The Indian subcontinent is represented in the Platform competition of the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival, if only nominally, by Norwegian filmmaker Iram Haq, a second-generation immigrant from Pakistan. One of the more exciting new cinematic voices to emerge from the Nordic region in recent years, Haq is vying for the Platform Prize with her sophomore effort "Hva Vil Folk Si" (What Will People Say). It is a powerful, deeply affecting semi-autobiographical film about a teenage girl caught between her Pakistani parents' ultra-conservative culture and her own western impulses driven by her urge for personal freedom. "I was kidnapped by my parents and forced to live for one and a half years in Pakistan. I have waited until I felt ready as a filmmaker and as a person to be able to tell the story in a wise and sensible way," Haq says in the director's statement. "It is a personal story but much of it has been fictionalised," says the writer-director. "It took me a while to make the film because I wanted to dig deep enough into the character to be able to do justice to it." The film, in Haq's words, seeks not to present the girl as a victim or the parents as perpetrators. She says: "The father isn't a monster, He has big dreams for his daughter, which makes it difficult for him to see she might have dreams of her own." Ajmer and Udaipur stand in for Pakistani locations in What Will People Say. The film, which has garnered positive reviews following its world premiere here, was shot in India over a period of four weeks. Haq reveals that she personally spent several months in the country during pre-production.
The film, produced by Norway's Mer Film, also had India's Sikhya Entertainment on board. The principal cast of "What Will People Say" is made up largely of Indian actors led by the exceptionally impressive Adil Hussain in the role of a stern father who is bent upon not letting his daughter flout his family's norms. "I had Adil Hussain in mind right from the outset," says Haq. But for most of the other roles, she auditioned the actors before finalising them. First-time actress Maria Mozhdah, an 18-year-old Afghan- origin girl born in Peshawar and raised in Norway since the age of nine, plays the role of the 16-year-old female protagonist, Nisha, whose outlook on life puts her on a collision course with her orthodox family. The cast of the film also includes Kolkata-based actress Ekavali Khanna as Nisha's mother. Sheeba Chaddha, Lalit Parimoo and Rohit Saraf play the protagonist's Pakistani aunt, uncle and cousin. "When I am in India, I feel at home," says Haq, whose father was born in Rajasthan and whose mother's family migrated to Pakistan from the city of Lucknow. But the filmmaker herself was born in Norway. Haq's first film, "I Am Yours", premiered at TIFF in 2013 and was Norway's official nomination for the Academy Awards.
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