Friday, November 18, 2011

On MeherJaan - Part 2

So, in my last post on MeherJaan, I provided a summary of the film and promised to write more on it eventually. Here, I hope to continue my rant. Thanks for reading.

The actors' performance:
I found the "actress" Sarah (the daughter of one of the raped victims) to be completely un-talented, lacking all skills of acting and performing. She made the film almost unbearable for me to watch. I wish I could show you a clip of the movie with her in it. She does a horrible job. Most of the rest of the performers are not too bad (Jaya Bachchan, as we all know, acts quite well, and she plays the role of the old Meher Jaan, who's telling the story to Sarah).

The most common criticism the film has received is that it trivializes the war and doesn't show the reality of the Pakistani soldiers' brutality towards Bengalis, especially Bengali women. (Reminder: Between 30 and 40 thousand Bengali women were raped by the Pakistani soldiers during the war. This can never, in my opinion, be given enough attention.) If we are to assume that the role of the filmmaker is indeed to provide true historical accounts of everything that takes place in our history, then, yes, the filmmaker is at fault. It also begs to wonder why the very first film the director makes happens to be MeherJaan, offering that sort of a portrayal of the soldiers. However, if we are to be fair to the director/filmmakers and understand that she chose to pick out one story from the hundreds that she has documented during her research of the raped Bengali women in 1971, we should respect her choice to of the story. She admits time and again that this was not the norm, that Pakistani soldiers did not fall in love with Bengali women, that the Bengali women were not usually attracted to the soldiers. (This reminds me of the ordeal in Swat: When I was there this summer, young girls used to talk about how they wished to marry the soldiers (the soldiers have tents right outside their houses, and so they can meet regularly if they want when the male elders are not at home). They also told me stories of the soldiers flying their jets right over their houses and throwing them gifts and cards and letters--and apparently, the girls telling me this enjoyed it.) So this story is fully unique, and it couldn't have happened for more than a percent or two of the soldiers.

I don't agree with much of the criticism because it misses one of the most important notes in the film: Wasim is not just any Pakistani; he's a Balochi. He's from Quetta, Balochistan. The director said this was intentional, and Omar, who played Wasim, said, "I told her [Rubaiyat] that it doesn't necessarily have to be a Balochi being human enough not to rape Bengali women, but each time we'd have this argument, she'd send me over to the archives and I'd see that she was right -- it was virtually ALL of the Pakistani soldiers who did rape Bengali women; all of them were inhumane." But the Punjabis specifically were the most brutal of all.

I love how this part of Pakistani history is so ignored by Pakistanis. Shame on us! How many know about this? How many know what their army did? In the audience, this Pakistani elderly man said, "You need to stop criticizing the army - it's not the army's fault. The army does what it's supposed to do. The American army is no better, neither is any other." And Omar and Rubaiyat were like, "But that's not the point. We're only show what they did, and it doesn't matter if they did it out of compulsion or not -- the fact is that they raped our women, and that matters."

I think that's all for now :)

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