A powerful film


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The other day I was able to see a very powerful film at our local film festival. The film was ‘Bol’, the Pakistani film directed by Shoib Manzoor. I have not seen his acclaimed ‘Khuda kay liye’ and was not sure what to except of ‘Bol’, but was overwhelmed.

The story unfolds as Zainab (Humaima Malick) tells her life history to the media, minutes before being sentenced to death. Zainab’s father is Hakim Saab (Manzar Zehbai), a traditional Physician and a very stubborn, proud, conservative and devout Sunni Muslim. Zainab is the eldest amongst half a dozen daughters of Hakim Saab. The father badly needed a son as successor, but the son he finally gets was a eunuch. As the son Saifee (Amr Kashmiri) grows up with his sisters, the father tries his best to ignore his ‘shameful’ presence in the family.

Independent thinking Zainab could not digest the fact that her father refuses birth control and girls continued to be born to the impoverished family. When she was married off to another poor family, she was adamant about not having children until the family could afford to feed them. Her husband’s family was not progressive enough for that and she had to return to her house.

With the decline of feudal system, the role of traditional physician became less and less in the society and Hakim Saab became more and more poor. But his vanity and pride only became stronger, especially in relation to women of the house and family honour. He never allows women of the house to study or work.
Though a devout follower of religion, Hakim Saab did not have qualms in killing his eunuch son to save the ‘honour’ of his family. Also to save his skin from Police he was ‘sinful’ enough to give a big bribe, the money coming from the fund given to him for safe keeping for building a mosque. Unemployed, he was forced to get a job of teaching Quran to kids of a brothel run by Shia Muslims, whom he detested.
When the Mosque building Committee asked for the funds, Hakim Saab had to approach the Brothel owner. He was ready to give the sum, but in return he wanted Hakim Saab to sire a girl child through one of the courtesan.
Thus the devout and proud Sunni Hakim is ‘marrying’ a Shia sex worker younger than his daughter. At the same time he was stubborn enough to refuse a marriage proposal from a doctor who was in love with one of his daughters, just because the groom was Shia. Zainab helps her sister to elope with her lover.

When a girl child was born to him via the courtesan, the issue of family ‘honour’ again begin to haunt Hakim. Not wanting the child to be left at the brothel he unsuccessfully tries to rescue her. Later when the child was brought to his house by her mother herself, he accepts it, but tries to kill it when the owner of the brothel comes with thugs to take it away.

The film shows how religion and patriarchy combine together to make the life of women a hell. Whether it is the wife of Hakim Saab, or the daughters, or the eunuch son, or the women in the brothel, or the new born girl child, each one of them is severely exploited by the male dominated society. Religion gives the philosophical basis for such exploitation. At the same time, for the old patriarch of the film, the devout Hakim Saab, religion was not a barrier to kill, to bribe, to steal money from public fund, to be on the pay roll of a Shia brothel owner and even to marry a young courtesan.
The film ends deliberately in a fairy tale way, showing how easily women can empower and look after themselves when the patriarchal control is removed.

Though technically the film is not perfect, its powerful script more than compensates for the deficiencies.
The loud and clear message from this film is that the fight against patriarchy can never be won without fighting its religious props.

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10 thoughts on “A powerful film

  1. Both the movies by this director have been amazing, and surprisingly, popular too. I think most people can sense all the double standards and hypocrisies here and how much harm these do… the saddest is the way lives of adult, capable women were controlled by one person quite incapable of even providing for them, let alone encourage them to fulfill their aspirations and live their lives…

  2. Arun,
    I would like to refute your last statement.
    I hate debates and being travelled painstakingly from ‘blind rationalism’ to the most ‘Rational belief systems’ I do respect ‘choices’ unless it crosses the line of hypocrisy.
    In my journey from ‘Questioning everything’ to ‘practicing sincerity’ I deliberately had closer look at most of the religions and isms.
    I do agree with you that patriarchy had ruined almost all aspects of Religion, not to mention ‘ women’.
    but, to my surprise, I found that ISLAM is the only ideology which gives women the ‘RIGHT RIGHTS’. It also taught me that no ideology should be learned/understood from it’s followers ignoring the ‘sources’.
    Again this not to invite or ignite a debate. Only a sincere ‘sharing’ and healthy ‘discussions’

    • Dr Anwar, welcome here. Your views will be obviously questioned here using the ‘sources’ itself. If you are ready for that please explain what you meant by Right rights?

      • Thank you Arun,
        Again I’m afraid such discussions shouldn’t drift human minds apart.
        For me Religion, GOD, life, death.. are very simple. It’s One and the same everywhere and for everyone.
        Any ideology should be practicable in day to day lives of

      • Anwar, Discussions and debates only enrich us. Why should it make ppl drift apart? I am still waiting for your explanation on what u meant by ‘Right Rights’ for women, You started this discussion by refuting my statement. Now why you are against discussions?

      • Dr Anwar the problem with every religion is the same, the interpretations often end up harming the society, children and women – like we see in this movie. All religions are controlled by Patriarchal interpreters and they tend to be biased in their own favor.

        The followers are empowered and happy in some places and oppressed in some other places; sometimes even in the same society, we can see some people thriving and some being controlled almost like prisoners (like in this movie) – all following the same religion (Applies to all religions, not any one). So it seems, instead of helping, supporting, setting free, empowering, enriching their lives etc – specially in case of women, everywhere we find that religion seems to have empowered the interpreters but weakened the followers – although it’s more obvious in case of women but patriarchal norms, supported unintentionally by religion, harm everybody, men and children too.

  3. Religion becomes ugly when there is injustice against a section of the society, be it women, child or just another human being only since he/she does not belong to the religion.

    How easily religion justifies such injustice! and for what reason? does the world become any better for these injustice? has it made evryone happier? If there is God a creator who made this wonderful world, then he wanted his creations to enjoy it without any barrier…

    Sorry for the lament….

    but let me thank for those who have their eyes and hearts opened and not closed to such injustice.. there could still be hope…

    but let us thank people who have their eyes and hearts opened wide..

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