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Movies on women, for women, by women


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Pakistani actress Sarwat Gilani has had a good year thanks to the monumental success of Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2. The actress who reprised her role as Gul in the Naeem Baig films must be on cloud 9 given the reception JPNA 2 received. And after starring in the biggest Pakistani hit ever made, Gilani now wants to do more than just sit and let others tell her what to do.

Speaking to BBC Urdu’s Fifi Haroon, Gilani revealed that her interests in the Pakistani film industry don’t just end with acting. Gilani wants to start a film collective about women which features women in front of and behind the scenes. Although this task seems tough for women in Pakistani film industry, Gilani seems eager to change that.

“Aamina, Sanam, Mahira and I are friends, and we’re on the same page mentally. We all want to do something for women,” Sarwat said. “We were speaking about making films on women, for women, by women. We are trying to break the stereotypical bounds and the roles given to women. It’s our responsibility to think for society and women. It is a difficult task because there’s not a lot of support.”

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“We have rich friends, people who want to invest in films. We each bring 10 people, we start with four films. The topics can be about men and women, but we want to [create a set culture where] camerawomen are also present and women are hired as spot boys too,” Gillani said.

Sadly this change won’t come too easily. Gilani revealed that JPNA initially planned to include more female power: “They said our people aren’t ready for female-centric cinema yet. The unfortunate thing is that men take their families to watch films in the cinema, they want to see themselves as heroes. There are very few people who would think beyond themselves, think of society, think of the woman to come after her.

There are very few people to do this. It’s a difficult undertaking in itself because channels don’t support this, individual producers don’t support this, we keep talking about it but we have to build a platform.”

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Considering that most of the TV series airing currently in Pakistan are about women it is in fact mind boggling that there aren’t more women behind the scenes as it is and the fact that films having female leads supposedly can’t be hits has been an age old industry myth that needs to be dispelled altogether.

The exact same comments were said to defend the lack of female films in Hollywood a few years back despite there being hits like The Hunger Games already out in the world. Even more damning is the fact that many Indian films that get released in Pakistan feature prominent female leads.

In fact the A-list actresses are the often ones who are featured more in promotional material for such films (remember how Deepika Padukone was essentially the sole face for Padmavat’s promotional campaign) and given their success it does seem like that it is less an issue of gender than choosing the right story and producing it right. We wish Gilani and her sisters in arms all the best!

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