Ali Zafar’s first Pakistani film — Teefa In Trouble — is releasing on the weekend. While the film’s trailer has garnered mostly positive reviews, Ali is currently embroiled in a legal battle with singer Meesha Shafi who accused Ali of sexual harassment in April this year.
Although the allegations have not been proven in court yet, and Ali has even filed a defamation case against Meesha, a section of the public is still calling for a boycott of the film. We caught up with Ali during the promotions of Teefa In Trouble and asked him about the case.
“I am an idealist, I always see the good in everything. When you believe your intentions are right, you’re right and you submit to the will of God and firmly believe that whatever God has planned for you, is in your best interest then you tend to feel less stressed about your problems,” he told Something Haute during a live chat.
Ali disclosed that he was hurt by Meesha’s allegations because he’s been working for the cause of women empowerment for a long time. “No human being is absolutely foolproof, especially an artist because artists are sensitive. And being me — someone who has actually worked towards women empowerment for so many years and practically done things which I haven’t showed off with hashtags on my social media, [things I have worked on] with my family or my foundation — to be subjected to something like this was very hurtful. Especially from someone who was friends with Ayesha [Ali’s wife], who used to come over all the time and shared such a wonderful relationship and suddenly, out of the blue, for something like this to happen… and then finding out what behind it, who all and what…,” he said.
However, he is grateful to God for the lessons he’s learnt from this episode. “But I am thankful to God, this has taught us so much, taught me so much. If nothing else, my family and my actual friends, we have all gotten even more close to each other. Hats off to Ayesha — my wife, my family and my friends especially Ayesha because she’s been witness to everything that’s transpired.”
Ali also said that he isn’t holding any grudges against people who aren’t supporting him. “As I said the first day, in time, when things get unveiled people will know the truth. That is why, if today someone has an opposing point of view than mine, I have no complaints. I have nothing against them in my heart. Because we live in a male-dominated society where women are harassed. It’s a reality and you have to acknowledge that. And because I have been working on this, I am aware what happens and how it happens. So if someone has a bias, I don’t judge them for that. If I were a woman, I too would have been biased. However, I will be patient. And this is what I will request everyone else to do as well. Just a little bit of patience, a little bit of patience. The truth will come out,” he reiterated.
When asked if he first found out about the allegations of sexual harassment through Meesha’s tweet or if they spoke before Meesha went public, Ali said, “Now what do I say to that. I can’t comment on that because whatever happened before and after, it’s all been presented to the court and that’s where it will be argued. And that will unveil a lot.”
We asked him if he thinks the rest of the team behind Teefa In Trouble is at an unfair advantage due to his ongoing legal battle, to which he responded, “I have one question. If you take a stance, regardless of whoever you are, whether it’s a section of the media, the bloggers or members of the public; at the moment it’s her word against mine, right? When the verdict comes out, and it’s all been revealed with facts, and not just a court verdict but there’s convincing evidence of what actually happened, will all of you then apologise to Maya or the other team members of the film. Forget me, don’t apologise to me. I am nobody. But would you apologise to everybody who is involved in the film?”
Ali added that he’d actually asked his team to do what they felt was right and not be under any pressure. “Whoever is part of my team, whether it’s Maya or our marketing team or the PR team, I told everyone that don’t be with me out of any compulsion or because you are a part of the film. Be very fair and do what you feel is right.”
He also said that sometimes people take a stance and stick to it against all odds. “With all humility I would like to say that we see things in either black or white. We don’t look into the gray areas. We take a stance and then it becomes about ego, that ‘because I have taken this stance, this has to be right’. It’s the same in politics, ‘doesn’t matter what my leader does, even if he’s wrong I will defend him’. It shouldn’t be about the ego. Be flexible, be patient and be just,” he said in conclusion.