Zaira Wasim And The Collision Of Understanding

Is it a drop of blood from a disgrace or did I confuse a phrase? In no time, an alarming wave of emotion twists the fate and admittance or riddance of false feelings dictates the change in remedies. Was I wrong before, am I right now or vice versa? Anyway, I hereby announce that I quit from my piece of Neverland and discover a new America of hope. Yikes, the worlds of pious and Godless Freeville collide over my early retirement. Run Zaira Run…

I don’t realize why I wrote the above paragraph. Maybe it is making any sense or maybe not. But the news spiced all over breaking the guitars and sitars across India over the young secret superstar, Zaira Wasim, waving her final goodbyes to the social media spectators before she sailed into the religious cruise ship. We are not aware of the coordinates of this voyage but the eyebrows of the observers have been raised as if she has eloped with her boyfriend for good.

Many questions have been raised over her professional departure, numerous people have shared their opinion, and many have criticized her explanation about quitting on her Instagram account. So I thought, why shan’t I jump into this crazy center of the jury and advertise my blog. Perhaps, the readers may find my opinion interesting.

Ok, so here is the peanut butter on your toasted bread. Zaira Wasim posted an announcement on Instagram that she is quitting the showbiz with a lengthy explanation which, after reading and observing, I have understood that she has considered the profession as a path of ignorance ‘for her’ which she feels is misleading and distancing herself from her faith. Zaira perhaps feels that this line of profession is taking her somewhere else from where she cannot return and maybe the Lord will be extremely unhappy of her supposed-to-be wrongdoings. Therefore, Zaira decides to leave this line of work so that she can focus on her religion/faith. Maybe in the future, she does something different than showbiz which won’t distract her from practicing her faith.

WHAT MADE THIS NEWS SENSATIONAL?!?!

Hmm… Most of the popular leading Indian actresses have taken early retirement or temporarily disappeared due to their marriage. I am not remembering if any ‘well-known’ Muslim woman in the Indian film industry quit for her religion. So many well-known actresses from the Muslim background made their name in the industry but neither their work nor their faith was a hindrance.

Zaira’s popularity in the mainstream Bollywood was broadly speaking especially after her fabulous performance in Secret Superstar. She worked in two films and on both the occasions, she shared the silver screen with none other than Aamir Khan. Aamir even went on to state about her that she is the best female actor in the film industry which was an extremely bold statement. With such a reputation, Zaira’s breaking ties from her work for her faith came as a shock.

NATURE OF ACCEPTANCE IN DIFFERENT CULTURES

In my opinion, the news is also shocking because of the culture an Indian film industry brings to this secular country. People belonging to different faiths (either they practice their faith or not) work together and contribute. So it is hard to digest/accept the fact that a Muslim personality in this showbiz can quit at her career peak for the religion. Now take an example of their neighbors. Pakistan’s showbiz is mostly populated with Muslims so if someone quits for a religious purpose, most of the people accept. Famous Pakistani actress, Sarah Chaudhry, left showbiz at her peak to practice her faith. No one had an issue with it.

SHOWBIZ AND PRACTISING FAITH

Most of the observers have taken Zaira’s Instagram explanation very severely. She opened up pretty much like her working in an environment that interferes her faith on a consistent level, or her relationship with her faith being threatened, or leading towards a path of ignorance, etc. which all sounds like if showbiz is a hellfire where the people of Islamic faith should not step in.

Generally, it is not easy to practice their faith in the showbiz especially Muslims. We have a few Muslim cases where they have practiced their faith to some extent and stayed in showbiz. But it is not easy for most of the Muslims. And this is a girl in her late teens.

Let’s assume, Zaira comes from a background where the family performs their religious and professional duties on a daily basis as for example if she prays 5 times a day or let’s assume say 3-4 times, how is she going to pray that much on daily basis being in showbiz? Then her line “working in an environment that interferes her faith on a consistent level” perfectly fits. We have to go deep and understand about a Muslim woman in showbiz instead of passing judgment over her statement.

DID SHE APPEAL TO DISSUADE SHOWBIZ?

The most important part for the reader/observer is to understand before reacting over her Instagram message. Many are arguing because they think this is a silly reason. But what the readers are forgetting or not understanding is that this is her part of the story, she is addressing her problems on the platform. She is resting her case in front of the viewers and giving the reason for her announcement of quitting.

Did Zaira suggest anywhere that the people of her faith should not step in this line of work? NO.

Did Zaira discourage the readers/observers that the people of her faith will meet the same fate as hers if they enter this industry? A big NO.

Is Zaira rallying/protesting/voicing for the Muslim community to boycott the film industry because of above-mentioned reasons? NO, NO, NO.

Then why are people making it an issue or digging controversy in it? Did she advice/request the Muslim community to stop watching films or listening to the songs? No, right?

Yes, it is a piece of big news because no one at her height of showbiz career leaves for her faith in India so the media can run this story but why is the news triggering many people? Why is her reason unfortunate or regressive for some readers? Whatever she has decided, it is a personal matter.

WHERE IS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM OR WOMAN’S FREEDOM OF DECISION NOW?

In this point, I will try to raise some questions similar to her case to give a better understanding instead of surrendering in state of confusion.

Now, in the wake of this feminism wave for some years, most of the people have advocated individual freedom and liberty. People even voice that the woman or generally us humans should make decisions about their personal lives and faith. We have the right to decide what and how should we practice in our faith. It is about religious freedom. No?

So here my observation complains because I just don’t understand why people make objection when the decision about liberty or freedom is made. If a woman wishes to wear a veil or hijab why do most of the observers start to believe that she has been forced to cover her head? Maybe she has made her choice to wear a veil or hijab or maybe she feels more protective. Same case with Zaira. If she has made the choice that she will leave this line of work and focus on her religion because of whatever reasons then why many observers think that she has been forced or brainwashed? Why don’t they accept that she has made her choice? Where is the freedom of making your own choice now?

People speak about woman’s freedom and the woman herself advertises her liberty especially when she leaves Iran, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. But what if she likes or prefers to stay/live there. That is also her freedom of choice. We are no one to dictate her then. Why do most have to apply or assume if she has been forced to live there or wear a veil or hijab by her father, brother or husband? Now, how quick was Anupam Kher to believe that something assisted Zaira to take that decision when she gave her explanation?

TWO MUSLIMS AND THEIR PERSPECTIVES

New Delhi: Actress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Nusrat Jahan at Parliament House during the Budget Session, in New Delhi, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. (PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist) (PTI6_25_2019_000100A)

Many people in their defense are comparing Zaira and bringing the example of local MP Nusrat Jahan who being a Muslim sports sindoor (red dot on the forehead of Hindu married woman) and mangalsutra (a sacred necklace to be worn by a Hindu married woman). She is married to a Hindu and the Muslim clerics have issued a fatwa (legal opinion by a jurist on a point of Islamic law) against her.

Now the defenders against Zaira’s will states that being a Muslim, Nusrat Jahan can adopt the culture or tradition of other faith but Zaira feels discomfort to continue her work due to her faith being threatened. In my opinion, Nusrat is free to sport sindoor/mangalsutra or adopt any Islamic/non-Islamic culture or tradition if she wishes to. The same case with Zaira too, if she wishes to quit showbiz for religion then she is free to do. Both are Muslims, both are from the same film industry, both are from the same country but both have different perspectives in their lives. Not all are equal and have the same choices, right?  


I don’t have many words to type upon this case any further. All I can say is that we are no one to dictate or instruct what a person should do. Zaira surely had thought to somehow work this career out for long and perform religious responsibilities. Just like most of the people in sports have to give up their education to focus on their game, Zaira also gives up one between the two. If Zaira has made the decision, I wish her all the best wherever her decision takes her to.

