Four major Pakistani films are releasing today, marking the start of Eid-Ul-Fitr festivities. And we started off with watching Moammar Rana’s Azaadi.
Directed by debuting filmmaker Imran Malik, the film starring Rana and Sonya Hussyn narrates the story of Zara (Hussyn), a newly-engaged journalist residing in the UK, discovering that she was secretly married off to her cousin, Azad (Rana) in her childhood.
The film then tracks her subsequent journey to Kashmir to find her alleged husband and seek a divorce. Seems simple, right? Think again! Adding a gargantuan amount of plot-lines within the narrative, the story then goes on a grueling two hours and forty-minute-long journey where the Kashmir conflict is highlighted via the lens of a mujahid (fighter) on a mission to relieve the occupied land from Indian control. Needless to say, he won’t stop at anything.
We wish it was as simple as we’re making it sound but alas, it wasn’t. Thus, instead of making you go through what we went through, we thought we’ll just give you the gist of what you’ll find in the film, apart from the basic narrative! Excuse the spoilers; you may actually thank us later.
1. Forced cousin marriages are not a thing of the past
Within the film’s span, if there’s one thing which will hit you smack in the face, it’s the fact that forced cousin marriages are A-Okay! Playing on each stereotype one could scour through the charred remains of Lollywood, Malik directs the film to its doom with actual dialogues supporting forced marriages by saying things like ‘your father must have done what was right for you.’ That’s not all, the fact that Zara actually negates the fact that she’s engaged and ends up romancing her purported husband, is even creepier!
2. All evil Indians are Hindus
The film shows Indian Occupied Kashmir as the place of conflict, where Azad resides. However, there’s not even one Indian army officer within the narrative, who is Muslim or Kashmiri. While on the flipside, ALL army officers – who play caricaturized evil men – are Hindu men, whose only mission is to destroy the Muslim Kashmiris! Hey, Imran Malik, 90s Lollywood called and they want their hackneyed ideas back.
3. Rape means shame
It seems you can change the world, but you really cannot take the idea of rape being used as a turning point out of Pakistani films. Once again using absurd and downright draconian representations of a rape survivor, the film showcases Jannat – who is Azad’s sister as a beacon of shame in the film. Using dialogues like ‘not being able to look at her’ as ways to show how ashamed they are of the situation, Azaadi trivializes the idea of rape way worse than any other recent Pakistani film has. Can we seriously PLEASE do away with such plots in the future?
4. Jihad means toxic masculinity and conflict
Remember Rambo? (and no, we don’t mean Jaan Rambo) The film takes that aesthetic a little too seriously. Utilising 80s clichés, the film shows off Rana as the epitome of the brooding angry man, who will stop at nothing to get to his mission of liberating Kashmir in his ‘Jihad.’ Coining the term to mean ruthlessness and destruction, Azaadi once again trivializes the concept by making it an anchor to conflict. Does only waging war count as Jihad? According to this film, yes.
5. Jihadi’s love Thailand too!
The piece de la resistance – and we use the term as ironically as we can – had to be the dream sequences within the film. Ever imagined a Jihadi fighting such an intense war suddenly finding his dreams transferring him to the picturesque beaches of Phuket dancing with his wannabe-wife? Well, now you have it!