is that of fear and blood. It's more of an
emotional memory than a logical sequence of events. I must be six or seven at
that time. Much later, when I was making Tamas, these were the haunting
images that formed the backdrop of the film, and provided me with my
grew up to enroll at a film institute?
Well, I knew I had a film maker in me, but I didn't want to get into films
untrained. So, I enrolled at S J C Film Institute in Bangalore, graduating in
What were your early cinematic influences?
Chiefly Bergman, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and the neo-realist
European cinema. On home ground, I was inspired by the works of Satyajit Ray,
Hritik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Arvindan and Shyam babu. I was excited by the
possibilities of media, the scope of aesthetics that they employed, and the
way they treated the stories. Then, Gulzar's movies have a lyrical quality
that appealed to me a lot.
What does cinema mean to you?
That's actually a very difficult thing to answer. But, I can safely say that
cinema for me is always a very sensuous experience -- both as a film maker
and as a viewer. I don't look at a film as just a medium to tell a story. I
want to create an experience for my audience. That experience starts with me,
as an individual, and I am the first viewer of my film. So, the film has to
first excite me, and only then I'd want to share that excitement with the
viewer. I don't look at film as an exercise which is exclusive.
What kind of audience do you generally find for your kind of movies in India?
think my audience is the educated middle-class, mostly urban-based and
comprising students and professionals.
I've never tried to make a movie that should please everybody. It's an
exercise that dilutes the intensity because then you simplify things beyond a
point where they become simplistic.
you would rather intellectualise a concept?
by intellectualising, you mean that an issue is analysed at the cost of drama
or emotion, then that's not what I do. If I'm making a film based on a
certain social or political issue, there is a certain amount of research that
goes into it, and there is a certain point of view that I like to introduce
in the film, but I also try to see that my contact with the audience is not
disturbed. That contact comes about basically when I create empathy for the
characters and I can get my audience emotionally involved.
When you started in films, there was a movement of the so-called 'parallel'
or 'art' cinema gaining popularity. Did you feel a sense of affiliation with
that? Were you part of the group that looked down upon Bollywood?
we didn't look down upon Bollywood. We just found that there was some
disconnect between the popular cinema and the way we were thinking. So, we
were rejecting their norms. They wanted stars and songs, but we didn't. They
wanted happy endings, but we didn't.
later, though, I realised that one could not constantly be in a state of
confrontation. You cannot create a film thinking that you don't want
such-and-such elements. For me it was like a painter who said he wouldn't use
bright colours, but later realised that he shouldn't limit himself to just
the gray tones. You can say that first it was a total anti-thesis of popular
cinema, and now it's drawing towards a happy synthesis.
this the time when you made Thakshak, your first 'commercial' film?
Thakshak, I made a conscious effort to use the popular format. Though, the
story here wasn't typical of the popular genre. The only elements we had in
common were stars and songs.
have nothing against popular cinema. In fact, I believe that popular cinema
is the product of our own narrative, folk lore and theatrical traditions,
Raas Leela, Ram Leela, nautanki, and tamasha. All the stylistic elements,
songs, enactment, melodrama, dialogue and the like form part of the popular
cinema. Then we have the old Sanskrit treatise on performing arts -- the nine
'rasas' that include comedy (hasaya), fear (bhaya), eroticism (shinghaar)
etc. According to the theory, in every work of art, you must have these 'rasas'.
But, one 'rasa' has got to dominate. If you arrive at a work where all the
rasas are balanced, that's when you create the epic.
You've never attempted a comedy, have you?
but I'd love to. I'd also love to make a musical. Even a thriller. As a
student of cinema, I want to explore all genres. I appreciate the concern of
the viewer and the critic who think that perhaps my work is getting diluted,
but they should also consider the fact that I am trying to challenge myself.
Today, when 'crossover' is the buzzword in Indian cinema and all big
production houses are eyeing global market and getting rid of the
old-fashioned Bollywood cliches, is there a need for 'art' cinema at all?
we have to get rid of these definitions, to begin with. These terms are the
legacy of the 70s and 80s when such terms were created in an effort to
understand the new kind of cinema (parallel).
Some critics believe that you are a better cinematographer than a director.
cannot fault those who think that way. The subjects that I choose are not
very glamorous anyway. But, when I was working with Shyam babu, I could
afford to indulge myself because my concentration would completely be on
camera work. Whenever there's a conflict between the cameraman and the
director, it's the latter who wins.
recent works you've truly admired?
few films that I have liked recently, apart from my own film Dev which is
very dear to me, are Omkara, Rang De Basanti, and Metro. I also enjoy David
Dhawan and Priyadarshan movies. The good thing about their films is that they
are not pretentious. Here, I'd like to quote Bernard Shaw, "As normal
people we need trash and classics at the same time." (laughs)
Ever had a chance to see a Pakistani film?
Unfortunately, no. I've just seen Khamosh Pani, and I liked it a lot.
