Short film Andha (Blind) recently won three awards at the first Pakistan Film Festival Australia. It bagged the Best Actor - Female, Best Actor - Male and Best Screenplay honours.
Kaif Ghaznavi was awarded the Best Actor – Female honour for her role as a woman who redefines her life by marrying the very man who raped her as a child. Saleem Meraj won the award for his portrayal of the blind rapist. The short film has been written and directed by Kifayat Rodani and is a poignant commentary on childhood sexual trauma.
The film won the Best Story of the Year award at the Mumbai International Film Awards earlier in 2021.
Ghaznavi spoke to Images about the recognition Andha has received internationally and her experience on set.
"I am pretty happy and honoured that the film has fared so well in whatever festival it has been sent to,"’ Ghaznavi said."‘Both Saleem Meraj and I are really humbled and grateful that our hard work was recognised and appreciated."
For Ghaznavi, Andha tackles an important and sensitive issue that plagues society. “Blind basically talks about child abuse, rape and childhood trauma and also society never allowing the victim to come out of that trauma,” she said. “The film talks about what happens to that victim when he or she grows up and becomes part of that very society.
“Something that really resonated with me was the fact that this victim — the female victim whom I played — had decided to take her future, her present and her trauma in her own hands. She became her own boss."
Her character’s decision to marry her perpetrator is an act of courage in the face of trauma, for Ghaznavi.
"This is one way of introducing bravery and courage and how to really own what has happened to you in the past,” she said. “Let it go and take over the situation and steer it yourself.”
The actor said her character no longer worried about society and its narrative of victim blaming. “[Through marriage] she decided to stop his evil acts and become the hero for all the young girls who were abused and raped by this man.”
While portraying the female victim’s character was a daunting task for Ghaznavi, it was made easier by the support she received from her co-star Meraj, who played her husband in the film.
“I really wanted to be in her shoes, understand her emotions and the anger she would be feeling as she took on [her rapist's] name through the marriage contract,” she said. “It is not easy to play such content in depth if your co actor does not understand the nuances that you would want to go through.”
But all of that became quite easy for her because of Meraj. "[He] is a wonderful co-actor. He is very supportive of your scenes and your emotions.”
Andha was screened at the first ever Pakistan Film Festival Australia in Sydney on June 26. Short films both made in Pakistan and made by Pakistani filmmakers were screened during the festival.