Of cameras, close-ups & change

“So obviously everyone knows what shutter speed is?”

All of our blank faces stared expectantly back at Nadir.

“Okay then. And you’re going to be shooting on your own?”


Feeling like we had wasted our entire lives learning everything but the dynamics of a camera, we listened intently as our new sensei went through all that we needed to know before filming our very first independent documentary.

We were filming the guard at the gate – and he had some very groundbreaking views about education in Swat!

Gul Khan had been a loyal employee of SOC films for the last 3 years and he was quite delighted to hear that he was finally getting to be in front of that heavy equipment he drove around for the crew. Three eager interns that we were, set about extrapolating minute details about his life from him while scribbling down everything and anything of interest on a recycled piece of paper we had nicked from the printer.

Gul Khan was a resident of the Swat region, his family still living there. One of his sons was working in Karachi, the other enrolled in a school as well as a madrassa back in Swat. He had two daughters too. Neither were educated. Aha, a story?

He proceeded to explain that the norms in his community were such a few years ago that girls were not put into school. The schools consisted of mainly male teachers and there weren’t separate classrooms for girls hence it was unsuitable for any girl to enjoy this privilege. Gul Khan couldn’t stress enough how he thought this norm was wrong and a result of illiterate and ignorant behavior. It obviously still had to be followed though. What would the people say?

He then proudly proclaimed that the situation was changing now and people finally understood the importance of equal education for both. There were separate schools and female teachers as well. He likened education to the headlight of a car, vital to find your way around in the darkness. Being three girls, we were delighted by his statement.

The rest of the day was a mixture of batteries, wires, sound levels, shooting frames and a series of recordings that we proudly loaded onto our computers. An amateur attempt at editing later, we had a three-minute reflection on the education system in Swat.

Well a series of unevenly filmed clips, half of them portraying a Gul Khan with no forehead.

No, we weren’t even close to an Oscar. Yes, it developed a sparking interest for this art in the three of us. As of yesterday, I have registered for a photography course online and the DSLR rotting in its bag in my cupboard has now been placed front and center on my desk.

This might just be the beginning of something very exciting.

— Maria Chawla


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