There is a line in the trailer of the movie, Bachaana, which goes something like this: “Larki Pakistani ho, ya Hindustani, larki larki hoti hai.” We aren’t entirely sure what the writers meant when they wrote this dialogue for Mohib Mirza’s character. Is it trying to strengthen friendship between Pakistanis and Indians by claiming that nationality doesn’t matter? Or is it trying to say that a woman is weak and helpless, no matter what country she comes from, and deserves to be saved?
While the movie is yet to be released, there are certain expectations from the movie based on what we’ve heard and seen in the trailers. The movie is based around two strangers: the ‘hero’ is a Pakistani man who is trying to save the Indian damsel-in-distress by helping her reach home safely. It goes without saying that the ‘hero’ is always male (In Veer-Zara, an Indian movie about two lovers from across the borders, the hero was an Indian man while the female was a Pakistani, Muslim woman. In our version, of course it’s reverse.)
While most Pakistani movies tend to portray women in a less important, stereotypical manner, there are few movies that have done it as blatantly as Bachaana, the new upcoming film that every Pakistani feminist would take issue with. Perhaps the whole damsel in distress act might have gone ignored, if not for that one terribly written dialogue, and as we have not yet seen the movie, we’re afraid that there are more of those to follow. It’s confused chivalry- the intentions of Mohib’s character are to protect the girl, regardless of who she is. It’s unconditional respect that a woman deserves- that she must be saved.
This is a dangerous and harmful rhetoric, even if Pakistani women themselves don’t quite understand it yet. It’s the same point of view that is reiterated by Disney movies- ‘prince charming is going to come and save you. Even if you don’t know how to save yourself, don’t worry’. We need to stop telling women that a man is going to save them because in the real world, that is not necessarily true. Movies have the power to influence attitudes and mindsets. Therefore, it’s time we started taking our messages seriously. Morning shows, TV drama serials, movies- all these platforms are reminding Pakistani women again and again that they are simple-minded beings who have limited knowledge and strength.Where are the fighters? The thinkers? The dreamers? Why are they missing from our big as well as small screens? Are we simply a nation of helpless women? At a time when Pakistan has received it’s first Oscar through the hands of a woman; where we have just sent our first female boxers to compete in the South Asian Games in India; where the Pakistani MIT Quantum Astrophysicist, who detected gravitational waves, was also a woman- We cannot afford to accept the concept that women need saving.
Speaking to Sanam, we pondered over the same question and wondered how she feels, being an intelligent, independent woman herself. “The big screen caters largely to the male audience and they would rather pay money to come see a man who is a hero, and not a woman who is the main focus in a movie. I don’t think men are ready to see a movie like that yet.” This sheds light on the fact that such messages are harmful for men as well. It means that their manliness is dependent on whether they are able to save a woman or protect her. What about women who like to take care of themselves? This is probably why Pakistani men have a tough time accepting strong, independent women. You see, psychologically, these are very limiting and reductionist messages for both genders.
Mohib and Sanam make the perfect on screen duo
One cannot deny that the two actors, Mohib and Sanam, look absolutely perfect together. Their on screen chemistry is alluring- even their off screen camaraderie is so natural that one cannot help but look forward to what the two have put together in this film, based on what they’ve been given to work with. The locations and cinematography all add to the fact that Pakistani cinema is ready to compete on an international forum based on it’s technical capability.
But we need to work on our stories. We need better messages. And while Pakistani cinema is at its teething stage, what we use to build our base must be a lot stronger than this. We hope that Bachaana portrays the female helplessness with a tad bit more grace than what we’ve heard in the trailer. Fingers crossed!