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My Bollywood’s Best of 2018

My yearly review season has arrived to inform the readers what Hindi-language Indian films do I find the best in different categories. This is my 5th annual review work on the Indian cinema and to read my previous works, kindly follow the links:

2014 2015 2016 2017

So how do I do all this? I select some three dozen potential films of the calendar year after watching the trailers and reading the minor narrations at the year-end. Then I spent a few months watching the films I selected. It takes me roughly 5-6 months to watch three dozen films because I have some other things to do in life. For the music department, I consider the selected films and explore further on the internet because the discovery of good music is vast and unlimited.

I am glad to see that watching and observing culture in India is changing. Year by year, some good stories are making rounds and getting recognition. Moving towards the new decade, this change may become a blessing. With so many production companies and heavy money involved, some very good talent is polished from any platform. Then the streaming service has developed and improved the viewing quality.

Following films grabbed my attention and I watched these in the past few months:

Andhadhun, Padman, Hichki, Sanju, Karwaan, Raid, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, Halkaa, Bioscopewala, Manmarziyaan, Mulk, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Union Leader, Gold, Sui Dhaaga, Badhaai Ho, Beyond The Clouds, Raazi, Tikli And Laxmi Bomb, Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, Manto, Mukkabaaz, October, Veere Di Wedding, Pari, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Blackmail, Pihu, Helicopter Eela, Pataakha, Hope Aur Hum, Tumbbad, Lust Stories, Love Sonia, and Gali Guleiyan.

Besides the abovementioned 35 Hindi films, I was not able to watch the other selected films, Omerta and 3 Storeys due to lack of availability or availability in extremely low video/audio quality.

Now before I present my winners, let me tell you how this works. After watching the above mentioned 35 Hindi films, I will segregate the categories into three different sections i.e., musical (5), technical (10), and major section (6). In most of the categories, I will brief a small explanation where I find necessary. In most of the categories, I will also make some unranked honorable mentions under “Other Notable Works” which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.

Now I present you my picks from Bollywood’s Best of 2018. The readers can share their opinions below the blog.


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

ANDREA GUERRA (SUI DHAAGA)

Andrea Guerra’s music matches nowhere to Sui Dhaaga’s screenplay but the best thing about it is that the applied score helps us build a fresh perception towards the film. The same thing happened with Darren Fung’s score on Union Leader but Guerra’s score was better. Let us assume if a stereotype Indian music was played in the background on these screenplays, these films may not have built in our observation.

Other Notable Works:

Shashwat Srivastava (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

Sandesh Shandilya (Bioscopewala)

Amit Trivedi (Manmarziyaan)

A. R. Rahman (Beyond The Clouds)

Darren Fung (Union Leader)

BEST MALE PLAYBACK SINGER

ARIJIT SINGH (BINTE DIL – PADMAAVAT)

There is no way anyone can sing better than Arijit Singh nowadays and Binte Dil is an example. The score of this track is middle-eastern and Arijit has worked on his vocal cords as per the style of the track demanded. This was not the same ‘Tum Hi Ho’ voice we listened to. Listen to him when he sings Aatish Kada Adaoon Se until the drop at deeda-e-tar ka hijaab, brilliant. Because the lyrics are not easy, the singer has sung pretty vibrant and unfamiliar Urdu and on a few occasions sang in one breath.

Other Notable Work:

Shahid Mallya (Daryaa – Manmarziyaan)

BEST FEMALE PLAYBACK SINGER

DEVESHI SEHGAL (DARYAA UNPLUGGED – MANMARZIYAAN)

Daryaa is a heart-wrenching track speaking about one’s love being distanced from the others with beautiful Punjabi lyrics and Deveshi’s voice offers a blend of urbanized rural melancholy and agony especially when she shouts Beh Gaya Hanjuaan Da Dariya. What we listen here is a raw voice and is used in the film at some critical junctures. A wonderful vocal rendition here.

Other Notable Works:

Neeti Mohan (Nainowale Ne – Padmaavat)

Sunidhi Chauhan (Manwaa – October)

BEST SONG & LYRICS

KADAM (PRATEEK KUHAD – KARWAAN)

Thumbs up to Prateek for both the lyrics and the music, very deep words and honest translation of human path of miseries and agitation.

Other Notable Works:

Daryaa (Ammy Virk, Shahid Mallya, Shellee, Amit Trivedi)

Qasam Kha Li (Papon, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Amit Trivedi)

Binte Dil (Arijit Singh, A. M. Turaz, Sanjay Leela Bhansali)

Tune Kaha (Prateek Kuhad – Lust Stories)

BEST MUSIC

AMIT TRIVEDI (MANMARZIYAAN)

It is hard to believe that Amit is yet to win the Best Music award from Filmfare. This could be his year but I have to admit that the competition with Bhansali for Padmaavat was really strong despite average reviews. For me, Manmarziyaan will be remembered one of Amit’s finest works to date. The compositions of all his soundtracks were magnificent. Daryaa was indeed the best track.

Other Notable Works:

Prateek Kuhad, Anurag Saikia, SlowCheetah and Shwetang Shankar & Imaad Shah (Karwaan)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Padmaavat)


TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

SHEETAL IQBAL SHARMA (MANTO)

Other Notable Works:

Eka Lakhani (Sanju)

Aparna Shah (Bioscopewala)

Payal Saluja (Gold)

Karishma Sharma (Pataakha)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

NITIN ZIHANI CHOUDHARY & RAKESH YADAV (TUMBBAD)

Other Notable Works:

Priya Suhass (Bioscopewala)

Satish Chauhan (Union Leader)

Mansi Dhruv Mehta (Beyond The Clouds)

Rita Ghosh (Manto)

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

RESUL POOKUTTY & AMRIT PRITAM (BIOSCOPEWALA)

Other Notable Works:

Madhu Apsara (Andhadhun)

Arun Nambiar (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

 

BEST EDITING

HASSAN HASSANDOOST (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

Other Notable Works:

A. Sreekar Prasad (Manto)

Dipika Kalra (Bioscopewala)

Ajay Sharma (Karwaan)

Pooja Ladha Surti (Andhadhun)

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

KARTIK VIJAY (MANTO)

Other Notable Works:

Avinash Arun (Karwaan)

Rafey Mahmood (Bioscopewala)

Sylvester Fonseca (Manmarziyaan)

Ewan Mulligan (Mulk)

Anil Mehta (Beyond The Clouds)

Pankaj Kumar (Tumbbad) 

 

BEST ACTION

VYRIL RAFFAELLI, SEBASTIEN SEVEAU & VIKRAM DAHIYA (BHAVESH JOSHI SUPERHERO)

I think this is pretty agreeable to everyone that Bhavesh Joshi Superhero offers excellent action sequences to seek our attention. There are no silly nonsense out-of-the-world fights and ridiculous visual effects to give up between the film. Because the plot is built in the honesty of depicting the birth of a superhero and the reasons behind wearing the mask. Even in the most possible exaggeration of any sequence, the scenes are acceptable and enough to pass a compliment like Siku’s lengthy attempt of escaping on the bike towards the railway station.  

Other Notable Work:

Vikram Dahiya & Sunil Rodrigues (Mukkabaaz)

 

BEST STORY

SRIRAM RAGHAVAN, ARIJIT BISWAS, POOJA LADHA SURTI, YOGESH CHANDEKAR & HEMANTH RAO (ANDHADHUN)

Andhadhun offers the freshness in presenting a crime thriller in dark humor. Two different stories connect to each other when the man pretending to be blind witnesses the dead body at an apartment and trying to give justice to the dead becomes a huge regret. The continuity is crazy and unpredictable. A story like Andhadhun is some kind of accomplishment and hope that some great stories can be told in the Hindi-language cinema.

