Pakistan is a fledgling democracy they say. A fancy word for a controlled democracy, me thinks. If I say more, either this story or me (it depends on my editor) could go missing. So, let’s stay on this side of the isle. For all his faults President Zardari, would be remembered as a visionary having overseen the passing of 18th amendment. The impact on our lives would be evident in years to come. My focus in this article however, is films. The censor board for Pakistan lost its relevance post 18 amendment. Provincial boards had to be formed. So far, Sindh and Punjab had formed theirs. But slowly they have lost all relevance, as the Federal board has perhaps unconstitutionally asserted its authority. Mr. Hasan Zaidi did a detailed piece on this. That can be read here
I am unable to pinpoint who decides what, and who these supposed guardians of our molarity are. Let’s just go beyond who and look at the why. The authorities given the responsibility to keep our cinemas halal are a curious bunch of people. Look at this example: Padman (thus far) has been denied NOC for release in Pakistan. After 5 days of the actual release of the movie, the information ministry claims that the film hasn’t been reviewed. Whatever, the case this film is not in cinemas.
A man changed the lives of women across India, he made them aware of their unhygienic practices. He found a way to provide them with affordable sanitary napkins. But let’s not share that story because it has something to do with #MenstrualHygiene. Tobah! # padman #menstrualman
— Sanam Saeed (@sanammodysaeed) February 10, 2018
Here is my theory about these people; their strategy for film releases is same as our general way of dealing with women sanitary products. They, somehow believe that if films are banned in cinema, no one will see it or even hear about it. But the truth is, this film will be seen recorded with dodgy cameras as people walks past in cinema, viewed online, or shown on cable. Under cover, under hand, wrapped around in some form of concealment. We all know about it, some subscribe to it but in a dark alley of streaming sights or illegally running cable channels.
May be if it’s banned, people won’t know it exists.
Isn’t this the same way people deal with women sanitary products in our country? It is there, natural circle, we all know about it but half the population shall never see for what it is. It won’t harm us, if we don’t talk about it. If you are a male, (like me), what do you know about such products as opposed to say a women’s lipstick? Have you ever been asked by a female family member to buy a pack? Even when women buy these products, it’s done in secrecy, wrapped in brown paper bags (research based). What’s the shame and stigma attached to it? Why hasn’t my wife (it’s been 7 months we have lived together) ever mentioned it? She asks periodically for stuff to be bought but never those products. My mother hasn’t either in 29 years. Why has the society built a wall between us?
May be if we never mention it, people won’t know it exists.
Just the idea of Padman makes me wonder of this inherent misogyny engrained within me. Someone who would accept the label of being a feminist or a liberal. Films are supposed to make you think, and Padman has done it for me. Much the real life hero, Arunachalam Muruganantham. Our authorities don’t want us to think perhaps.
It’s quite ironic that a film that deals with people’s unease of women sanitary products, has been banned/banished before release in Pakistan. For someone who has Dysmorphophobia, I am not entirely comfortable with this subject matter. But the large scale expulsion is not due to Dysmorphophobia. It’s due to women oppression. In a country like ours, (similarly in India), majority of women either face difficulties getting out of their homes or are banished from doing so. They can’t ask their male family members either. Something which very much is a basic human need, cannot be looked after because society think of it as a taboo.
Time to talk about it, time to change it. It’s wonderful that Sanam Saeed and Armeena Khan have come out and said what a lot of people may be thinking privately.