Amjad Khan speaks about his directorial debut and how Malala and her father reacted to film Gul Makai.
Amjad Khan speaks about his directorial debut and how Malala and her father reacted to film Gul Makai.

Amjad Khan is making his directorial debut with Gul Makai, a biopic on Malala Yousafzai.

Speaking to IANS, he revealed that "This film portrays her earlier life and the spine-chilling incidents that she experienced when she was living in Swat."

The film, releasing later this month, has already had a screening in London around a year ago, organised by the UN. Malala and her father were present during the screening.

Said Khan, "It was overwhelming to see the biggies giving a standing ovation. They liked it so much that even during interval, no one left his or her seat. Each and every woman was crying."

"Even though Malala's father was watching the film for the second time, he couldn't console himself. He said 'you made our nightmares come alive again'."

He added about Malala's reaction while watching Gul Makai, "She tightened her jaws and her fists, and continuously tapped one of her feet."

For Khan, Gul Makai is more than just his directorial debut. It's an important message that needs to be shared.

"At present people need inspirations, especially women. This film is all about being courageous and determined during the worst situation of life. Fear is like an elastic band. You keep stretching and it keeps expanding. And this film is not only about a girl who has won the title from the UN as the most inspirational figure of decade but also a story of a father, a mother, a teacher, a soldier. Every person can relate to the story," said Khan.

"I never thought of backing out. I was worried about my artistes' security on set during the shooting in Kashmir. On the first day in Kashmir, I thought of terrorist alignments with the locals but I was wrong. Kashmiri people are more patriotic than us."

He revealed, "I still receive threat mails, abusive mails from unknown mail IDs."

About casting for the film he shared, "I wanted to cast actors who resemble the real people. But at the same time, I wanted fabulous actors to portray the characters. And casting was really lengthy but I am happy that fine actors like Atul Kulkarni, Divya Dutta are part of my film. Unfortunately, Gul Makai is late Om Puri ji's last film."

But casting wasn't easy for Khan, as his initial lead left due to harsh opposition.

"Earlier, a Bangladeshi girl named Fatima was selected for the role. But then Muslim extremists stoned and vandalised her home. She backed out. Then fortunately we got Reem Shaikh who got into Malala's skin so well that I forgot her real name and existence. She went through rigorous workshop where her accent and mannerisms got corrected," he shared.

When asked why he didn't go for Pakistani actors he responded, "At that time both the countries were going through tensed moments, and Pakistani performers were being banned from our country. I have no regrets on casting Reem though. She did her job fabulously."

Gul Makai will release in cinemas January 31.