After a week of events which hosted prestigious panels from advertising, design, film and TV, SZABIST Karachi’s annual festival ZAB Media Festival came to a close yesterday. The 5-day event covered media related fields and had thought-provoking conversations about pertinent issues that the Pakistani media is facing right now.
On the second day, an esteemed panel which was moderated by musician Babar Sheikh hosted director Kamal Khan, Nabeel Qureshi, Fizza Ali Meerza, screenwriter Bee Gul, Sadia Jabbar (Shameless Proposals) and Hollywood producer Habib Paracha. The session titled ‘Films, Narratives and Karachi’ explored the many facets of this cosmopolitan city and how stories based on the city inspire filmmakers.
Kamal, who recently made the critically acclaimed Laal Kabootar talked about his inspiration for the film.
“I am a shy and introverted guy so, I’ve always been the one sitting in a corner just observing things. I’ve lived in Karachi my whole life and have observed people and places, it’s all I’ve ever known and that was my inspiration for making this film.”
However, Na Maloom Afraad director Nabeel Qureshi helms from Sukkur, so what provoked him to make a film about a city he didn’t know much about?
“Our film NMA was about strikes and there’s no city in Pakistan where strikes happen”, he chuckled. “This is the reason why we made a Karachi centric film.”
Screenwriter Bee Gul pointed out that both the filmmakers have created films in which Karachi itself emerges as a character just like Bollywood’s Haider and the likes.
On the last day of ZMF, a session titled ‘Women in mainstream Cinema” -which was moderated by lifestyle journalist Manal Faheem Khan- was organized with an illustrious panel. Osman Khalid Butt, Fifi Haroon, Hareem Farooq and Mansha Pasha actively participated in the riveting conversation about the representation of women in cinema, objectification and the ‘item number’ phenomenon.
“Compared to television, we have more powerful and female-centric films. Filmmakers are now moving away from TV [roles] since we have shown victimization of women so much, we’re now moving towards an age where we want to show strong women,” producer and actor Hareem said.
The panellists spoke at length about male gaze in item numbers and how although, our society divorces women from their sexuality, women dancing in songs, where they are objectified, are lauded by the same audience. However, Mansha pointed out that foreign content objectifies women but we never see anyone comment on that rather it labelled as ‘art’ by many people.
“Game of Thrones objectifies women and uses a lot of voyeurism and many women do not have agency. Quite honestly, I don’t know if men and women will ever stop being ornamental. I don’t believe that it can happen in either film or TV. Violence will exist and we will continue to debate on whether it is right or wrong, video games will always be there. So, eventually, it depends on us how much of it we consume, but can we control the monster beyond that? I am sceptical about it.”
The conversation escalated towards Mehwish Hayat being honoured with Tamgha-i-Imtiaz and how people started to assassinate her character because she had done an item song Billi for Na Maloom Afraad. Fifi commented on how people wrote to her that she isn’t worthy of such a prestigious award because she’s done an item song even though they haven’t watched any of her films.
Hareem chimed in and said, “I think we’re living in a time where women receiving such prestigious awards are questioned but nobody stands up and questions when a harasser is receiving awards or attending societies,” the audience broke into a huge round of applause.
Towards the end of the session, Fifi added that Pakistanis have a habit of putting their own women down. “You can have a young Pakistani girl, the youngest in the world to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize and you can have a two-time Academy Award winner, we will put her down. We put our winners down, especially our women winners down.”
ZAB Media Festival was held at SZABIST Karachi from April 2 to April 06.