Other Notable Works:

Bejoy Nambiar (Karwaan)

Nitin Dixit & Nila Madhab Panda (Halkaa)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sanjay Patel (Union Leader)

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

MAJID MAJIDI & MEHRAN KASHANI (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

I believe Beyond The Clouds had the most powerful screenwriting than any other films of 2018. The biggest reason lies in the happening of the plot. The intros of the leading characters and that cat-and-mouse run of Amir from the police. Then his emotional attachment with Tara and the given agonized circumstances between them in the plot is all splendid writing. Plus the development of mental growth of both Amir and Tara after her imprisonment carries the film. Amir’s changes in attitude with the relatives of Akshi (Tara’s husband) and Tara’s fondness towards the child are some impressive aspects of the writing. Due to the fact that this screenplay was written by the foreigners, they set the new standards of screenwriting in the Indian cinema.

Other Notable Works:

Nandita Das (Manto)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

R. Balki & Swanand Kirkire (Padman)

Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar, Hemanth Rao (Andhadhun)

 

BEST DIALOGUES

ABHISHEK CHATTERJEE (KUCHH BHEEGE ALFAAZ)

What is important about dialogues-writing for me? It must fit the screenplay and the entire plotline. A light-heart musical like Onir’s Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz is a feel-good romantic whistler and the main reason is dialogues. So natural that it grows on you. There is decency, there is literature, the conversation between Alfaaz and Archana has a polite affection. Another factor doubling the significance of dialogues is Zain Khan Durrani‘s voice. When he speaks, you just close your eyes and listen to what he speaks. Summing in short, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz has the most real and natural piece of dialogues-writing in the film.

Other Notable Works:

Hussain Dalal (Karwaan)

Kanika Dhillon (Manmarziyaan)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sharat Katariya (Sui Dhaaga)

Nandita Das (Manto)

 

BEST SCENE

CRIME SCENE (ANDHADHUN)

Sold. Diabolical and sold. I was losing my interest in the film and wasn’t believing how Sriram Raghavan can disappoint me after waiting for his next project for years until those blind eyes spotted a dead body in an apartment. His fingers were bought by that dead man to play his wife the piano on their wedding ceremony, the woman who killed her husband with the help of her boyfriend,  masterpiece!

This was just the beginning. The best part was the continuity when both the deceased’s wife and her boyfriend silently try to clean the crime scene on the blind’s piano notes in one take. It was like I was watching good old silent-comedy stunt of the golden age. This is the beauty of the director’s artistic mind dropping the significance of presenting simple scenes in extraordinary ways.

I wish this particular scene is not a copy of any. I am not able to share the video because unfortunately, this is not available on YouTube.

Other Notable Scenes:

Murad Ali’s response to prove if he is a Muslim or not (Mulk)

Shravan lecturing his father about his boxing passion (Mukkabaaz)

Amir escaping from police-chase (Beyond The Clouds)


MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

IRRFAN KHAN (KARWAAN)

The best aspect of Irrfan’s acting is his absorbing the given role. He executes so well that he is no more Irrfan in the film, he is the character watched by millions of viewers. In Karwaan, we didn’t see Irrfan acting, we saw Shaukat helping his friend find his father’s dead body. Irrfan brings a tremendous balance between the two new faces in the film, Dulquer and Mithila, and beautifully completes the trinity of three extremely different characters. His supporting role was well supported by the dialogues and Shaukat’s innocence throughout the journey.

Other Notable Works:

Manav Vij (Andhadhun)

Vicky Kaushal (Manmarziyaan)

Manoj Pahwa (Mulk)

Arunoday Singh (Blackmail)

Raghubir Yadav (Sui Dhaaga)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

SUREKHA SIKRI (BADHAAI HO)

Thank God, Filmfare didn’t make the mistake of handing Best Supporting Actress to any other actress than Surekha Sikri. Because if not this, then I wonder what further would take her to get the recognition. At her age, she justified her presence and the significance of her being the matriarch. Her series of scolding to his son and later in her daughter-in-law’s defense is magnificently hilarious.

Other Notable Works:

Tabu (Andhadhun)

Shikha Talsania (Veere Di Wedding)

Swara Bhaskar (Veere Di Wedding)

Freida Pinto (Love Sonia)

 

BEST ACTOR

ISHAAN KHATTER (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

This is one stunning performance I am lost at and cannot believe that a 23yo can bring such maturity and versatility in his given role. A fresh start as an actor, Ishaan is Amir, a drug dealer whose sister is imprisoned in an attempt of killing her husband. Desperate brother is stuck of ill-fate with her husband to care in the hospital but the responsibility doubles when the husband’s relatives arrive and there is no other way than refuge them at home until the admitted patient is fit to stand on his feet.

Amir’s attitude changes from rudeness to friendliness when he is more involved with his relatives. And during all this period, Amir grows Ishaan grows, in his acting on our nerves. The director plays a significant part in growing his character but Ishaan’s mental timing and body language are pretty flawless everywhere. His bursting out of anger and voice pitch control is excellent. That rage in the pigeon room was the summary of Ishaan’s hard work of Amir’s ridiculous tolerance giving up on seeing his sister mad. Between this sequence, it was so natural to make an unnatural response towards the relatives and speak in English in agony. This Ishaan Khatter is pure promise if he moves his acting career in the future in the right direction.

Other Notable Works:

Ayushmann Khurana (Andhadhun)

Danny Denzongpa (Bioscopewala)

Rishi Kapoor (Mulk)

Rahul Bhat (Union Leader)

Varun Dhawan (Sui Dhaaga)

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manto)

Vineet Kumar Singh (Mukkabaaz)

 

BEST ACTRESS

TAAPSEE PANNU (MANMARZIYAAN)

I thought a lot about this. Even while deciding to pick this, I reconsidered. But I have made my mind to say that this was Taapsee’s year. And it is utter shame to see her not even getting nominated for Manmarziyaan, forget about winning a Filmfare. Many may not agree with me on Taapsee as far as the choice of film is concerned, why Manmarziyaan? Why not Mulk?

See, despite a spectacular performance in Mulk, her body language is limited to the screenplay. Half of the film is a courtroom drama and her role, her facial and mental performance is one dimensional. Manmarziyaan? She is a complete woman. Emotion-wise, Taapsee has pulled all the strings. There is so much emotional fluctuation in her given character.

Then her chemistry with Vicky plays a significant part because her scenes with Vicky are where she stands to her episodic collapses from pride, emotion, and respect throughout the film repeatedly giving a gem of performances.

Other Notable Works:

Rani Mukherji (Hichki)

Malavika Mohanan (Beyond The Clouds)

Anushka Sharma (Pari)

Mrunal Thakur (Love Sonia)

Sanya Malhotra (Pataakha)

Radhika Madan (Pataakha)

 

BEST DIRECTOR

NANDITA DAS (MANTO)

I must not be taken aback to a slingshot theory that the professional actors cannot become the directors of the quality they were enriched with. The brains behind the camera, a cinematic vision thought on the director’s chair needs the required artistry to craft a story and the camera techniques for shooting which waits for the approval of the applause and compliments. Nandita Das is one exceptional name making me stop thinking about the Bollywood stereotypes for once and watch her Manto work with scrutiny.

Thanks to Das, Manto disconnects you. You are in a different timeline and parallel. You are in an undivided India sitting with your friends in a tea shop describing your work, speaking poetries, narrating a woman’s beauty and criticizing the government and the workers involved in it. You are a rebel to this world which is collapsing near you. You are drinking, you are smoking, you are watching some lights turned on in some flats at midnight. It is time to sleep but some streets aren’t and the lights are on for the women to work and sell their body. It is red, dark and hammer on your head.

