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KARACHI: In the midst of a reviving cinema industry, the movie Motorcycle Girl was hailed as a long overdue progressive narrative that empowers women, while at the same time introducing to audiences the true strength of Pakistani women.

On Monday, the team that worked on Motorcycle Girl was present at a panel discussion organised by Uks to talk about the genesis of the project and how it has changed people’s perception with regards to empowering women.

Motorcycle Girl is inspired by the life of Zenith Irfan, who made multiple bike journeys through the northern regions of the country, and the film was directed and written by Adnan Sarwar with Sohai Ali Abro in the lead role. Alongside the two, senior actor Shamim Hilali was also present.

According to Sarwar, the project was a difficult one to sell to financers as most would claim that audiences would not be able to accept the absence of a male lead character, and thus the movie would not be a commercial success.

“Ironically, the entire film was made possible primarily because of the female cast and crew who took it upon themselves to ensure that the movie was made.”

The cast, including Sohai and Shamim, agreed to work for the movie without money.

Sarwar also shared how after the movie was released he received photos of proud and beaming fathers teaching their young daughters how to ride a bike.

He explained that though the onus to transform society is not just on the media, he hopes that his film can make a small contribution towards a more progressive society.

Sohai lamented that scripts similar to Motorcycle Girl were not being written in the industry.

“When I first read the script, I was surprised that a man had written it as it was very sensitively written and took into consideration very small details about the life of a woman. Even the scene where a group of friends go to buy sanitary napkins is what every woman has experienced was handled by the director very well and shows his attention to detail.”

Shamim Hilali recalled the good old days of Pakistani television which were not driven by the ratings game and so gave way to some brilliant productions.

Audiences, she said, have also contributed to the influx of scripts that are not women-centric.

“And most of the blame can be put on what is being taught in schools in textbooks around the country.”

She elaborated how there is a need to address what is being communicated and taught in schools to young boys and girls which is promoting a certain set of values and enforcing gender roles that are not progressive and are in fact regressive.

The aim of Uks by holding such dialogues is to turn passive viewers and audiences into proactive ones, and ascertain the extent to which news and entertainment content can influence viewers, both male and female.

The first panel discussion hosted by Uks was with the cast and crew of the Pakistani television drama Dar Si Jati Hai Sila¸ which centred round the story of Sila (Yumna Zaidi) who is sexually abused by a family member, Joee Mama played by Nauman Ijaz.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2018