Indus Echoes, Pakistan’s first Sindhi language feature film in the last 26 years according to its makers, is due for release later this year.
Written, directed, and produced by entertainment journalist Rahul Aijaz, Indus Echoes is executive produced by Shamoon Abbasi, Akhtiar Ali Kalwar and Vajdaan Shah, and is an international collaboration between Pakistani, South Korean and Ecuadorian production companies and talents. Starring Vajdaan Shah, Ansaar Mahar and Samina Seher, the film is currently in the post-production stage.
According to its synopsis, “Indus Echoes explores the relationship between humans and the great Indus River through five stories set on, across and around the Indus. The stories delve into the ways the river provided for us over centuries, as well as how we treat it. It’s about the push-and-pull, love-hate relationship we have with the Indus that gave us life and civilisation and culture.”
Indus Echoes is Aijaz’s graduation into long-form narrative. His prior project, a short film called A Train Crosses the Desert, made in 2020, was the first Sindhi language short film from Pakistan to screen internationally.
“I conceived the idea [of Indus Echoes] late last summer while having a conversation with a friend at a chai dhaba,” Aijaz told Images.
“Now that I think about it, I have been obsessed with the Indus River, as or we call it Sindhu, for a few years now. A Lahore Biennale Virtual Museum residency project I did with Sarmad Khoosat also revolved around Indus. Besides Indus Echoes, two other feature film projects I have been developing since 2020 are also in a way about the Indus River,” he said.
“I found a lot of support from talented actors to assistant directors, friends and family across Karachi and Hyderabad in order to pull off this project with a limited budget,” Aijaz continued.
“Shamoon Abbasi has been a solid support throughout and I can’t thank him enough for attaching his name to the project and lending support when it comes to the equipment and technical guidance. Akhtiar Ali Kalwar, a friend and a businessman, was the first person to say yes to the project last year. I thought of Vajdaan Shah, Ansaar Mahar and Samina Seher as the characters when I was writing and luckily, I got all three.”
Paul Battle, the CEO of BigMeta Films, a South Korea based post production house, said in a statement that Indus Echoes presents a rare and unique opportunity to expand their dimensions. “Personally, I love getting involved in projects that push me outside of my comfort zone and expose me to new genres or filmmaking approaches. This project does both. It’s a bonus that Rahul, as writer and director, has the vision and creative freedom to tell a story that is rich in culture, lore and history.”
Saulo Aroca Rosas, the colourist of the project, said in a statement that “Indus Echoes is an intriguing piece of art with a strong point of view and deliberate visual style that conveys not only the inner world of the characters on screen, but also the vastness of their surrounding and the ever-present river that dictates so much of their lives”. Rosas’ work as a colourist includes the latest Fast and Furious film, Fast X. Like Battle, Abbasi and the cast, he accepted the project right away.
“I normally work on more main stream commercials and fiction projects, and being able to play a part in the making of an artwork such as this one is both an exciting challenge and a privilege.”
Aijaz completed the screenplay early November 2022, followed by a month and a half of rehearsals, and finished production at the end of February this year. “It’s a Sindhi film made by a Sindhi for Sindh,” he said, adding, “At the heart of the film are universal ideas that connect with everyone.”
Abbasi told Images that he was fascinated with Aijaz’s idea of pursuing the Sindhi narrative whose essence and themes about water are universal.
Abbasi has known Aijaz since his days as a journalist, but back then he didn’t know he was a budding filmmaker as well. “I could sense his seriousness in filmmaking, and then when he approached me to come aboard Indus Echoes, I could sense his seriousness in making Sindhi cinema.”
Abbasi, though, didn’t want to sign onto just any project. “The project one undertakes should bring difference and diversity to Pakistan’s film industry,” he explained, adding — and questioning — the selective nature of the support in Pakistan.
“Why do we extend our hand to support only big commercial films and not independent, artistically-inclined cinema?” he asked. The film represents a unique vision from Pakistan, he said.
Aijaz, who has been at the Busan Asian Film School in South Korea since the end of March, said Indus Echoes is set to go the film festival route, followed by a world-wide theatrical release. In the interim, he is already developing his second Sindhi feature film.