The point is that the direction of the film is such a force that you become Manto and your world falls apart. The excellence of Nandita’s direction also lies in balancing so many things about Manto within two hours. Even the Lahore days of Manto were shot well and broke the stereotypical Pakistani portrayal in Hindi cinema.

I never felt I was watching a 2018 film. It was like the excellent golden age of the 50s back or if Guru Dutt’s directional artistry was temporarily inherited by Nandita.

Other Notable Works:

Sriram Raghavan (Andhadhun)

R. Balki (Padman)

Akarsh Khurana (Karwaan)

Onir (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sanjay Patel (Union Leader)

Majid Majidi (Beyond The Clouds)

 

BEST FILM

MULK

The most important category to conclude this blog needs very careful judgment. What needs a film to be the best of the year? A lot of things count. First the story and the message, the brains behind the continuity of the screenplay. The screen time if it justifies the story. The whole body of the film most importantly the final few minutes which need some technical conclusion to convince the viewers. The selection of actors is not an issue because I always believe it is a performance which sells the plot. And that is why I believe that Mulk is 2018’s best film of the year.

Because Mulk opens a very sensitive subject which compels the audience to think about the future of the country. The social portrayal and acceptance towards the minorities in India have not been focused in the Indian cinema because this doesn’t profit the cinemas and the film producers, and there is every certainty that the majority of viewers may not like the idea.

Because most of the films focus on how the terrorism was committed or what role did the police or anti-terror squad play in defending the country or stopping/fighting against the event. But I don’t remember right now if any director tried to focus on the families whose member goes on to become a terrorist and made them regret.

Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk offers such a story about a diverse Muslim family who has been living in the same mohalla for decades. Advocate Murad Ali (Rishi Kapoor) says this is his home and he keeps no grudge with the people of any faith. Hindus and Muslims come together and sit with him, share happiness with him and his family until he nephew Shahid (Prateik Babbar) commits a terror attack.

Anubhav Sinha gives the viewers an intense feeling about such family being surrendered/surrounded by the religious insecurity and social tightness in the society. The behavioral attitude and breaking some ties further makes the family seek an antidote.

Mulk is a very sensitive drama touching a very sensitive subject of the protection and importance of the communities. Half of the film is the intense courtroom drama where Murad’s Hindu daughter-in-law Aarti tries to defend the case against the public prosecutor Santosh Anand (Ashutosh Rana) who tries to convince the court that the Muslim community orchestrates the terrorism.

Anubhav’s powerful writing and direction heavily focuses on the fact that people can be either good or bad whether they are of any faith. There is every chance that the follower of God and evil may be living in the same house under the same roof. The insecurity of being a Muslim is also highlighted well.

Technical aspects have done the talking. Dialogues, screenplay, story, cinematography, and direction are magnificent. These aspects are well supported by the splendid performances of Rishi Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu, Manoj Pahwa and Ashutosh Rana.

Mulk is an agonized cry for love and peace in the cynical times of crossing guns over other shoulders among the communities and even the neighboring countries. It is one of the most important films produced in India with a cinematic masterpiece.

Other Notable Films:

Andhadhun

Padman

Bioscopewala

Union Leader

Beyond The Clouds

Manto

Pihu


Thank you for reading my annual picks and will write next year about Hindi films which are produced in 2019. Share your opinion below.

IS WHITEWASH A WAKE UP CALL?

Two elements in the universe will remain melodramatic and unrepaired, soap operas and Pakistan cricket. The supporters of the team Green deserves a lifetime achievement award for their tolerance and patience for the team. We are aware of the fact that the national team has more weakness in conceding the match than capabilities to win but it is our love for Pakistani cricket that keeps us hoping that the glory days may return soon.

The domestic infrastructure will take time to improve under the fresh hands of the governance of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). International Cricket Council (ICC) is finally admitting of security improvement in the country to stage more cricket matches than in the past. The level of comfort and perception to play in Pakistan has gradually changed.

So there are signs in the coming times that maybe international cricket return to a normal schedule from next year. Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s announcement of staging the entire Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the country next year is delightful and diverting.

But what is the national team’s own justification for the claim on the mega event happening in a couple of months?

Pakistan’s ODI performance since 2017 Champions Trophy

Pakistan stood a ‘TOP’ ODI team for a long period a couple of decades ago but the stance has dropped with quite a huge margin and in the recent years, Pakistan has built no good memories in the format since winning the ICC Champions Trophy (CT). They were invincible against the mediocre teams of Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe beating them 5-0 each but exposed fragilities while losing against the top ODI sides of New Zealand (5-0), South Africa (3-2) and Australia (5-0), the last team arriving in UAE with many key absentees. During this process, they also couldn’t even qualify for the Asia Cup final last year. With such a monumental discrepancy, the certainty of winning the biggest trophy or even doing wonders look highly unlikely.

What went wrong?

The answer to this question deserves its own library bigger than the Library of Congress. But I will highlight a few because I have other things to do in my life.

This question needs a periodic timeline from where I should begin highlighting the issues and even that will take more than a blog, a volume perhaps. So I will set a scale from winning the CT and try to be quick in my argument.

Winning the CT was one of the golden chapters in Pakistan’s cricket history because our accomplishments in this sport are quite limited. The last major trophy Pakistan ever won before this in the format was Asia Cup 2012, thanks to Bangladesh who couldn’t score 9 runs the final over with 3 wickets in hand.

(Pakistan in ODIs has won one World Cup (WC), two Asia Cups, one CT in their history but their major dominance for any trophy in the format was limited to Sharjah Cup which they won 15 times, a record. One major reason how Pakistan has a better head-to-head record against India.)

No World Cup Planning

After winning the CT in 2017, the cricket board should have focused on the WC preparations. They had a two-year time to shape a plan and devise a strategy under which the national team would have analyzed their strength and weakness through a detailed report which would aid them to build a potential team to form a winning combination and maintain it like the top sides.

PCB has a history of lacking long-term plans and that is a major reason why the performance never improves. Their main focus was in organizing PSL every year and making efforts to bring the international cricket back to the country. That even didn’t help the national team. Pakistan couldn’t find a single batting talent through PSLs in four years. Only the foreigners and the already-established batsmen representing the country before PSL’s existence have been performing.

Pakistan holds the reputation of being the factory where the fast bowlers of the supreme quality are manufactured since Fazal Mahmood in the 50s. If the assumption is applied that more newcomers are making their place in the national team since the introduction of PSL then the question is that why PSL has been made a standard or benchmark to launch their careers? What is the use of the domestic one-day and T20 tournaments then?

 

Britain Cricket – Pakistan v India – 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final – The Oval – June 18, 2017 Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir celebrates taking the wicket of India’s Virat Kohli Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Boyers Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Lacking cricket at home and unfavorable UAE games

Another major issue is lacking international cricket at home which has disturbed and disrupted the natural self-confidence of playing in front of the home crowd. The borrowed HOME country has been of no use for Pakistan in the ODIs.

A decade has crossed playing ODIs on the pitches of UAE but our performances have only declined. Neither has Pakistan adopted the modern cricket system through the UAE games nor have given many of expected positive results.

On the record, Pakistan has never won a single ODI bilateral series against a ‘TOP’ ODI side (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, England) in the UAE in the past 10 years!

2009 – New Zealand won 2-1

2010 – South Africa won 3-2

2012 – England won 4-0

2012 – Australia won 2-1

2013 – South Africa won 4-1

2014 – Australia won 3-0

2014 – New Zealand won 3-2

2015 – England won 3-1

2019 – Australia won 5-0

India didn’t play any bilateral series in this period against Pakistan in the UAE. Pakistan has only taken the pride of defeating West Indies and Sri Lanka in the bilateral series again and again.

