Pakistani actress Mahira Khan was recently in the United Kingdom to attend the UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF), where her film Verna was screened in a special show for the international audience as part of the event.
The film, which explores the narrative of a rape survivor and the subsequent quest to take revenge from her culprits, was briefly banned before its release reportedly due to its plotline.
“I was nervous about how it would work as a film as well as the performance,” Mahira told The Guardian. “But about the subject matter? Never, because I stand by it. There were certain aspects of the story that people did not agree with, but not about the core message of the film. What we have to bear in mind is that, yes, Verna was going to get banned because of the decision of a small minority, but [it] did not get banned because of the majority who stood up for the film. To me, that is a victory.”
Mahira, whose film Raees also saw a ban being imposed on it last year, felt that the action taken against her film starring Shah Rukh Khan was a ‘hurtful’ move.
“Professionally, it didn’t matter,” Mahira said. “but on a personal level, it was hurtful. It became a big thing because of the timing and because it was such a big film. People were waiting for it in Pakistan and were looking forward to seeing one of their own in a big film. I believe if it had run there, it would have been the biggest hit Pakistan has ever seen. I hope it will be shown there one day.”
The actress also talked about the need to stop stereotyping and misrepresenting people in the media and why she feels that she ‘represents every woman of Pakistan.’
“We are very quick to make generalisations about people – all Muslims are terrorists, all Pakistani women are oppressed, all Pakistani men are abusing them,” Mahira explained. “The only reason people do that is because they don’t care enough to take the time to find out more. Because of this, I feel that I don’t just represent me, I represent every woman in Pakistan. I may not wear a hijab or have made the same choices, but there is a whole spectrum of women in Pakistan and I feel that I represent them.”
Verna is screening on 18 March at Regent Street Cinema, London, as part of the UK Asian film festival, which runs until 25 March.