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Lonely woman on the loose

By Haris Afzal on Saturday, January 29, 2011 with 0 comments

We columnists might not look trendy in our photographs, but in reality we are a pretty trendy lot. We follow trends like clockwork, and revel in how they develop and reach their logical conclusions. So when a submission deadline is looming large on our heads and an empty computer screen is staring blankly at our yawning faces, then it’s the weekly trends that come to our rescue and save the day.

And this week the trend is to hop onto the Veena Malik controversy bandwagon, and simply refuse to get off it. So, please, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to do the same and add my own two bits to the most amusing debate of the year 2011.

And for those of you who haven’t heard of it already, here is how it goes.

A TV anchor who himself happens to be the son of a famous film star of the Pakistani cinema, invites one Veena Malik, aka Zahida Malik, of the same Pakistani cinema, pits her against an enraged Mufti Sahib, not of the Pakistani cinema, and together the three of them talk about Iqbal’s vision of Pakistan, the Two Nations Theory and the varying implications of kissing in public (all outside the scope of Pakistani cinema).

I mean, for God’s sake, people, don’t you have anything better to do?

Now, having uttered this fake declaration of intellectual outrage, I have done my duty of raising my voice against the frivolity of our media, and can safely move on to expressing my real opinion about the whole thing.

The truth is that pitting the Mufti Sahib against Veena Malik was a brilliant idea, and I loved every minute of it.

Not only was it ridiculous to the core, and thus entertaining to the hilt, but it also served as a much-needed opportunity for two representative ends of our increasingly polarised society to at least face one another and air their grievances.

The main thrust of the debate was to have a religious scholar hold a Pakistani film actress accountable for her alleged un-Islamic conduct at a reality TV show in India. Where the host just sat there, trying to look serious and obviously bursting with carefully suppressed glee at the raging argument all around him, the Mufti Sahib appeared patronising with his elder-brother act and his obvious disdain for Veena Malik. Veena, on the other hand, despite the theatrics and heavily stretched vowels, overpowered them all and, at points, literally shut them up with rhetoric about her status of a lonely woman on the loose.

There could be divergent views on the very nature of the debate itself. A lot of us believe that it was beneath a religious scholar’s dignity to discuss these frivolous issues in the context of some highly esteemed religious ideologies. Others think it was in bad taste for Ms Malik to bring in references to religion in contexts too frivolous and non-serious, especially when some of her own basic concepts appeared to be quite ill-conceived in nature.

To be honest, being a critic of all things loud and obnoxious, and being somewhat of a conservative in my own religious views as well, I had really wanted for the Mufti Sahib to win this debate. Unfortunately, my only regret is how the Mufti Sahib blew this opportunity by not talking about things that could have been talked about, and by raising those points that did little to win him his argument.

I mean, I can understand what the host was trying to do for his ratings by inviting Veena Malik on his show and raising controversy. I also understand what Veena Malik was trying to do for her ratings by looking drop-dead gorgeous and shedding tears all over the place on a television show. But what I don’t understand is what the Mufti Sahib was trying to do, and for whose ratings, by bringing in references to Iqbal’s dreams and the Two Nations Theory and expecting Veena Malik, the confirmed nonconformist, to have lived up to all of them. Really, Sir, talk about high expectations!

Veena Malik, being true to herself, turned another side of the absurd and talked about cooking, hugging and giving massages to uphold the image of a peace-loving Pakistan. She even brought in a CD with images of her dupatta clad praying activity in order to counter the images of her swimsuit clad frolicking activity. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why I loved this debate. This is so Pakistani and so US!

In fact, if there ever was a metaphor for how confused we are about our so-called ideologies, the so-called liberalism, and the so-called taboos, this debate was one such thing.

And, grudgingly, I must admit that Veena Malik might be an overcharged bundle of rhetoric and theatrics, but the girl is downright brave, if nothing else.

I mean, look at how she confidently pulled off her damsel-in-distress act in the presence of two belligerent males, and stood her ground in the face of religiously motivated confrontation. Right or wrong, logical or illogical, standing true to what she believed in on a public forum, being fully aware of the consequences in the light of the recent extremist events in the country, was in itself quite a big feat to achieve.

The Mufti Sahib, on the other hand. could have done more to counter her ill-conceived notions rather than patronising her by calling her his sister and then degrading her for what she rightly declared herself to be: a representative of the entertainment industry; nothing more, nothing less.

One noticeable aspect of the whole debate was how the gender card was played by both the parties to prove their point. For example, the Mufti Sahib repeatedly asked Veena Malik if she believed she could see her objectionable photographs in the company of her brothers or sons, while Veena Malik repeatedly asserted how she was nothing but a mere woman alone in the world of men.

I think that Mufti Sahib’s point about cultural acceptance of Veena’s behaviour could have been made with reference to female relatives or the family unit in general, and Veena’s arguments could have stood firm without the reference to her gender.

But, then, I must concede that nothing scares more than the threat of a judgmental male, and nothing sells more than the image of a lonely woman on the loose. And together they make a case for higher ratings and more carefully suppressed glee.

Category: Opinion



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