Blonde Sedition

Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment

No spoliers given.

Bombshell

A 2019 release Bombshell directed by Jay Roach, gives you the most honest insight to every single woman on a war. War with themselves and with the world to tolerate the perpetual non-consensual flirt, demeaning remarks, casual bullying and of course the sexual harassment. Those whose eyes flicker in bewilderment, those who walk sternly with back straight head high and even those who use boyish clothes as a defense mechanism. The plausible cinematography gives you enough time to not only notice each one of them but also feel the horror of sexual harassment, the degradation that seeps into body and soul. 

The film achieves its proficiency point, when the frame captures the three main leads together in an elevator with the most piercing silence giving the most blatant depiction of women with icy smiles, iron ambitions and high heels, all going through same trauma yet so painstakingly quiet. Where Kayla played by Margot Robbie has just been warned not to talk about the sexual advancements made by her boss who also happens to be a 71-year-old Fox News Channel CEO Roger Ailes and therefore remain completely oblivious for her own good. Her walking down to the elevator is supported by a background score with haunting “all women voices” as instrumentation to emphasize despite several victims just like her, how alone she is on this walk.  

Left to right: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie as Kyla Pospisil

Where objectifying woman by forcing them to show legs and wear accentuatingly body tight clothes for rating coupled with degrading sexual remarks has perhaps become a norm for women to accept in all workspaces. Here, Bombshell becomes a revolution and not just a well-crafted movie. It carves out heroines out of characters that some in audience will see as deeply compromised if not outright villainous. It shatters the deeply ingrained image of womanhood as apologetic, meek and reserved. With only female leads played by Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie “Bombshell” as the title suggests is a firecracker conceived in an 1hr 48 min long reel. 

Bombshell. The elevator scene.

Pick one.

I believe language lacks power to describe faith. And you must land on faith before you can even begin to hike around the flip side, betrayal. What a loss. To have that much faith in someone only to find out that they are a stranger. A stranger who leaves you with deeply embedded wounds which can never seem to heal. Betrayal you can never forgive. Or can you? Here, life presents you with two options. To either become spineless or be heartless for the rest of your life. So, which one are you willing to be? 

Sketch.

Obsession for perfection

The Black Swan


Obsession. What is obsession? The obsession for perfection. Is it intuitive? Or is it a feeling? Is it bad? If yes, then why does it make you do extraordinary things?

There is a fine line between being passionate about something or be simply obsessed. Obsessed to achieve perfection in everything. Unfortunately, with that comes great tragedies. Constant fear of failing. Agonized over not achieving things at the right time. Health deterioration. Loss of loved ones. The price you pay to reach that level of perfection is too high. So, the question remains unanswered. Is it all worth it?

Hence, in the era of over specialization, strive for excellence, rat races and American dreams, there are a few movies which help us realize the sacrifices we need to make along the way and the cost we must pay for such one dimensionally skewed obsessive need for perfection, and even make us wonder whether all this want for super saturated perfection is even worth it.

There is no better example than Black swan. An artistic masterpiece, 2010 release of the psychological thriller genre. Directed by Darren Aronotsky starring Natalie Portman as a multilayered complexed yet so fragile Nina. The plot revolves around the complexity Nina faces to play parallel characters of the innocent delicate white swan and the oh so seductively vicious black swan both at once.


Nina has shown to develop several disorders in her obsession for perfection coupled with unfavorable environment. From her co-dependent relationship with her mother to her blatant competitor, Lily. With strong sexual advances from her director Nina falls prey to delusional disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and acute anorexia. She is so indulged in the desperation to achieve finesse in her role as swan in the much-anticipated show, Swan Lake that she eventually loses track of reality. She yearns so badly for the approval of her director and the urge to fill the void of unfulfilled dreams of her mother that in the process she loses her own self.

The film shows her slow descent into psychotic madness as she drains herself in pursuit of perfection. She is now greedy for all the praise as she wants nothing more from life. It is perhaps the most disturbingly honest depiction of such a desire. The desire to be perfect.

However, the film ends with a grand applause for Nina and that moment where all eyes are on her, people chanting her name, wanting for more, that very moment remains priceless. Making you wonder that maybe it was all worth it.

“The film can be perceived as a metaphor for the birth of an artist, that is, as a visual representation of Nina’s psychic odyssey towards achieving artistic perfection and the price to be paid for it.”

Darren Aronotsky

“I don’t have any feelings you can hurt.”

