Two panels of influential women who have been, and are, contributing to Pakistan’s film industry came together to discuss stories of success and survival through the years.
Karachi: As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, the contribution of women in different walks of life is being highlighted on various platforms. Here in Karachi, a seminar titled ‘The Celebration of Women in Film’ was hosted as part of Pakistan International Film Festival 2018; it brought together some of the most prominent figures of Pakistan’s entertainment industry.
The event comprised two panel discussions on the subject, in addition to speeches, that featured quite a few industry veterans with Sania Saeed as the moderator. The first panel included names like Samina Peerzada, Asif Raza Mir, Haseena Moin, Reema Khan and Nabila whereas the second panel saw another set of women that included Fizza Ali Meerza, Zeba Bakhtiyar, Sabiha Sumar, Hareem Farooq and Sarwat Gilani, amongst others.
The discussion began with the role of cinema in changing perceptions and how important it was to express the right narratives through our films.
Reflecting on her directorial debut, Inteha (1999) that tackled the subject of marital rape, Samina Peerzada recalled, “I wanted to highlight the issue with the help of stereotypical portrayal and imagery that is subtle yet impactful. I think this is what cinema should be able to convey aside from providing entertainment. But the problem is that we as a society are in denial and don’t accept that these injustices exist around us; if we don’t accept them how can we highlight them in our films? Our job is to show them on the big screen and then leave it to the state to take action; we are not here to run slogans.”
“All kinds of films should be made in Pakistan, especially those that target people belonging to various schools of thought,” Reema Khan added, while Haseena Moin said that content needs to be made stronger and this is where we lack.
Speaking of solutions, Asif Raza Mir, the only man on the panel, shared that we haven’t preserved our history and that they are working on restoring and archiving television and film history of Pakistan. “The reason why our content is not so well and our actors aren’t professional is the lack of institutions in various film departments. All of us who have been part of the film scene for several years are institutions in ourselves and we need to work for it on individual level.”
Hair and makeup maestro, Nabila, who has trained and provided hair and makeup teams for various films, spoke of celebrating the art and women’s contribution in films rather than talking about the difficulties they have had.
“I don’t know why we are focusing on difficulties, why aren’t we celebrating what we are doing,” she expressed. “I don’t remember any difficulties in the past 22 years of my career.”
With over a decade post Pakistani cinema revival, the contribution of women has been a significant one. Whether as actors, directors, producers or writers, they have been an integral part of the entire process and have turned out to be successful as well. Some of the names include producer Fizza Ali Meerza, actor-producer Hareem Farooq, Sarwat Gilani and Sabiha Sumar who were also present on the occasion, as part of the second panel, to share their views on the subject.
“If we wish to educate our masses and consider our women educated then why don’t we portray our women as doctors, lawyers, architects onscreen?” filmmaker Sabiha Sumar asserted. “We see them as black or white, there is no grey in between. There should be layers to her character.”
“There are so many women heroes around us, why don’t we highlight their stories?” Sarwat Gilani added, saying that she would love to portray a woman hero onscreen.
Questions like these were raised throughout the discussion, which run the risk of scattering all over the place. There was simply too much to discuss. These are issues that we have been debating for years and they are still relevant. Submissive, suppressed, dependent women get more ratings than struggling, independent and successful women but as Sabiha Sumar rightly pointed out, “We need to think why these regressive roles are so successful, why they are working so well.”
It’s time we feed audiences with the real picture of society and women in society; there is oppression and regression, sure, but there are stories to celebrate too. One side of the picture – the picture of a woman as a victim, – is predominant and that has to change. Once positive stories are presented to viewers, there will be acceptance for them, facilitating change.
To initiate dialogue is necessary; it is the beginning of change but there needs to be an implementation of whatever is being discussed to ensure that the change happens. It is high time we incorporate and bring the change we have been talking about and work on the practical side of affairs.