One can truly feeling the strength of women reverberating across the globe. Whether it’s the #MeToo campaign, or bold women such as Kangana Ranaut calling out misogyny in Bollywood, it’s clear that women are ready to take charge of their fate and make a difference in the lives of all persecuted women around the world.
And things in Pakistan are changing too. The biggest example of this is a highly anticipated upcoming TV play that really reminds one of the golden days of Pakistani television; a time where progressive women would also make their presence felt on the small screen. Akhri Station is the final product of several very talented and very forward thinking individuals. Produced by Roshaneh Zafar, founder and Managing Director of Kashf Foundation, the play has roped in a stellar star cast, which includes the likes of Sanam Saeed, Nimra Bucha, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Irfan Khoosat, Malika Zafar, Adnan Sarwar and many others. The play will touch upon certain taboo topics for women, such as depression, HIV and domestic abuse in a series of 7 episodes that show the stories of 7 different women.
Many troubling statistics came to light when the AS team met up with the press yesterday. For instance, in Pakistan, women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men. Sarmad Khoosat revealed that most women diagnosed with depression in Pakistan are usually in their forties because before that age, women are simply not allowed to get a diagnosis on such illnesses.
Sanam Saeed also revealed that she never understood depression despite having seen it up close in her home. “I would think to myself, why can’t people just get up and move on with their life, and simply be positive? During my time with this project, I realized that it’s a biological chemical imbalance and people can’t just change it without the proper medical attention.”
What’s different about Akhri Station is that while it picks up on women who appear helpless at the hands of the society around them, their stories always ends on a hopeful note. “The episodes will always show that there is always a way to get out of the problems women get stuck in, and we show our main characters as women who overcome their obstacles,” shared Roshaneh Zahar.
However, there were certain concerns that were voiced at the press meet yesterday. One journalist was wondering why there were no men on the cover of the poster.
There was a lot of discussion over using the word ‘actress’ for women as well. Arshad Mehmood, the composer of the show’s OST shared that he wouldn’t like to use the word ‘actress’ for Sanam Saeed. “Would we call a female singer a ‘singress’?”
This leads us to something else that’s important. One journalist asked why the team chose Sarmad Khoosat, a male director, to direct this female-centric story. Were there no female directors available? And Roshaneh Zafar identified the problem in one simple, straight-forward line. “We want to be completely gender- blind. We didn’t hire Sarmad Khoosat based on his gender; we got him because he was simply the best person for the job.” Not only is Khoosat a brilliant director, but he’s known to deal with female centric narratives with great sensitivity, such as with his films, Manto and Ek Thi Marium.
This gender blindness is what we need to strive towards as a society. No man, or woman, should be given preference because of their gender.
If the trailer of Akhri Station wasn’t enough to lift our hopes, then it was the meeting with cast and crew which made us realize the hours of effort and research that have gone into this play. The team worked with real life case studies and had a psychiatrist on board to make sure that nothing is portrayed incorrectly.
The show will air on ARY Digital from 13th February onwards.