To my surprise, PCB never questioned about considering the UAE their home. With dismal performances and ridiculous predictability in failing to perform and conceding the series, fans in the UAE dropped their interest showing up to the stadiums to watch their team doing no favor and therefore the attendance of spectators has dropped more and more.

The recent Pakistan-Australia encounter was played in almost-empty stadiums which is a disgrace. Much of this year’s PSL was organized there before this series and remained cold as dead. The only time the stadium in the PSL went full throughout PSL was the opening day obviously because of the fondness to watch the opening ceremony and the live performances.

Selection Dilemma

To some extent, there were some good decisions helping the team realize their strength. The opening combination of Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq gave Pakistan many decent starts and during the process generated enough runs to become one of the quickest to 1000 ODI runs. Babar Azam maintained his superb form and his remarkable scoring consistency, something which most of the Pakistani batsmen traditionally lack. Shaheen Afridi and Usman Shinwari were trusted and did some justice.

But during all this, selectors also made grave mistakes like ignoring Junaid Khan several times disturbing his form due to irregularity, giving too many opportunities to underachiever Faheem Ashraf, emphasizing on ever-failing Mohammad Amir who since his CT final heroics has taken only 5 wickets in 14 ODIs, and depending on the failing veterans, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik who have scored only 426 runs (16 inns) and 716 runs (25 inns) since the CT glory.

The worst was the ego-bound priority of keeping Wahab Riaz regular in the XI for more than two years for his undoubtedly magnificent spell against Shane Watson in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal. Since then, he went on to play 25 ODIs taking 25 wickets at a very expensive average of 47.08 and conceding 5.82 runs per over. Out of those 25 games, he conceded 50 runs on 10 occasions. One of those 10 occasions was his unforgettable 0/110 recording the second worst bowling performance in a 10-over quota. He was finally dropped after one bad game against India in 2017 CT and never considered to include in the ODIs.

Testing bench strength 3 months before the World Cup?

Let’s speak about the recent crisis which is not helping me understand the situation. During the South Africa-Pakistan ODI series, captain Sarfraz Ahmed admitted passing racist remark to Andile Phehlukwayo for which he was banned for four games which included the starting games against Australia in the recently concluded series. But PCB decided to completely drop him from the Australia series and give him rest. All the players who played in the South Africa series played PSL but then a few key players like Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, and Babar Azam were dropped to play against Australia despite performing well in PSL. Reason? To give them rest after the busy cricketing schedule for the past few months and also judging their bench strength.

Ok first thing, Pakistan hasn’t played enough cricket that their key players are exhausted. Even if I assume that Pakistan played pretty much cricket then why was playing PSL that compulsory? Was playing PSL more important than the Australia series? You could have rested your key players after the South Africa series and played directly in the next. And another point, if they are taking rest, how come Hasan Ali and Babar Azam are playing some Gujranwala Premier League? When the squad to face Australia was announced, the reason for resting key players was to give them rest. Then why were they playing this league? What kind of rest is this? 

The second thing is judging your bench strength a couple of months before the mega event is sheer stupidity. If the board was really considering to judge their bench strength, why didn’t the board plan long before this time? How can you judge your bench strength from one series? The pitches of UAE and the WC host England are extremely different.

Then the squad was the question mark. Test fast bowler Mohammad Abbas was selected about whom was rumored to be tried for the WC. There was confusion over him if he should be tried in the ODIs or not. But the problem is timing. Abbas is playing test cricket for the past two years. Why didn’t the board or the selectors make their mind to introduce him in ODIs sooner than pretty later? The result was disastrous with Abbas ending the series with a forgettable performance.

Another inclusion was of another test player Yasir Shah. If Shadab was to be rested then why did Yasir take his place? PSL wonder boy Umer Khan could have been tried. Why is Amir repeatedly picked after failing again and again? He has been in miserable form and is eating other’s chances. And giving chance to Umar Akmal for the umpteenth time proved that his situation will never change. Umar will do wonders in domestic cricket but will repeat the same mistakes when he will play in international cricket. Picking him was actually the selectors thinking backward.

All these points prove that the PCB didn’t plan anything for the WC. Judging your bench strength is sending your B-team to tour Zimbabwe like Indian cricket board did back in 2016.

What Pakistan must do?

After the disastrous conclusion of being whitewashed against a resurging Australia and failed tests in the laboratory, PCB must finalize the WC squad now and send them to play 5 ODIs against England at their home where the WC will be staged a couple of weeks after the conclusion of this series.

Pakistan is the luckiest of all the WC participants to arrive in the country first and fully take advantage of growing their game on these pitches. Pakistan is even playing three limited over games against county clubs and two warm-up practice matches after the series and before the big event which means 10 games of quality practice before the mega event begins. This is more than enough preps any WC participant can ask for.

If Pakistan finalizes the WC squad after the England series then that will be the dumbest of all the decisions PCB has ever made. Because it makes no sense to make changes in the squad after the final preps. Play your 15 men in 10 of those English games to be more prepared than the others.

My 15-Man World Cup Squad

I am mentally prepared to see PCB make a mockery of the selection as they have historically attempted before. That is why under the heading, I am listing the 15 names of what I believe should enter the mega event, not PCB.

Captain and wicketkeeper: Sarfraz Ahmed

Openers: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Abid Ali

Middle Orders: Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan, Shoaib Malik

All-Rounders: Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim

Bowlers: Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Hasnain

Squad Explanation

Yes, no more Mohammad Amir. We should come out of this delusion that he will do wonders like 2010 English tour or 2017 CT Final. As stated before, this bowler has picked only 5 wickets in 14 ODIs since that Final. We should admit that he doesn’t justify his place.

What makes me pick Hasnain over him is the fact that this teenager is the fastest of all the picked bowlers and his understanding the pitch makes me think that Sarfraz can make better use of him on the English pitches. Sarfraz already has been his captain in PSL. Give him those 10 games, use him properly and he is a threat.

A lot of talk on Shinwari if he is that good to be considered. Yes, he is very expensive in the T20s but when I see 28 wickets in only 15 ODIs which includes 4/35 vs South Africa and 4/49 vs Australia, that speaks a lot. I will count wickets rather than think about being his expensive.

Indeed, we don’t have power hitters, something which almost every top team has the luxury to cash on. It is highly unfortunate that Pakistan couldn’t produce a single power hitter in all these years. That is why I am bound to pick out of form but heavily experienced Shoaib Malik over him who should come at no.6 and try to accelerate the run rate.

Shadab Khan is must in every single game, he is a genuine spinner with the heavy assistance on batting when in crisis. Haris and Rizwan with two centuries in the latest series cannot be imagined to be ignored for the WC. Babar needs to drop some weight of middle-order responsibility with their support.

Abid Ali is definitely the third opener of my squad who justified his selection by recently scoring a wonderful hundred on his debut. Imam-Fakhar is the permanent pair and this should not change for a long time, even after the World Cup. These openers are the quickest to 1000 ODI runs, something which never happened in ODI history before. Imam has proven against the South Africa series that he can score against the biggies and should not be dropped from any game. We fans should stop voicing against this kind of nepotism because at least this lad is performing.

What my picked batsmen have to do while constructing the inning is to accelerate the run rate, score more boundaries, reduce the percentage of dot deliveries and try to convert their twenty-five into the fifties and fifties into hundreds. There is not a single instance of a middle-order century for Pakistan in the World Cups since 1987. All the hundreds since 1992 have been scored by the openers. So this curse should end and I have high hopes that at least Babar can do it.

