We do not need 'billis' to flaunt our 'jawani' in Lollywood

I am a Pakistani woman and I am not a gutka available for chewing or a trumpet ready to be blown.

Shumaila Hussain Shahani March 30, 2015
After successfully objectifying women in the ‘100 glorious years of Indian cinema’, Bollywood now recognises its part in influencing commoners, what till now has been ‘a bad influence’. It took Bollywood God knows how many Jyoti Singhs to realise what a mess their sexist approach in cinema has caused in populous India.

I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry that our neighbours are in trouble; our fellow women are not safe. But at the moment, I’m more concerned about how all this affects Pakistan. Our cinema is going through an interesting phase of its revival, but the same sexist approach has come to trouble us too. Recent series of item numbers in almost every newly released and upcoming Lollywood movie are examples of this approach. You don’t have to be a conservative to understand why an item number is offensive and insulting to a woman.

It offends me because:

1. We, women, are not ‘items’ or ‘objects’; we are as human as any gender.

2. Women are not Munnis or Sheilas or Billis (their Pakistani counterpart).

3. Women are not “gutka (tobacco) available for chewing”.

4. We do not go around flaunting our “jawan (young) bodies”.

I am a liberal who defended Humaima Malick’s right to do the song Namak Paare – because it fitted the role of a bar dancer – as much as I defended Fawad Khan’s right to do a shirtless scene in Khoobsurat. I love Sonam Kapoor and Vidya Balan for their choice of women-centric films, like Dirty Picture. But the makers of unnecessary item numbers are those ‘hypocrite liberals’ who never consider us women as equal to them and use women as ‘objects’ to attract audiences. Some recent examples are the item songs in Pakistani movies Karachi se LahoreJalaibee and the not too old, Na Maloom Afraad.

Karachi se Lahore released its teaser on March 21, 2015. What is sad and sickening is that the 14-second teaser only includes glimpses of Ayesha Omar as an item girl and ends with the title poster of the film.

What a great way to tease the crowd… Right?

It seems that the purpose of the teaser was to tell the world that Bulbulay’s Khoobsurat has a bellybutton too.

Jalaibee, on the other hand, can be defended by the fact that they showed decent clothing in an item song. Recently, Pakistani heartthrob Hamza Ali Abbasi was quoted as saying:
“I am tremendously proud of Zhalay Sarhadi for not taking her clothes off in her performance in the film. Proud of Yasir Jaswal for not going along with the emerging trend of revealing ‘item numbers’ in Pakistan films.”

But let me put this in plain words for all those people out there whose primary focus remains women’s clothing. An appropriate choice of clothing does not cover for a woman made to flaunt her ‘jawani’. The problem here is not the clothes but the portrayal of a woman of Pakistani society, who is seen dancing, while being ogled by men, to lyrics such as:
“Tere aangan mein hi chamke gi meri ye shookh jawani”

(Only in your backyard will my enticing youth shine)

Have they ever tried to tease the audience by releasing a teaser where a man is seen ‘revealing’ his body while being ogled by women? Can’t even imagine that, can you? That’s probably because it is women who are born to entertain men, be it in a marriage or a bar – not the other way around.

To clarify my stance, I’m not against our movies covering taboo issues; I appreciate how themes like sexual abuse and racism, which are rather neglected in the much open-minded neighbouring India, are successfully addressed in our society via movies and dramas. But while our drama industry is praised across the border for showing the strength of womanhood, our film industry is keen on copying Bollywood’s sexist approach to women, for reasons unknown.

Despite my disagreement with Abbasi’s stance on Sarhadi’s song, I am proud of the Pyare Afzal star simply because he admitted to romancing ‘with women in bikinis in an upcoming comedy film’ and pledged to ‘never to do it again’ for it is against our culture and values.

Music and art are a reflection of a society’s traditions and values, and currently, our songs portray a woman’s image as:
“Gutka main hun chaba le, Baaja main hun baja”

(Chew me as I am tobacco and blow me as I am a trumpet)

Somebody please explain to me, when and how did such item numbers become a necessity for our society, our cinema? Are we not done copying Bollywood yet? Aren’t Bollywood item songs linked to increasing ‘rape culture’ in India?