Actually, we don't have access to your movies in India.
Currently, is there an idea that's exciting you the most?
GN: I am
working on a film which is a 3-D animation called Kamlu. It's about a baby
camel and its adventures in the desert.
loss and the other Damon
Kowarsky, the Australian print maker, recently held his solo exhibition 'Home
and Away' at Alhamra Art Gallery Lahore. He is an artist in residence and
visiting faculty at the Beaconhouse National University; before coming to
Lahore, he visited other parts of the world including Yemen, Egypt and
etchings in the show depict that displacement is the main theme for the
artist who is living away from his home. In this respect he is not alone; a
number of people in the metropolises today are alien citizens who have moved
from their homelands.
kind of dislocation produces a certain type of behaviour: of surviving [in] a
contradiction. We experience this attitude among people who live in a
particular place, but often appear to be in a state of constant
discontentment. This kind of response mainly develops because of hardship,
frustration and failure one faces in the daily struggle for survival.
with their difficult situations, several among us choose to create an
imaginary setting, containing elements from our places of origin and picked
up from memory. Here the mind operates in a positive manner; it transforms
the past experiences into pleasant (yet imagined) realities. The social setup
of big cities -- with minimum personal contact and huge crowds of unknown
people swarming in the shopping malls, streets, parks and other urban places
-- aggravates the feeling of loneliness.
sense, man rediscovers his self both in connection and confrontation with the
city. City assumes a great significance in the psyche of a citizen who
perceives it as a combination of structures that are unknown, uninviting and
unbearable. Perhaps, for him, roaming in the city is an experience not much
dissimilar from moving in a desert, since in both places one tends to lose
the sense of direction and gets an illusion of being lost.
this interaction between a human being and a space constructed/divided into
buildings and houses is a relatively new urban phenomenon. People, who
migrate from villages, find it hard to spend their lives in isolated
structures -- be they flats, quarters or bungalows -- detached from their
nextdoor neighbours. This social pattern is new for our public; yet it
manages to subvert urban alienation by making connections with others living
in the same surroundings.
a majority of us, the urban experience is not only about isolation; it could
be a means to create new bonds and establish new relationships. But not
everyone in other parts of the world shares the same experience. Often,
living in industrial cities of the West is like being lost in a concrete
jungle. Hordes of people are rushing from one place to the other -- walking
close to others, but without having the faintest idea of their identity or
existence. Their entire concentration is focused on their destinations --
offices, apartments, restaurants etc.
search, which is almost a norm in every big city of the world, appears to be
the primary concern for Damon Kowarsky. In his prints, human beings are drawn
in relation to the built environment. A large figure of a man almost half
naked (probably in an attempt to depict a man without any national
identification, which is possible through the style of clothes) is set
against a blocks of houses and a jumble of buildings. He appears to be an
outsider, trying to reach the heart of a city that is apparently devoid of
an interesting paradox, this outsider -- the primordial figure who is away
from the houses -- is the real city. As cities are formed with human
population, so one can not conceive a town without people; and in some way,
the city is not outside of man, it is the man himself that makes the city.
Somehow, this situation is similar to one of the stories of Jorge Luis
Borges. In his story 'The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim' (also the title of one
print by Kowarsky), a man is split into different identities -- becoming
himself the subject of his writing. The story ends with a reference to the
Persian text 'Mantiq ur Tair', in which a large number of birds fly to search
their king Simurgh who, after the hard course of journey, on reaching their
destination, find out that only thirty of them survived the journey. Then
they realise that actually they themselves are Simurgh, the king of birds
(because Simurgh literally means thirty birds).
the lonely figure on the outskirts of the city is the city itself. So even
though it is away, it is not detached. This seems to be the fate of many
people around us, who can identify with the situations created by Damon
the obvious theme of alienation in these prints, it is the deft handling of
materials that contributes towards making his work more meaningful. The
simplified drawing of a masculine figure, constructed with a few lines and
marks, conveys the essential position of a man looking longingly towards the
estranged world. This basic aspect of human behaviour is enhanced with the
rendering of cityscape (inspired from various places such as Mexico City and
Cairo) like an unfathomable wall. The lines of houses with details of pipes,
windows, doors and other details stretch like a fortress behind the man.
narrative of man and the built environment may have a personal interpretation
for Damon, since Lahore is the recent port of arrival in his itinerary of
travels. We have to wait to find out in what way the city of Lahore will
emerge in his work in future. Looking at his exhibition at Alhamra, one
assumes that it may not be too different since the city in his work is an
internal site -- an element that makes his work interesting, relevant and
familiar, even though he comes from another continent, Australia.
musical nights of the World Performing Arts Festival were so organised that
there was something for everyone
appeared that the music programmes of the World Performing Arts Festival were
the most popular shows of the event. Every night after the plays, the puppets
, the films and dance performances were over, the scene shifted to the vast
open air auditorium of the Alhamra Cultural Complex and musical sessions were
held that lasted late into the night. Despite the vast spaces and the growing
cold of the late November and early December, it was rare that one felt that
the venue was too big for the holding of such programmes.