WC glory chances? Extremely low. And just like the previous edition, consideration of their reaching the semis will be a miracle. But this is exactly how Pakistan won all the three major trophies. They were not expected to do anything special in 1992, 2009 and 2017 but shocked the global cricket community. So whatever and whenever the squad is finalized, let us hope Pakistan does their best and not let us down. Hoping is living.

7 Points Aurat Should ‘Also’ March For

Aurat March began in Pakistan last year to observe International Women’s Day with the purpose of expressing solidarity with women. With the rise of feminism wave in recent years, many organizations have voiced about women rights and empowerment. It is a much-needed voice.

The March of this year grabbed my attention and I observed many pictures from Karachi and Lahore with women holding banners, posters, and placards. Yes, there were some important messages about honor killing, domestic violence, and individual freedom. But much to my surprise, most of the messages looked like a crusade against men. Although a few were exceptional and spot on, but I think the participants of the march missed the chance to raise the country’s many critical issues related to women. Some of the issues or events which the women should have raised and notified to the government.

There is every possibility that the issues below have been raised by a few but not many and can be voiced the next time such event is organized. Therefore, I am raising a few issues which deserved to reach the advertisement boards and I felt were more important issues than cooking together or finding socks:

01. MINORITY RIGHTS UNDER HUDOOD ORDINANCE

This has been a subject of controversy over the years about Hudood Ordinances (HO) which criminalizes rape and extramarital sex. The HOs which were enacted back in 1979 as the part of General Zia Ul Haq‘s Islamisation process is applied on both Muslims and non-Muslims in Pakistan. These ordinances are of two types; one is Hadd (punishment under Islamic Law) and the other is Tazir (punishment decided at the discretion of the judge or ruler of the state).

But the problem of this never amended 1979 HO law is that it is unilateral towards Muslims and discriminative towards the minorities. The Muslim man will not be convicted under the HO if he rapes a non-Muslim woman.

Under clause 8 of the Chapter of Zina under HO (VII OF 1979), the proof of Zina or Zina-bil-jabr is liable to Hadd only if at least four MUSLIM witnesses are produced to the case. The court is satisfied only when the requirement of Tazkiyah-al-shuhood (TS) is on the table. TS simply means that the witnesses are truthful persons and abstain from major sins. While applying TS, the law indirectly considers the non-Muslims as witnesses untruthful and unreliable.

Due to this reason, the non-Muslim women are not able to register their statement and has to visit the magistrate under section 21. The worst possible damage for a non-Muslim woman getting raped is her pregnancy. The DNA tests will decide if the illicit child is of the rapist. Only then there is a possibility of her getting justice which is by then exhausting and humiliating if she really survived to that day.

In the first place, HO introduced ambiguity into the law by recognizing rape with fornication/adultery in the same frame which is exquisitely horrible. Fornication or adultery is a ‘voluntary’ sexual intercourse between the two but rape is when the one indulges by forcing the other. Former is sin by religion, the latter is a crime by law.

Imagine how many non-Muslims are imprisoned due to the confusion and mess created by these laws. We do speak of minority rights but what about those who are jailed for wrong reasons?

02. LOW PAY SCALE OF SPORTSWOMEN THAN SPORTSMAN

I am not aware of the other sports but let’s not expect any good about women earning some respectable amount as compared to men in any sports because the situation in this matter is worst in cricket.

In Aug.2018, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced central contracts for 33 men and was further reported that the male cricketers were getting an increment in their salaries by 25-30%.

Among the 4 categories, the players under the top category which is A were to get Rs. 800,000/month. This followed by players under category B, C, and D to get Rs. 500,000, Rs. 350,000 and Rs.200,000 a month respectively.

Four months prior, when PCB announced a central contract for 21 women, the board was paying an extremely small amount. As compared to men under A category paid Rs.800k, the women were paid only Rs.100k. Yes, eight times less!

The same case with the women under B, C and D categories were paid only Rs.80k, Rs.60k and Rs.40k a month.

I am not saying that the women should demand equivalent to the amount men are paid in Pakistan cricket. I understand the global marketing, advertising, organizing tours and fixtures, ticket sales fetch more of the board’s budget in men’s cricket than women’s. But paying eight times lesser to women is not justice at all.

Not many families can afford their daughters to step out and play the sports they love as they have to tackle many domestic and social issues. Coming from tough and difficult background stories, physical fitness and health is a huge focus for these sportswomen and I don’t think that most of the sports will facilitate them enough. Maybe cricket in Pakistan but the figures in the contracts above are discouraging.

The central contracts for women were announced a few months ago without mentioning the amount in figures. But what change will there be? And this is cricket I am talking about. You decide yourself what women are paid in the other sports.

03. WORKFORCE AND PAY GAP

As per the new Global Gender Pay Gap (GGPG) released by the World Economic Forum in December 2018, it will take 202 years to close the gap or in other words, men and women will earn the same figure of money in any given position across the globe after 200 years have crossed. This has improved from the 2017 report which predicted 217 years. Furthermore, women today are paid 63% of what men earn.

149 countries were ranked in this report. Iceland topped the list with women there earning 85% of what men earn. And guess where Pakistan ended up. They were 148th and above Yemen. Women in Pakistan are earning only 55% of what men earn. Yes, it indeed is embarrassing that the poorest countries in the world like Chad ($919 per person a year) and Mali ($917 per person a year) have a better ranking (145 and 143 respectively) than Pakistan. This disappointing percentage of Pakistan has increased by only 1% since the 2006 report.

The most disappointing factor is that Pakistan is consistently the second-lowest in GGPG for the past five years. So no step has been taken to escalate the rank in the last few years.

According to a 2012 conducted study in the agricultural sector, female workers were earning only 170 rupees a day as compared to male workers earning 300 rupees a day. The women earned 32% in skilled agriculture which was less than half of men (67%).

Pakistan, which is still amongst at least 60 countries with fewer women population than men, constitutes only 24% of the female labor force which is three times lesser than men labor force (82.7%).

04. RIGHTS FOR LESBIANS

(Here I will try to focus only on the lesbians out of LGBTs to stick on the points I am raising in this blog to a certain length)

With the awareness of globalization and increase in liberalization, one cannot ignore the rights of people from a different sexual orientation. Finally, after decades, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in favor of civil rights for the transgender citizens in 2009. And last year, the country’s parliament passed the Transgender Persons Act 2017 which established protection for transgender people.

Which indicates that there is hope for the homosexual community to get civil rights just like the transgender citizens. Because so far, the same-sex marriages are not permitted and the matter is not generally brought in discussion in fear of the moo-law fascism.

The country still strictly prohibits homosexuality. Forget about the rights of the lesbians, it is considered a crime by law and anyone involved in the carnal intercourse with the same gender are to be punished for at least two years and maximum ten years with a fine according to the article 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

It is quite weird to realize that PPC is actually inherited and renamed from the Indian Penal Code, an Anglo-Saxon law written by Lord Macaulay in the colonial era in 1860. Why Pakistan still follows an almost 120-year-old article 377? The amendment was made in A and B of article 377 but the article itself was not amended.   

Moving towards the globalization, the country is the least accepting the community of homosexuals and are hostile towards them. Homosexuality is still a taboo subject in Pakistan. There was a spark of controversy when the private news channel broke the news of two Pakistani girls tying the knot in the UK.

So what about the people in such minorities then? Either they live as compromised or settle down to a certain country where LGBT is tolerated to live with freedom. Speaking of which reminds me of a case of a lady from Karachi who moved to the UK because of the tormented years of her beatings and discrimination for her being a lesbian.

