Every Independence Day we see a flurry of patriotic activity on television, as heartbreaking images of a frail Mohammad Ali Jinnah surface, reigniting a very painful stream of consciousness beginning with the sacrifices made to secure this homeland and the destruction it suffered at the hands of corrupt leaders in the decades to follow. Instagram accounts light up as the stars – addressing their millions of followers – start posting messages of hope and happiness, some sincere and others serving nothing more than white noise. The cynics and skeptics amidst us audibly challenge the reason for celebration – what exactly is there to rejoice, they ask – and the optimists take refuge in the fact that things are getting better. But are they?
It all boils down to perception but one thing is crystal clear: never before have we been so sure of the value of an independent homeland, as opposed to being part of a united India, as we are today.
One notable development emerging in the last few years, it must be pointed out, is the impact ‘influencers’ have had on society at large. These influencers are individuals who have used their social media strength to bring around meaningful social change. One has noticed how these agents of change have, slowly and steadily, worked towards breaking down time-hardened, stereotypical and stifling narratives.
For the first time in decades, television is addressing issues like sexual abuse, domestic violence, acid attacks and harassment and that too with a motivational purpose. Writers like Bee Gul (Dar Si Jaati Hai Sila), Asma Nabeel (Surkh Chandni) and Farhat Ishtiaq (Udaari) are writing stories of survivors, not victims, offering escape and hope to their hundreds of thousands of viewers and followers.
Stars and celebrities are opening up and talking about mental health and depression; conditions once considered hypothetical or limited to the underprivileged. The internet, providing a virtual world of escape from reality, has made it somewhat simpler for stars like Momina Mustehsan and Juggan Kazim – amongst others – to draw light on the debilitating condition that cripples many and drives many others to take extreme measures.
It’s not only about personal struggles; this is a time when issues like global warming have become a real and looming threat and conscientious forces of change amongst us have realized that Pakistan cannot isolate itself from the issue. We see women like Shaniera Akram, an active voice on Twitter, campaigning against the production of plastic; we also see celebrities endorsing tree plantation drives. ‘Worldly problems’, as one would call them, are getting the attention of the influencers and that’s what using your power responsibly is really about.
Filmmakers are emerging as power players in the entertainment arena but while there are those who shake the tills and make the box office deliriously happy, there are others who seek reflection and motivation in their art. Directors like Asim Abbasi (Cake) and Adnan Sarwer (Shah, Motorcycle Girl) are the real activists, agents of change swimming against the lucrative current of commercial cinema.
There are forces in fashion – the obvious being Generation and the social campaign Khadija Rehman takes up in each collection – and then there is Khaadi, a brand that does Pakistan proud. Khaadi’s stunning and emotionally stirring message of peace and inclusion, ‘Jugg Jugg Jiay Pakistan’, directed by the brilliant Jami and released this weekend in time for Independence Day, calls for unity and inclusion amongst all. Inclusion. It’s a great message.
The causes are never ending and the influencers numerous – it is impossible to cap them in a small note – but what we can rejoice, and I will, is the fact that these issues, subjects and points of debate were not being discussed openly a decade ago. One is witnessing change and has to acknowledge the forces behind it.