when the music programmes of forms which are not that popular, like that of
classical music, were held it was heartening to see that the venue was almost
full. Lahore with its diverse population and varied interests has an audience
for all kinds of music. During the session it was not unlikely to overhear
remarks and comparative comments about the musical performances of
pre-partition era -- those great days when Ustads Ashiq Ali Khan and Bare
Ghulam Ali Khan ruled the roost and enthralled people by their virtuosity and
antics and the state of music these days. Being among people who want to
listen to more esoteric and arcane forms of music revives the hope that even
now something can be done about the more serious forms of musical expression
in the country.
programmes had been so organised that there was something for everyone. If
there was the classical music night to culminate the festival there were
folk, qawwali, devotional music, pop, fusion and world music nights as well.
It was interesting to note that every form of music had its own audience and
it was not small and it was rare that the audiences overlapped. Most of the
people just came to listen to the music of their own choice -- the pop, rock,
fusion and world music drawing the younger lot much more than the other forms
which now has a niche audience.
the cold the organisers had made special concession by altering the order of
performance. It is a norm with classical music shows that the most senior and
venerated artists are the ones to perform last. This time round the most
senior artists performed in the middle as most of them are now well into
their seventies and some are not keeping great health. It has been a common
complaint and grumble of Lahoris that usually in such concerts when the best
artists come to perform the night is about to end with only a very few
diehard lovers left in the auditorium. These Ustads performed in the middle
while a small audience had been left to listen to the not that well-known
performers that rounded off the programme.
artists who performed were Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Rustam Ali Khan, Ustad
Shaggan, Qadir Shaggan, Mubarak Ali Khan, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan
Hyderabadi, Mazhar Shaggan, Chand Khan, Sooraj Khan, Akbar Ali, Salman Amjad
Amanat and Ali Amjad, Tassadduq Ali Khan, Hamid Ali Khan, Hussain Buksh Gullo,
Shafqat Ali Khan, Latafat Ali Khan, Muhammed Akhtar Khan, Sharafat Ali Khan,
Naqi Ali Khan and Rakae Jamil.
the qawwals who dominated the qawwali night were Mehr Ali Sher Ali, Abu
Fareed and Ghulam Farid Ayaz, Muazzam and Rizwan and last but not the least
Sher Miandad. One misses the trio of the great qawwals who established this
form at the international level but echoes of Nusrat Fateh Ali, Ghulam Fareed
Sabri and Munshi Raziuddin can still be heard in the present day qawwali.
very popular trend is that of fusion. Most of the fusion endeavours are not
preplanned but just happen as the artists get into an improvisational mould.
Many of the previous fusions were acts of spontaneity as well. In this
festival too a whole night was dedicated to fusion. With growing
globalisation and the explosion of the media it has become impossible to
nurture one's tradition in isolation. Perhaps the voice and sound of the
contemporary era is the coming together in fusion, albeit not in any perfect
groups and artists who participated in the festival were Kamaliya from
Ukraine, Cankisou from the Czech Republic, Lal from Canada, Kenny Hogan from
Singapore, Martin Lubenov from Bulgaria, Caravan Quartet from France, Peter
Pankee from Germany and Char Venner from Norway.
number of artists performed at the folk night like Allah Ditta Lunewala, Arif
Lohar, Mansoor Malangi, Surraiya Khanum, Zarsanga, Akhtar Channar Zehri,
Babar and Javed Niazi, Raza Allan, Krishen Lal Bheel, Bashir Lohar, Sain
Zahoor, Taaj Mastani, and Iqbal Bahu. It was quite representative of the
various regions of this country as some of the major folk forms were played.
If there was kafi, there was also jugni; if there was geet there was also
Pushto, Brahvi, Balochi and Sindhi folk.
ghazal night had a number of performers, some known and some not that well
known? Tina Sani was there with her repertoire of ghazals mainly from Faiz,
and there were Naqi Ali Khan, Shahzad Ali, Surraiya Khanum, Hussain Buksh
Gullu, Hamid Ali Khan and the devotional night had Sain Zahoor, the dholias
from the Punjab, Gunga and Mithu Sain, Shah Jo Fakirs from Bhit Shah, and
the younger crowd the pop and fusion stars were the biggest draw. If there
were the local pop groups there were also those who belong to the Diaspora
and have been mainly instrumental in bringing this fusion to some respectable
stage. Atif Aslam was a big attraction as was Abrarul Haq. Many others
participated in the session including Sohail Salamat, Javaid Bashir, Natasha,
Raga Boyz, Rafaqat Ali Khan, Arieb Azhar, Omar Inayat, and groups like Roxen,
Overload, and Call were all applauded well into the night.