Detachment

A 2011 release, Detachment by Tony Kaye starring Adrian Brody as a 31-year-old tortured soul struggling to connect with his students at a public high school. A contrived story, with one dimensional character giving blood and tear-soaked depths.  

In the world of Detachment, students are mean, profanity addicted nihilists, teachers are sad sacks or menace and Brody is often seen engaged in various acts of sadness. He cries on public bus, faces claustrophobic flashbacks of past trauma left untreated. Brody is all of us when he dreads the dingy dim lighted streets at night as his fear of facing inner demons prevails. His anguish escalates beyond comprehension when he is forced into an argument. It is extremely relatable when his urge to lend an empathetic hand to any distressed soul around him is often contradicted with his natural affinity of staying “detached”. When it is just simply hard for him to get through the day. Perhaps every day. 

With crude chalk on board animations, awkward closeups and disturbingly thought-provoking photographs throughout the movie, Detachment becomes a thought process more than just a moving picture. Below are some personal favorite quotes from the movie. 


You may see me but I am hollow.”


“We all need something to distract us from the complexity of reality.


“There should be a prerequisite, a curriculum for being a parent before people attepmt.”

“A child’s intelligent heart can fathom the depth of many dark places, but can it fathom the delicate moment of its own detachment?”

— Henry Barthes.

Free Spirited

Gender-based violence has reached outrageous proportions due to an encouraging gender-biased social system, which has endorsed the construction of a tradition of silencing the issue and the victims with the help of a series of agents involved in propagating this tradition. Nevertheless, it is exactly the tradition of silence, which proves that the witnesses and the victims of male violence are prevented from revealing their victimization. More precisely, the fact that the number of the authors who have approached this delicate question is insignificant in relation to the number of crimes (reported or unreported), suggests that speaking about gender-based violence represents an exception. Apart from extraordinary cases of three south-Asian female writers who grapple in their novels with different manifestation of male violence against women. These women have crafted the intricacies of stated social issues in an absolutely surreal way. There is a plenty of vivid and forceful writing, each paragraph gives birth to the next and next. Naming, 

  1.  God of small things by Arundhati Roy 
  1. The bride by Bapsi Sidhwa 
  1. My feudal lord by Tehmina Durrani  

 Sidhwa pens down the smothering rules of repressive lifestyle and the harsh, lonely plight of a woman among the Northern tribes. Routed by centuries of ruthless pride “The bride” unveils the fetid female tenure of endurance and the suppressed, violent sexuality of the men.  
God of small things by Arundhati Roy. The novel clearly shows the untold miseries and the undeserved sufferings of women who have to bear the brunt of male domination silently and meekly. Roy shows how a woman in patriarchy set up yearns for pleasure and happiness and life far from shackles and constraints.  

Tehmina Durrani with her novel “My feudal lord” gives perhaps the most authentic insight into the archaic feudal attitude that has dominated the political configuration in Pakistan since inception. Durrani paints the grotesque image of the reality where women seeking justice are treated in the most alienated manner by their own parents, acquaintances and the society of course.  

Lawless

In a land where pride and wrath are nurtured from boyhood, routed by centuries of ruthlessness, submerged beneath the hard toil, buried in a way of life that would afford no sentiment, there not even a spark of pity can fight through. What have women done to endure such grotesque retribution? To be murdered, raped, exploited, enslaved, to get importunely impregnated, beaten up, bullied, disinherited? Is it the immutable law of nature? Or are we simply the victim of a vendetta?

Another day another woman screeches for justice, venting her hopeless fury, the image of such heinous act leaves her with nothing but self-loathing. Little does she know in world where subtle expressions of grief were misconstrued, men dominant in all spheres are jealous of our supremacy in sorrow. They shall now lament the loudest.

Lawless

Somewhere between docile and a doormat.

When to say no? How to say no? How much of suffering is heroic? And who decides this? Is being submissive the new “kind”? Are you being patient or are you just a doormat? Does it hurt? If yes, why do you chose to remain silent?

It is as if the breeze sways with poisonous air suffocating the idea of self worth and the intolerable burden of these questions just never wafts from my shoulders. My idea of self protection is often clouded when the constant endurance of barbarism is not only nurtured but praised. Women are essentially raised in an environment where they are expected to be obsequiously docile. And within a blink of eye this docility starts promoting a doormat behaviour. This is as if the immutable law of nature.