As per the 2013 survey report of the Pew Research Center, 87% Pakistanis rejected the recognition of homosexuals in the society. But four years later, ILGARIWI mutually conducted a global attitude survey under which 45% Pakistanis agreed that such people should enjoy the rights as straight people.

A very minor percentage of lesbians in Pakistan are not able to stand up for their rights. If the women marching on the streets or sharing support in the social media believes in women rights and freedom, then they should step further and speak about this specific minority. Let them live in peace and others live in their peace.

05. WOMEN IN OLD-AGE HOMES

I think the most haunting imagination of life has to be when you think about getting old. And when I say old, I mean when you cross over 65 or say 70 at least. And what if I add a further misery or a jingle of torture to send you to a center where people of same age live for God knows how long.

It is torture, no? Keeping in mind that you are old and not long enough is the remainder of life to live with a decline in health. And you expect that your young ones will take care of you but they rather prefer to drop you there.

Some actually are okay to end up there because they suffered enough by their own to decide to move there in peace which is also a tragic fate. Enough of haunting? A man in Pakistani society may survive but what about a woman? Her case is more sensitive.

Abdul Sattar Edhi once admitted that the number of old-age homes dramatically increased in Karachi alone which rose from six to ten centers between 2006 and 2010. A few of those centers were sheltering more than 150 people. Do read the stories of the then 67-year-old Fehmeeda and 84-year-old Darakhshan.

Let me clear a very important point here. On a few occasion, their young ones or the relatives are not at fault. Many of the old generations have to move welfare centers because there is no other solution to survive. The pensions at most of the sectors and the companies are not enough to maintain a healthy life. With age comes diseases and the expensive medical bills shape to become a will paper. Should I expect better public toilets especially facilitated for old-age people at all in Pakistan or at least in a few metro cities?

It is the duty of the state or the welfare organizations to raise the bar of building more centers with enough facilities to help them live a better life. At the same time, the women need to voice the awareness of taking the domestic responsibilities of protecting the rights of their old ones especially the women. Imagine the life of people living in rural areas or slums. Those female sweepers, cleaners, maids and servants who spent their life serving the others and stay in their extreme poverty. What are they when they get old? Some measures should be adopted to lead them towards a healthy life above the poverty line before they feel isolated and rejected.

06. VOICE FOR RAPE VICTIMS

Whenever we discuss the rape cases in Pakistan, the first victim who comes in the mind is Mukhtaran Mai, a villager from Meerwala who survived a gang rape ordered by the tribal clan in Muzaffargarh. She broke the headlines in the Pakistan media for some time and even hit the global media including BBC and Time Magazine.

The tragic popularity of Mai has now dimmed with the death of a 7-year-old girl from Kasur, Zainab Ansari, who was raped and murdered last year in January. And there are dozens of rape incidents which became seasonal headlines and disappeared. Many cases didn’t meet justice.

Kainat Soomro was 13 when she was kidnapped and gang-raped for four consecutive days. Her brother was murdered three years later when she voiced for justice. Her father was beaten with iron rods and the local tribunal determined her to be a Kari (the black female who loses the virginity outside marriage). She fought for her right for several more years.

The reason for highlighting a few is to bring awareness to this serious matter which is, unfortunately, happening for decades in this country especially in the rural areas. Can you ever believe that some village councils in Pakistan rules ‘revenge’ rape in some cases?

Most of the rape cases are registered from Punjab province where around 3000 rapes reached the police station in 2017. Almost the similar figures of cases were registered in 2016 too. If I only term crimes against the women instead of saying ‘rape’, 5660 such cases were registered across the country in the first 10 months of 2017.

That year, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported the lowest number of crimes by any province in the first half (202 including 72 rape cases). Balochistan had 354 cases in the first 10 months including four rape cases.

Sindh also has terrible stats. In 2016, there were 2817 cases registered about crimes against women which included 165 rapes and 13 gang-rapes. Next year, the new yearly concluded figures increased to 2934 cases out of which 156 were rape cases in Karachi and other parts, and 47 were gang-raped.

According to the 2017 Pakistan Human Rights Report from the US Department of State, the rapes were frequent but the prosecutions were rare. So imagine the fact that will disgust you that the abovementioned figures from the years 2016 and 2017 are only the cases which are registered to the police station. How many of those cases were then investigated? How many of those files were opened? How serious was the police department to eradicate or reduce the crime? When Zainab Ansari was lost and the case was reported to the authorities, they did nothing. In fact, the CCTV video footage was discovered by the family members when no response came from them.

I wonder such negligence has cost how many scores of lives in Pakistan. According to the Aurat Foundation in the same report (page 38), NGOs alleged the police that sometimes they abused or threatened the rape victims and demanded to drop the charges after receiving a bribe from suspected perpetrators. Some police demanded a bribe from the victims to register the case. According to the 2018 Pakistan Human Rights Report from the US Department of State, three Balochistan police officials were arrested for pressuring a rape victim to withdraw her allegations.

Yes, there were voices against the rape in the Aurat March but what about the rape victims? Who demanded justice for any rape victims? I may have missed some placards if there were but still not on a scale the participants of Aurat March should have.

07. PROTECTING WOMEN FROM ACID VIOLENCE

My final point of concern is about the women’s disfigurement by acid throwing mostly attempted by men. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) of Pakistan, there are up to 150 cases of acid throwing in Pakistan every year due to the domestic abuse. Some other possible reasons can be her ‘inappropriate’ dressing or rejecting the marriage proposal. Imagine, around 150 women in Pakistan are the unfortunate victims of acid attacks with the consequences of possibly permanent skin damage.

Speaking of which reminds me of the case. Almost seven years ago, Alex Rodriguez of Los Angeles Times covered an incident about a gang of four men throwing sulfuric acid on a 10-year-old Zaib Aslam and her mother Parveen Akhtar. One of the four men was recognized to be the ex-fiancé of Parveen’s older daughter.

The acid attacks on women in Pakistan came to global attention only when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge directed the Academy Award-winning documentary ‘Saving Face‘ in 2012.

Naila Farhat was the first prominent name of this century to suffer the acid attack. At 13, Naila was punished by her teacher’s friend for refusing the proposal by throwing acid while coming back from school in 2003. Punishment to the culprit? 12-years imprisonment and 1.2 million fine by the sessions court. So when the culprit appealed in the High Court, he was released with the condition of paying the fine.

Due to Naila’s courage to take the matter to the Supreme Court and the efforts of ASF Pakistan in 2011, the parliament decided to pass the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill on acid violence. But the unfortunate part is that maintaining reliable data about the cases were not taken seriously by the federal and provincial governments and due to the reason, the number of cases is extremely low. Based on the monitoring of the media, 96 cases were recorded in 2012, 67 in 2013, and 84 in 2014.

In 2008, the New York Times covered the story of Shahnaz Bukhari, founder of the Progressive Women’s Association (PWA). This organization came to existence to help the female victims of social and domestic violence. In 1994, the PWA began to work on the acid and burn cases. Through this coverage, Bukhari has claimed that PWA has documented nearly 8000 acid attack cases during the period 1994 to 2008 only in Islamabad area. That is a huge jaw-dropping figure from none other than the capital.

The reason to write about all these acidic references is to emphasize that Pakistan badly suffers this type of violence. Throwing sulfuric acid on the body is a serious degree burn with much certainty of the skin to be never normalized or women not surviving the pain or committing suicide. And throwing for the most ridiculous reasons. Even if there are strong reasons, then this should not be the case. This is death before the real death.


The punishment of the last two points should be severe so that the crime rate drops somehow. Many laws have begun to shape in favor of women but there is still time for swift justice. I cannot imagine what and how most of the women especially in the rural areas have suffered in the 20th century.

