Pakistani film star and TV comedienne Veena Malik is in ‘trubbel’. The first sin she committed against Pakistan’s India-centric nationalism was accepting to take part in a TV programme in Mumbai. The second sin she committed was against the violent religiosity of Pakistani society: she allowed some intimate shots with a Hindu actor. This was a double whammy of national betrayal.
A TV anchor, treading the frontiers of propriety for ratings, waited till she returned to Lahore to put her together with a mullah who upbraided her for fahashi. What was implied was something deeper than just an extended make-believe serial in which characters engaged in free-wheeling relationships.
What Pakistan lost was its honour. A male Pakistani actor going through the same shenanigans with a Hindu actress would have caused us to strut with pride. Veena became Pakistan in the female mode deflowered by male Bharat. The hidden accusation was that of cross-border coitus in which Pakistan was in the female mode. The TV anchor sat back and enjoyed seeing an implied fornication punished.
There was collective eroticism in this. Another TV programme with an audience also delivered its verdict. A group of young boys and girls said, ‘she is not from us’. National honour was lost through Veena Malik. (It was not lost in a cross-border ‘real’ liaison by a famous Pakistani cricketer.) It was an act of excommunication organised by a bearded TV host. In Pakistan, excommunication is not enough. Some jihadi will complete the act of purging by despatching the victim as a burnt offering to Pakistan’s revengeful gods.
The press reporting on Veena is replete with lascivious innuendo. A woman of ill repute seduced our innocent fast bowler Muhammad Asif and sneaked against him for drugs and match-fixing to the ICC. They ignored her honesty in admitting that she loved him and overlooked his rascalities and kept spending big money in the hope of reforming him. There was more integrity in this ‘sinful woman’ than in all our priests and TV hosts put together.
She was abandoned by her profession too. The film world turned pious and swore allegiance to cinematic nationalism by condemning her. This has happened so many times it is sickening. And the media has descended to its lowest point, more a pander to voyeurism than a protector of public virtue.
In Filming the Line of Control: the Indo-Pak Relationship through the Cinematic Lens; edited by Meenakshi Bharat & Nirmal Kumar; (Routledge 2008), the thesis is: there is a sexual insult involved in getting Pakistani girls to fall in love with Hindu men. Indian films want the audiences to feel as if their nation state was a highly-sexed male taking to bed the female enemy nation state to re-enact the times when the Mongols raped the nations they conquered.
Pakistan has done a lot of TV dramas doing just that till our mujahideen turned on us and started killing our men and women instead of morally correcting rather easy Hindu women in Kashmir. What would make our TV hosts feel good would be the sight of a Pakistani-Muslim male sexually annexing an Indian-Hindu woman: a symbolic taking of Kashmir.
The pious are usually obsessed with what they think is forbidden. We have our problems with entertainment in general. That is why our constitution stays clear of the word ‘culture’ which is dangerously coextensive with that of India. Veena was brave because she crossed the line. She has more human worth than the TV hosts trying to increase their ratings at her cost.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2011.