On contrary, women who are able to stand up for themselves, put their own needs before others, say “NO” blatantly to things which come across as unacceptable to them are often labelled as selfish and uncompromising “Alpha female”. Undeniably society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are demanding, successful, self sufficient, and unyielding. They are career oriented and always tend to prioritise their own well being.

However, I fail miserably to comprehend the antithetical attitude towards the change and the assumptions that this “new crop of alpha female” has lost touch to their feminine side and are simply incapable of nurturing. I refuse to accept this statement. It is totally possible for a woman to be both a leader and a wife. They are like the ocean, strong enough to not be destroyed and gentle enough so others find solace in their presence.

No, constant endurance of mistreatment is not heroic. Speaking up when something is hurting should be norm. Shape every companionship of yours in a way where you are respected and not taken for granted. Build a space where burden of bad patch is shared. A place where you feel safe and have the liberty to speak your own mind. Our tormented protests should not be in a timid defensive manner but loud, clear and open.

Shackled Feet

Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Member of the Order of the British Empire, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Lenin Peace Prize awardee, was an influential left-wing intellectual, revolutionary and one of the most regarded poets of the Urdu language, being considered four times for the Nobel Prize in poetry.

He wrote ‘Aaj baazar mein pa ba jaulan chalo’ in 1959 when he was imprisoned under Ayub Khan’s martial law. He was taken to the Lahore fort’s torture cell passing through the streets of Lahore in a horse driven cart with his fetters on.


Poem.


Aaj bāzār mein pa-ba-jauloñ na chalo

Chashm-nam jān-e-shorīda kaafī nahīñ
Tohmat-e-ishq-e-poshīda kaafī nahīñ

Aaj bāzār mein pa-ba-jauloñ na chalo

Dast-afshāñ chalo, mast o raqsāñ chalo
Khāk-bar-sar chalo, ḳhūñ-ba-dāmāñ chalo
Raah taktā hai sab shahr-e-jānāñ chalo

Un kā dam-sāz apne sivā kaun hai
Shahr-e-jānāñ meñ ab bā-safā kaun hai
Dast-e-qātil ke shāyāñ rahā kaun hai

Raḳht-e-dil bāñdh lo dil-figāro chalo
Phir hamīñ qatl ho aa.eñ yaaro chalo

Translation.

Come, lets walk today in the bazaar shackled feet
Your teary monsoon eyes, distressed soul is not enough
The allegation of love is no longer hidden
So come lets walk today in the bazaar shackled feet
Walk, swinging your arms. Walk, dancing feet
Come despite head being covered with dust, clothes being stained with blood
Come, your beloved city is waiting for you
City’s rulers and crowd of commoners
Arrows of slander and the stones of insults await you
Come despite a morning of sorrow, day of failure
Who is there for them if not you?
Who in your beloved city can still be trusted?
Who else is right for the sword of executioner?
So gather up the burdens of heart, come despite wounded heart
Let us be murdered, come my beloved.


Urdu” remains by far the most profound and expressive language of all times in subcontinent. In addition to vocabulary , Urdu poetry has also acquired its richness from Persian language. Perhaps similarities in culture and religion helped to absorb Persian traditions. The main theme of this poem is defiance against compliance and submissiveness. There is a burning desire in a confined soul to be free of restrictions exploitation and injustice. The poem’s beauty is wrapped in two parallel worlds, one where the deeply embedded agony is ready to fight all norms while the other feels so failed and distressed.

The verses reflect the pinnacle of a souls helplessness that he is even willing to face public ridicule and wrath of the powerful for his love. He no longer wishes to live in a world where love is considered as gruesome sin. He is sick and tired of the restraints and limits placed by the society and those who have power; political masters, social order, age of old traditions, the religious establishment and the society at large. The teary eyes, restive soul is a symbol of enduring the hardship in silence. Walking in bazaar (market) with shackles on, blood on sleeves and dust on head symbolizes the protest against repressive forces and exploitation of society.

The poet grieves as he knows that his truth will not prevail and that all those who would take a stand are now corrupted and he does not find a single pure soul (ba sifa). Finally he gets ready to offer the supreme sacrifice for his cause.
A poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz followed by a beautiful rendition by Nayyara Noor remains undoubtly a masterpiece. Moves every soul, touches all hearts and remains a beckon of hope for all those who endeavour to seek justice.

Sketch.

Consent.

