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‘Pakistan is ready for change’: Verna star Mahira Khan

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Pakistani starlet, Mahira Khan, in her latest interview with an international publication ‘The Guardian’ discussed the in-depth impact of her movie ‘Verna’ in Pakistan. She asserted that public condemnation coupled with the international outcry against the ban on her movie indicate that ‘Pakistan was ready to change’.

‘Verna’ faced an interim ban just few hours before its release as Central Board of Film Certification denied the movie their approval citing its subject as mature and content inappropriate for public screening. The public outrage in reaction cleared the path for its release.

Read more: Verna still has a chance!

International celebrities including Indian actress Deepika Padukone and Oscar-winning film director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy protested against the ban.

“I was nervous about how it would work as a film as well as the performance,” says Khan. “But about the subject matter? Never, because I stand by it. There were certain aspects of the story that people did not agree with, but not about the core message of the film.”

“What we have to bear in mind is that, yes, Verna was going to get banned because of the decision of a small minority, but [it] did not get banned because of the majority who stood up for the film. To me, that is a victory,” said Mahira Khan.

Read more: Shoaib Mansoor’s movie “Verna” blocked by censorship board?

The release of ‘Verna’ coincided with a women empowerment campaign likes ‘MeToo’ and ‘TimesUp’ that was a consolidated reaction to the increasing sexual abuse of women in the Hollywood industry.

Moreover, just a few days after its release, Pakistan and the entire world was shaken with the brutal rape and murder of a 7-year old Zainab Ansari from Kasur in Pakistan.

“It was a breaking point for society,” says Khan. “The whole nation came out on to the streets. Everyone was angry and wanted justice. There is not enough education, and we are still shaming victims and talking about the issue in terms of family honour. Pakistan is ready for a change.”

Read more: The next Oscar goes to ‘Friend’s request’

Mahira Khan is the emerging name of Pakistan’s film industry that is undergoing its revival initiated nearly a decade ago by acclaimed director Shoaib Mansoor through his movies like ‘BOL’ and ‘Khuda Kay Liye’. She stepped into the film industry with Shoaib Mansoor’s ‘BOL’ after featuring in a hit TV serial ‘Humsafar’.

Mahira Khan is currently representing Pakistan at Asian Film Festival in the UK.  She is receiving massive attention in the festival as her latest release ‘Verna’ resonates with the theme of the Film Festival this year which is to celebrate the movies and personalities that stood for women empowerment in their lives.

Read more: Pakistani Cinema’s Future: Issues beyond Raees, Mahira & Shahrukh Khan

Mahira Khan is perceived as an anchor for ‘MeToo’ movement in Pakistan. “Work-wise, since I started in the industry, I have never experienced any harassment or abuse,” she says. “Like every woman, I do have a #MeToo story; but if somebody wants to share something personal, they should do it when they want to, not because there is a movement or someone else is talking about it.”

Mahira Khan credited her upbringing and family support that encouraged her to take decision empowering her.  As a single mother, she believes herself to be an “anomaly in Pakistan”. She hopes to break that traditional setup that victimizes women in Pakistan.

Read more: Fawad Khan makes online media debut with new web series

“We are very quick to make generalizations about people – all Muslims are terrorists, all Pakistani women are oppressed, all Pakistani men are abusing them. The only reason people do that is that they don’t care enough to take the time to find out more. It’s all: ‘Did you hear someone was raped in Pakistan, did you know the rape statistics in India, did you know the guy who bombed that place was Muslim?’ and a whole country is judged based on that.”

“Because of this, I feel that I don’t just represent me, I represent every woman in Pakistan. I may not wear a hijab or have made the same choices, but there is a whole spectrum of women in Pakistan and I feel that I represent them.”

Read more: Program on Pakistani cinema…!

Mahira Khan’s movie ‘Verna’ will be screened for the audiences on 18th March in the Asian Film Festival UK.

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