We ran into Jami at the Sounds of Kolachi concert, where he had brought his son and daughter to enjoy a good, live performance. While he remained tight-lipped about his upcoming film, he was otherwise his usual talkative self.
“I don’t want to release too much information about that film because it’s becoming quite big. They’re too many people involved,” said Jami immediately when we asked. We told him to at least tell us what the film is about. “It’s on the 1992 world cup. The nation doesn’t know that we were the champions. I’ll be announcing the details in a month. We’ve even found our Imran Khan but I will not tell you who that is right now.”
A lot is being said about Pakistani films nowadays, where critics are usually bashing the kind of stories that are coming forward. We wondered what Jami had to say about the current scenario.
“All I’ll say about our films is that business is good. Pakistani films have made money. That is very good. People take it wrong that somehow I’m against blockbuster films. My point is that films that focus on content should also come forward. If they aren’t ‘hit’ by commercial standards, then please don’t sideline them. Let us make Shawshank Redemption, let us make King’s Speech also. Look, even India is learning. They’re getting into Queen, they’re getting into female oriented films. Dangal is the biggest film in India, ever, and it’s about two girls. Why can’t we understand this? Why does everyone argue with me ‘yaar tumhara problem kya hai?’ You’re selling your women and making money off them! Of course I have a problem with it! That is wrong. What is so difficult to understand?”
How important is the feminist narrative for Pakistani films right now? “It’s very important! Firstly, they will use women to make money but they will never show you their strong side. They will only show the side of a woman that pleases men. Why can’t you show a fully independent woman? This isn’t only a Pakistani issue though, it’s a global concern. Even in India, the likes of Deepika Padukone are moving away from item numbers and look at where they’re going. They’re in Hollywood now. If you leave one thing, only then can you move on to something else.”
But would Jami identify himself as a feminist? “Look, my film Moor began from the mother. In O21, there was one pivotal female character who was the Snowden of the film. She releases everything. It could have been a man. But no, I wanted the power to lie in a woman’s hand.”
Turns out, Jami knows a lot more about feminism than our own women do and he explains that feminism isn’t male-bashing, it’s about protecting women from the abuse they suffer.
“Feminism has been abused a lot in the West, thus the negative connotations with the word. I’m talking about feminism that revolves around humanism. I’m not saying ‘start beating men instead.’ But asking for equal rights for both men and women isn’t even feminism, it’s basic human rights! In Hollywood, female actresses get paid half of what men are paid. House of Cards actress Robin Wright had to fight to get equal pay. It’s absurd because women sometimes do get paid extra for things like the item numbers. But they won’t get equal pay for a main lead role.”
Jami helped explain why people are afraid of calling themselves feminists in Pakistan. “There is a lot of fear in Pakistan. People aren’t even willing to admit that they are Shia, for instance, toh phir feminism kya cheez hai? Right now people aren’t even willing to understand the basic principle, that beating and mistreating women is wrong. We know that there are hundreds of acid victims, Karo Kari happens regularly. And hitting women is considered a normal thing in our society. Hitting your wife is considered okay. The reason I’m so vocal now is that I have daughters now; before I used to stay silent on this issue, but not anymore.”