“21st century” age of modernity, era of self sufficiency, promoter of living on your own terms, supporter of independent lifestyle and yet remains undoubtly obscure, narrow minded and intolerant towards the word “consent

To me it is not just a word. It is a intuitive feeling. It is about having wings and the liberty to fly on your own. It is the right to breathe and yet how brazenly it is ignored in the eyes of every single soul? How come it still remains so alien?
Indian cinema may be going places, but its portrayal of women, especially in mainstream movie has been stereotypical for way too long. Along the way, it has spawned a culture of prejudice and misogyny.

With background full of melodious songs, intoxicating your senses, taking you into completely new and surreal world. As you sway your head in sheer joy in accordance with the melody you realise how disgustingly sexist are the lyrics.

Films are being sold by objectifying women. This begins with posters and goes onto “item songs” that are used to titillate viewers into watching the film. Women here are merely used as props while men portray a character full of purpose with a rugged look. “Houseful” a recent release has a song titled “chumma toh banta hai” which says “I deserve a kiss” in reference to the “hero” saving the woman. Movie “dar” a violent love story where the man is obsessed with his perceived lover, carves her name on his wrist with a knife and eventually kidnaps her to forcefully get married. Not forgetting a blockbuster hit at box office making 100’s of crores movie “ Kabir Singh” revolves around the a man child who wants to control his girlfriends life. Normalizing drug abuse, threats, yelling, shouting, snorting and drinking at work, and hence assuaging his libido with crass directness and still being labelled as a “lover”. Another movie “Raanjhanaa” portrays a character of an obsessive lover who slits his wrist amidst a crowd when the girl refuses his proposal. He later continues to stalk her and eventually kills her fiancée.

There is fine line between reflecting what is there in society, showing what misogyny is, and glorifying it. Lyrics promoting stalking, invading personal space and rationalizing toxic masculinity is something not to be accepted. It naturally raises eyebrows when failed couples are romanticised in the utmost melodramatic manner. Extravagant grandeur hides the fetid smell of forceful behaviour and patriarchy becomes a norm.

The fragile egos, misogynistic approach and narcissistic attitude is not only cattered but praised. Contradicting abusive nature with being a persistent lover is what clouds sense of judgement and perception. It strangles the idea of pure romance. Expecting your choices, your body, your emotions to be respected and taken in account should not be a dilemma but a lifestyle a norm.


I made this sketch to picture the agony and a feeling of helplessness that women go through while facing this delimma.

Womanhood.

Akhri station

MUJHE APNE JEENE KA HAQ CHAHIYE
WOH ZAMEEN JIS PE MERE QADAM TIK SAKAIN
AUR SAR PE KUSHAADA FALAK CHAHIYE
MUJHE APNE JEENE KA HAQ CHAHIYE
TU MERA PERAHAN, MAIN TERA PERAHAN
RAHBAR TU MERA, CHARAHGAR MAIN TERI
NA MAIN BAANDI KISI KI NA JAAGEER HOON
HUMNAFAS HOON TERI, HUMSAFAR HOON TERI
JIS PE MIL KAR CHALAIN WOH SARAK CHAHIYE
ROSHNI KA KHAZAANA MERI GODH HAI
MUJHKO TAALEEM DO, MUJHKO TAAZEEM DO
HAR RUKAWAT SE NIKLE GA KHUD RAASTA
MUJHKO APNE BARABAR KI TAKREEM DO
KITNI SADIYON SE MAIN DHOONDTI HOON USAY
IK WOH BASTI JAHAN MUJH SE INSAAF HO
BEYBASI AUR TASHADDUD SE YAKSAR ALAG
AIK AISI FAZA JO KE SHAFFAF HO
AINEY KO MERE AB CHAMAK CHAHIYE

To all the women belonging to different social class, status, age group and yet being united by fate. To women being subject to severe degradation and vile behaviour of society. To broken dreams, shattered confidence and lost hopes. To weeping eyes hiding their faces trying desperately to erase the suffocating memory of betrayal. To scars deeply embedded in souls, to the silent endurement of barbarism.
“ ye un aurton ke naam jinhon ne mushqilon ke agey sar jhukana nahi seekha”
A poem by Amjad Islam Amjad. Inspired by Akhri Station, written by Amna Mufti spun around the troubled lives of seven women raising question about deeply rooted social issues. Drug abuse. Domestic violence. Forced prostitution. Post traumatic stress disorder. Acid attack. Sexual assault and more.
I demand respect, a sense of worth, space for personal values, air to breathe, end to unjust heinous treatment for every woman as she is a human being too.