Shame on me for championing Veena Malik

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No, I’m not writing to bash Veena Malik for showing too much cleavage, saying sex before marriage is cool or any of the 20,000 things Pakistanis habitually bash her for. I have actually been a part of ‘Team Veena’ – a big fan of this bold, outspoken woman who seemed (unlike the rest of this nation) to keep it real, even in the face of fame and celebdom.

No more so I am afraid.

If you haven’t watched the clip above, let me narrate what happens in it.

VEENA MALIK MINI-EXORCIST EPISODE SCRIPT

Veena Malik receives a call-in on her show ‘Astaghfaar’ on Hero TV (a call that is about as authentic as the show is classy). The caller is a young woman calling from Karachi who says she is living alone. What a terrible thing, says Veena, who asks for the woman’s age and marital status.

“I’m 24” says the audibly distraught woman.

“And you haven’t married yet?” asks Veena.

The caller goes on to describe a broken home, while Veena nods knowingly until it is revealed that black magic is the cause of the woman’s current distress.

*Cue fake gasp and cross-over to token maulvi*

What we have next is just outrageous. We viewers are moved from fairly run-of-the-mill religious filler by the maulvi to the caller freaking out, screaming and “being possessed by a demon” as the maulvi informs us.

(Controlled) pandemonium breaks loose, with Veena standing up, freaking out and calling on her team to “check” if the caller is okay (rather than say, dropping the call immediately – or say, editing out the entire call so it never airs).

Next we get a mini-episode of The Exorcist, with brave maulvi sahib engaging with the ‘demon’ with such enlightened remarks as:

“Who are you? Are you Muslim or Hindu?”

(To which the demon replies “I’m not Muslim”)

“Leave now, or we will burn you” (burn who? The possessed woman?)

“How dare you as a non-Muslim Hindu try to enter our Muslim sister? Aren’t you ashamed”

“I’ll just call for a stick and break your bones (Whose bones? The woman’s?)

The call drops. Veena sighs – a mixture of relief and fear.

“We’ll be back after the commercial, friends” she says…

Veena, I get it.

You’re in show business, and this is your job. Read the script, play out the role and give it your best. It’s really my fault for assuming you actually stood for things above and beyond your role as an actor.

Forgive me, some of your previous interviews and actions had me fooled.

I assumed you actually found religious dogma that tries to keep women in bondage, nay, beat them under the guise of superstitious nonsense something that is foul and condemnable.

I assumed you were in India as part of a larger gesture to show that you had no beef with a nation’s creed – that ‘Hindu’ was not a foul, demonic, evil thing.

I assumed you were, at some level, keeping an eye on what you would or would not be willing to do in the name of fame and fortune i.e. drop a show, drop a script, or even the much smaller, drop a segment you disagreed with at some fundamental level.

I assumed you would never be sitting across from a jaahil maulvi play-acting to the lowest common denominator in our already befuddled and fearful society. I expect such a display from Baba Welfare (exorcist extraordinaire) or Alim Junaib Bengali, but I guess I can expect the same from you too.

I’d say shame on you, but really, shame on me.

My only request would be: in the future, when a woman is crippled, maimed, raped or murdered in an exorcism ritual (and that happens often) think about the impact of the show you ran. The next time you hear of a violent act against a Hindu family in Pakistan, or that entire families are migrating to India seeking refuge from a nation filled with hate – think about this segment you were a part of, and the message it sent out.

Published in Tribune Blogs.

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