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Review Urdu

Murder Tongue review: A reminder of the many-faced monster of identity politics

Release Date: 10 Mar 2022

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Ali Sohail Jaura’s short film conveys the helplessness of common people at a tumultuous time in Pakistan’s history.

Ali Sohail Jaura’s short film Murder Tongue delves into a tumultuous time in Pakistan’s history and its effects on the innocent populace who are mere pawns in a larger game. A play on 'mother tongue', the title refers to the politicization of language, which lead to terrible consequences.

The short film is set in May 1992 in the region of Sindh, a time when a state-sanctioned “operation” had put the city of Karachi in a state of constant unrest.

The ethnic and political violence was sparked by a clash between the Mohajirs (refugees), the Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated to Pakistan during and after the Partition of India in 1947, and the ethnic Sindhis living in the land. This led to violence and clean-up operations which led to human rights violations as people were tortured and killed.

An old man, Abdul Aziz Ansari, wakes up at night to find that his son, Rashid, has not returned home. Rashid’s wife and infant are the only other family members at home. Rashid’s friends ask them to come to the hospital, as he has had an accident. However, nothing prepares them for what unfolds on the way.

Revisiting a brutal chapter in the history of Karachi, the short film captures the bewilderment of the voiceless common folk who have no idea about why they are being targeted. We are witness to arbitrary ways in which those in power exercise their control at will and with impunity. The question of language becomes most crucial as a marker of identity in the larger battle waging in the land.

Although Jaura leaves much unsaid and the context for the film is explained only at the end, Murder Tongue is an important reminder of the ways in which migrants all over the world continue to face discrimination and brutality. 

The film had its world premiere at the 39th Miami Film Festival where it won the Best International Short film award. It was also screened as part of the Figari Short Film Fest, held from 17 to 22 June, as well as the Zanzibar International Film Festival, which was organized from 18 to 23 June.


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