Dukhtar (translation: daughter) (2014) is a thriller, based in Pakistan, following a rather quiet and docile mother Allah Rakhi as she saves her ten-year-old daughter Zainab from being forced to marry a much older tribal leader as a result of a negotiation. The striking character of Allah Rakhi highlights the lengths a submissive and oppressed person can go to just to protect someone they love.
Dukhtar showcases cinematography at its finest with impeccable use of colors, lighting, and framing to portray symbolism. A two-shot of Allah Rakhi and her husband Daulat Khan captures them separated via a wall where Allah Rakhi’s side is monochrome blue, dull, and dark and Daulat Khan’s side is bright and vibrant. This is exemplary when it comes to presenting a metaphor for their worlds being completely separate and parallel to the triadic color scheme of red, yellow, and blue that the film transitions to later as they gain more and more freedom. With a lot of extreme long shots, the cinematographers Armughan Hassan and Najaf Bilgrami depict their knack for understanding visual beauty and do complete justice to the alluring mountains where the film is set. The film has several hand-held shots which denote chaos as the mother-daughter duo escape and gives it a rather organic look.
The writer Afia Nathaniel displays her brilliance throughout the film. One such instance is when Zainab is talking about rainbows and Allah Rakhi explains that rainbows are just an illusion as the shot continues to eventually reveal that the conversation was pre-recorded and playing on the radio as a cover for the fact that they actually escaped. The film has an allegory in the form of a dream at the very beginning of the film and at the end as Allah Rakhi finds the courage to fight for not just Zainab’s but her freedom as well while she looks around the mountains from a lake. Sohail, a man who helps Allah Rakhi and Zainab escape, has flawless characterization which is parable with the motif of his truck that carries them. Mohib Mirza does a brilliant job as Sohail because he does not overpower Samiya Mumtaz as Allah Rakhi (who is a fierce woman) and Saleha Arif as Zainab (who is an innocent and pure little girl) since the film is based on empowering women.
Dukhtar is a feminist tale that boils down women empowerment to its basic fundamental- women don’t belong to men. It throws light on the fact that most women fighting for their rights don’t do it to be remembered in history books, they do it for survival. They do it to protect themselves, and their daughters, and their sisters. The film serves as a reminder that the women that society calls ‘immoral’ simply dare to question the misogyny perpetuated by society.
With the perfect concoction of everything that makes a film impactful, Dukhtar nails all the different aspects of mise en scene while staying authentic to singing a powerful narrative of a strong woman. The movie is currently available on Netflix India and definitely worth watching with your mother.