Inspired by and offering tribute to unapologetic social media influencers like the slain Qandeel Baloch, the film is set in the world of patriarchal social media trolling and the burgeoning underground scene of the so-called “misfits” in modern-day Pakistan. It follows a Pakistani schoolteacher who accidentally unleashes the power of social media, unabashedly challenging the patriarchy. As she tries to keep her online identity a secret, she’s gradually exposed to society’s dangerous underbelly and forced to manage the repercussions.
Bilal describes the project as a “grounded masala” film that promises thought-provoking subject matter whilst also featuring loud Punjabi-language club tracks and Urdu-language rap songs to dance and chant with.
Bilal was named one of the directors to watch by the Alliance of Women Directors in 2020. Her previous film, “I’ll Meet You There,” was in the Grand Jury competition at SXSW in 2020 and hopes to overturn the ban on its release in Pakistan.
“Wakhri” was a 2018 Locarno Open Doors selection, where it was one of two Pakistani project selections, the other one being what is now Saim Sadiq’s Oscar contender “Joyland.” It was subsequently invited to the 2019 Cannes Cinefondation L’Atelier, becoming the first official selection of a project from Pakistan there. The project is also a Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) and CAA Foundation Full Story Initiative grant recipient and recently participated at the Busan Asian Project Market.
“Wakhri” features Pakistani actors Faryal Mehmood and Gulshan Majeed alongside well-known social media influencers. It is being produced by Abid Aziz Merchant’s Sanat Initiative banner (“Sandstorm”) and “Delhi Crime” producers Apoorva Bakshi and Monisha Thyagarajan’s Awedacious Originals, whose extensive slate was revealed by Variety at Busan, alongside Bilal’s Parveen Shah Productions (“Josh”). Roman Paul (“Paradise Now,” “Wadjda,” “Waltz With Bashir”) of Razor Film Produktion is co-producing.
Ludovica Isidori (“Sanctuary”) has shot the film, which has production design by Kanwal Khoosat (“Joyland”). The music of the film features celebrated Pakistani talent including Meesha Shafi, rapper Eva B (“Ms. Marvel”) and is being produced by Abdullah Siddiqui (“Coke Studio,” “Joyland”). Aarti Bajaj (“Sacred Games”) will serve as editor.
Bilal is represented by Suchir Batra at CAA, Hannah Mulderink at Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher, LLP and publicist Sam Srinivasan of Sechel PR.