Namrata Joshi, a senior associate editor at Outlook India, talks about the choreography of item songs in these words,
“The choreography is similar across most (item) songs: one semi-clad women getting leered at by several men, being objectified for the consumption of men and talked of as some kind of dish.”

Feminist and gender activist, Kamla Bhasin, says,
“It (item song) is an unequal sexuality, where one is the subject and the other, the object. The woman is naked, the man fully dressed. There is no mutuality. The woman sells and the man consumes.”

Is this what we are choosing for our society too?

For the love of God, spare us!

I am a Pakistani woman and I am not a gutka available for chewing.

After Bol and Waar, we all have high hopes from Lollywood. A woman does not always have to be ‘the glamour’ and the hero’s love interest in a movie. There is much more to a woman than that and there is a lot more that women can do. India has realised this and item songs, that are great career boosters for actresses, are now being frowned upon. First it was Ayesha Takia, then Kareena Kapoor and now it’s Kangana Ranaut among the B-town beauties who have reportedly rejected offers of item numbers.

I agree with the idea that a movie does not always have to be a dark and depressing like Bol, but since when does colourful and fun mean an exposed woman? I really thought our Pakistani industry had that elegance and class that would provide women a well-deserved place in our industry.

If you still don’t understand why the recent trend of item numbers in Pakistani cinema should offend you as a woman, watch this video.
Shumaila Hussain Shahani The author is a writer, movie buff, aspiring world traveler, humanist and rebel at heart. She tweets as @ShahaniSays (https://twitter.com/ShahaniSays)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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liberal-lubna-fromLahore | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend what do fake liberals want one black and white pic of a girl dancing in mini skirt in Karachi and how badly you want those glorious years and now that they are finally reviving, the inner mullah is unleashed from all These women are not being coerced into performing "vulgar" dance numbers like they do to women in India. Our women are far more empowered than enslaved bollywood actresses, to make such choices on their own. So far, I have not seen a dace number in the revival phase thats "vulgar" or "obscene". Infact, I have never seen an item number with more class than Mahnoor Baloch's dance sequence in MHSA. But where is the acknowledgement for that?Where is celebration for our Pakistani women just trying to celebrating beauty working day and night to revive the cinema? Or are we all just waiting for these item numbers to be accompanied by a fatwa, death threat or acid attack so we can start whining about how are "freedoms and liberal values" are in jeopardy, causing our screaming to attract attention of the Western media, who can the exploit that narrative into having Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, the propaganda machine, to jump on the bandwagon of creating an Oscar nominee documentary about the " brave and fearless Pakistani women fighting for their rights to dance in films amid fears of taliban threats and acid attacks". Oh yeah, that will get these fake liberals who are complaining today to suddenly be bashing Pakistan for it's rising extremism. Hunh? Is that what you guys really want? But since none of that has happened yet, we are all going to criticize instead of acknowledging the fact we are still a very liberal nation if only we decide to pull our heads from the ground. So stop complaining start celebrating this exciting phase of revival of our cinema which reflects our diverse liberties and women empowerment.
Shaheen | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend Just to clarify, in Islam men and women are equal on aggregate, but not in every aspect. For example,inheritance in Islamic law requires son to get double the share relative to the daughter. Why? Because husband is obligated to spend his income on wife and kids. On the contrary, the wife is not obliged to spend a single penny of her earnings on anyone, if she wishes to. It is better to understand the entire Islamic system in totality, rather than aiming to reconcile feminism, individual liberty and Islam. One can submit to their whims/desires/ideologies or one can submit to Allah. Islam means peace acquired by submission to the All Mighty and a Muslim means the person who has submitted to the will of Allah. If that doesn't fare well with people, then they can submit to feminism, communism, or any other -ism they like. For Muslims: Why run after a deficient ideology when you have the best ideology (Islam) at your disposal?
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