Iram Parveen Bilal belongs to Islamabad in Pakistan. But she’s grown up on a lot of Bollywood. Shah Rukh Khan, in particular. Her earliest memory of the actor, she tells us, is standing in front of a TV screen, weeping with happiness as SRK accepted a film award. “We had cupboards stacked with Hindi film VHSs,” she says. Her parents, who were born in India, will return to the country for the first time post-partition to watch her screening at the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival on Monday.
Her first feature film, Josh, is the only entry from Pakistan at the fest this year. But she plans on making many more in the coming years; including one, which she has penned for SRK. “I actually wrote a script for him when I was in film school, with his voice and everything. I remember when we met in 2005, he told me, ‘The greatest thing about working in films is that you can inspire others to make films’. I’ve always wanted to work with him. I told him I would write a script for him. And in 2009, when I met him again, I placed it in his lap,” says Iram, who hasn’t signed the actor yet, but is sure she will someday.
As for the film industry, she, like her film’s lead actor Aamina Sheikh, believe it is going through a encouraging phase. “There is no production company in Pakistan that green-lights movie projects. It’s all done independently. But this is the best time to be a filmmaker in the country,” says the director, who is often asked whether she is making a documentary whenever she mentions her work. “You need to see a three-dimensional view. I want to show Pakistan to people who haven’t been here. Through Bollywood, I can imagine what Mumbai looks like, but you don’t have that idea for cities in Pakistan. We have more of a viewfinder into your culture,” says the young filmmaker.