It has been a lifelong dream for Humayun Saeed to produce a film that is not only entertaining, but also one that makes money at the box office. With Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Saeed accomplished this goal and set the tone for upcoming cinematic ventures.
Having said that, it must be added that the inclusion of an item or promotional song (Teri Hee Kami Hai) in the said film, takes away from the sincere effort that went into this project in the first place and here’s why:
The old phenomenon
To put it mildly, an item song is a promotional technique to generate interest in a film. Pakistan may not have stars like Kareena Kapoor and Katrina Kaif gyrating to catchy music, but Lollywood has its fair share of inescapable and suggestive songs that make one cringe every single time. If you’ve been exposed to Punjabi cinema, item songs from India may just seem respectable.
With a spate of new films – Waar, Lamha (Seedlings), Zinda Bhaag and Moor – coming up in the next few weeks and months, Pakistani cinema is in for a change of sorts. And so, watching Mathira belly dance with sneaky shots of her bosom and stomach in Teri Hee Kami Hai, just leaves one with a bad taste and serves as a reminder to all that we couldn’t leave behind.
There is no doubt that Teri Hee Kami Hai in Main Hoon Shahid Afridi is nowhere near as raw nor as racy as performances like Bollywood fan favourites, Fevicol Se, Laila and Chikni Chameli, but it is a reminder of how objectifying women is the easiest trick in the playbook.
Mahnoor Baloch is thankfully not grinding her body against Humayun Saeed’s like Mathira, but the attempt to groove is awkward, especially the black dress sequence. Does it cross into the offensive territory? No.
You only have to go through Filmazia to realise that this is a step up for local cinema. However, watching a television stalwart like Mahnoor Baloch and the fiery Mathira attempting to bring sexy back is uncomfortable. Watching the film with friends, it might amuse you. Think of it in the larger context, it leaves you feeling vulnerable.
Keeping the focus strictly on Pakistan, it is no secret that we are surrounded by rape culture. The recent gang rape of an innocent five-year-old girl in Lahore has supposedly shocked the nation (though not nearly enough or else) and yet, there are those who have questioned the character of the five-year-old. Social media is a great place to test this fact. If a woman is raped, everything about her is suddenly questionable. ‘She deserved it’ is a commonly used term by many. Newsrooms and offices, colleges and schools, villages and homes – ‘rape jokes’ are everywhere.
In such precarious times, using women as sex objects in the name of promoting a film is dicey and personally, offensive. Is this about censorship? No, and neither is it about artistic expression. It’s a question of restraint and dare I say it, self-censorship. The idea that it is harmless, no longer works in a society such as ours where women are routinely raped and then become victims of character assassination.
To say that an item song leads to such horrific behaviour is just wrong. But an item song does reduce women to objects of desire. And that is where the problem lies.
In Pakistan, women are subjected to heinous sexual assaults regularly, and the rights of women are subverted shamelessly. Should we ban such movies? Nope, but exercising some restraint on the part of producers is needed.
Imagination can go a long way. A promotional song like Ghagra, which paired off the young superstar of tomorrow, Ranbir Kapoor with the dancing diva of Hindi cinema, Madhuri Dixit in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, is a great example. It is sarcastic, playful and doesn’t feature Madhuri grinding Ranbir. Instead, they dance with flair and put a smile on your face. Such songs are perfectly fair game. But reducing actors to gyrating wannabes is just distasteful and overrated.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2013.
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