• Saturday, March 25, 2023

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‘Transgender people have been a very established part of South Asian culture for centuries’: Riz Ahmed on Pakistani film Joyland

By: Mohnish Singh

British-Pakistani actor and Oscar winner Riz Ahmed recently joined the team of the much-talked-about Pakistani film Joyland (2022) as the executive producer. The film is Pakistan’s official entry in the Best International Feature Film category at the upcoming 95th Academy Awards. Ahmed joins the ranks of Malala Yousafzai, who also serves as an executive producer for the film.

Talking to a publication, Ahmed called Joyland “the most unexpected love story”. Joyland is the most unexpected love story you have ever seen. It is a love story between a transgender dance-hall star and an unhappily married man in Lahore in Pakistan. But it also takes a look at how our sense of duty and tradition and our fears stand in the way of our joy and love. It’s a ground-breaking film and achieved all these firsts [the first Pakistani feature film to be shortlisted for an Academy Award and the first film by a Pakistani director to win at the Cannes Film Festival]. But it’s really an emotional, crowd-pleasing movie.”

The actor further added, “The interesting thing is, transgender people have been a very established part of South Asian culture for centuries and centuries. And they can often hold a quite paradoxical position in the culture. They are visible and commonplace. It’s been like that for hundreds of years. And they almost occupy a privileged position, culturally and spiritually speaking, in that they’re thought to be able to kind of bless you or curse you, if you rub them up the wrong or right way.”

On the work front, Ahmed has signed on to star in filmmaker David MacKenzie’s next directorial venture, titled Relay. The forthcoming project, which is touted to be a thriller, also features actress Lily James. The makers are looking at beginning production in April in New York and New Jersey.

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