In my opinion, the ideal government and nation are which advocates the liberty and religious, social, domestic and economic freedom of a woman. I believe that the woman should enjoy her rights and must be served/facilitated with her just demands.

Abdul Sattar Edhi once said that Humanity is the biggest religion. Indeed it is humanity which all the religions emphasize on by different teachings and principles. There has to be no existing religion which does not focus on the importance and rights of the women.

(NOTE: The pictures used in this blog are taken from The News article and belongs to Bismah Mughal).

Concluding my blog with the hope that people in Pakistan understand the significance of the critical issues and raise awareness. Sharing is caring.

Film Review: Sanju (2018)

It is my firm believe that when the producers and the director decides to make a film based on an individual, your account your narration your presentation should be precise especially in a case when the individual has a disturbed life blended with the personal violence, shattered image, serious accusations, drug abuse and complicated relations with the family and friends.

The Indian cinema with many unforgettable celebrities offer scores of background stories which has the required material to translate their lives in the reels. Sanjay Dutt is one such story and when the project was announced, I was excited. But when the news broke that Rajkumar Hirani would be directing this, my court of judgments objected the announcement with a question mark bigger than the one in the headline of the cropped newspaper from the scene.

Because Raju Hirani is known to present the subjects and messages to the viewers with a screenplay which can adjust a well equipped rib-tickling comedy. Munnabhai duology, 3 Idiots and PK worked well with the humor because the stories of all the four films were fictional and flexible enough to bend with a typical Hirani humor.

But Baba’s story is dark, real, serious, traumatic, painful and disturbing. Will Raju Hirani make his first serious film or will his directional artistry of presenting sensitive subjects in a cleverly humorous way, this time on the real subject, will work again?

When the teaser and trailer were released, the presentations didn’t buy me at all. Because the seriousness of the content was glorified and looked entertaining instead of thought-provoking. So I said to myself, let me watch the film first and decide if the biopic justifies.

Now that I have watched on Netflix, I am much convinced to conclude that Sanju is easily one of the worst biographic films I have ever watched. This work is easily Raju’s worst. Raju making Sanju is like Taika Waititi making Thor: Ragnarok.

Sanju is bad, really bad, on many counts. One major reason is that when you watch the film and if you are a good observer, you realize that the motive of this film is to give a visual presentation of Sanjay Dutt by his close friend Raju Hirani concluding “Look guys! he was a bad boy, now he is a good boy, so please forgive him”. Baba doesn’t need to earn his name, people love him, people adore him. He has one of the biggest fan-following among the South Asians on a global stage. So stop being naive and focus on the most sensitive incidents of his life because this film is extremely sympathetic to the actor.

And that is where Sanju disappoints me. The screenplay dreadfully emphasizes on his drug usage and relation with his father than anything. You make a lengthy 160-minute film avoiding many important moments and touching a couple of topics is not a smart move. A director can do a lot of things in a screen time of 160 minutes.

MISSTAKES

Fine! Sanju has to be a miniseries to focus and touch all the vital portions of his disturbed timeline. Fine! everything cannot be presented in a very limited screen length. The director may have to divide the film into two like Gangs of Wasseypur, or consider sequel or trilogy, or overtake Tamas, LOC Kargil, and Mera Naam Joker to make the longest Hindi-language film ever to justify Baba’s life story. But I am not asking or expecting to somehow show a complete Sanjay Dutt story. At least mention or give the reference of the missing parts.

How disappointing is it to watch only the current wife, Manyata Dutt, but completely ignoring his other two wives? Especially the first one, Richa Sharma, who died of the brain tumor and was mentally disturbed by the rumors of her husband getting married to Madhuri Dixit. Speaking of the latter, Sanjay-Madhuri affair being once the most famous talk of the town got no space in the screenwriting of the film. With this effect, Baba’s eldest daughter Trishala is automatically out of the frame and shows only two young kids from the current wife, Manyata.

It is strange that Baba admits to the biographer to have slept with at least 300 women including the harlots but the director is scared of speaking a few close ones in his life. Neither his off-screen affair with Tina Munim comes to exist nor Madhuri in the film. But a character Ruby is perhaps intermingled to many of his relationships. Ruby is portrayed by Sonam Kapoor in a short role but gives an impressive performance.

Another strange application is Baba’s friendship with a Gujarati New Yorker (based on his real best friend, Paresh Ghelani) to an extent of his being a major supporting role bigger than his father’s in the film but ignoring the popular jigarship with Kumar Gaurav, the actor and friend who risked his acting career and fame requesting his actor-father Rajendra Kumar to give his friend Sanjay Dutt the role of his brother in Mahesh Bhatt‘s Naam. Result? Sanjay Dutt’s good time in acting career began from this film. This Kumar Gaurav is someone about whom Baba once admitted to shedding his blood for him if required. A friend who is even the husband of his sister Namrata has no mention at all.

And Jim Sarbh‘s Borat look-alike character. It was an important role but I wonder if the director forgets to bring him back in the frame after he speaks to the biographer to check Kamlesh. His role ends pretty prematurely.

DUTTS

Only Baba’s father, Sunil Dutt, is the center of attraction from the entire Dutt parivar. Paresh Rawal plays the senior Dutt’s role which is quite an odd choice. Neither the personality nor the voice of Sunil Dutt reminds you of Paresh Rawal. Paresh Rawal’s role wasn’t close to the senior Dutt but was similar to what he did in Paa. Aamir Khan was offered Sunil Dutt’s role which he refused because of Dangal’s shooting. Paresh and Aamir both were bad choices. In fact, it is hard to find someone like Sunil Dutt to play that role. Surendra Pal perhaps. Unfortunately, there are no heart-melting scenes of the onscreen father-son to take back, neither the seaport scene nor the magic-hug scene.

Baba’s sisters hardly spoke any dialogues in the film. The mother-son onscreen chemistry is shockingly overlooked. Manisha Koirala playing his famous actress-mother Nargis has to be the only satisfying selection in the entire casting. Not only Manisha does resemble but even acts like Nargis so well and alas, she is there for only a few minutes.

At least 1993 Bombay bombings made it into the script among the traumatic incidents of Dutt’s life but even here, Raju Hirani was not interested to go deeper in details and tell us about Sanjay Dutt’s connection with Abu Salem or any terrorist involved in the tragic incident.

BAD USE OF WOMANIZING HUMOR

It is quite bizarre to observe how womanizing is taken so light because it is a sympathetic script based on Baba to clean his image. If this film was based on a notorious criminal, the confession of completing a triple century on the bed would have dropped a nuclear weapon on the viewers. On the contrary, when Baba confesses, Manyata chuckles and the biographer is impressed and it looks way odd for entertainment. Not only this, Baba’s one-night stand with his best friend’s girlfriend hardly makes any sense. This incident is true as per Paresh Ghelani but the portrayal of a well-cultured Gujarati girl shy of wearing a nightie for her man at Baba’s house suddenly turning into Venus bold enough to shamelessly expose her skin to Baba and show a willingness to make out with him looked overdramatic. From Sita to Monroe in 40 seconds, a typical Bollywood u-turn for the viewers! And what is this five-minute sequence even doing in the film in the first place? Was this sequence relevant?

These 160 minutes could have been better utilized or reduced if Raju Hirani would not have pulled a Taika Waititi. Needless and forced humor damaged the screenplay. Not only Gujarati girl scene, many irrelevant scenes like a sleepy politician, over exaggerating Tripathi’s Bapu-Sanju comparison, hospital scene with the death of Ruby’s father, Ruby’s change of heart over her favorite animal, Sanju’s scenes with Bandu Dada also made it in the cut.

RANBIR KAPOOR AS SANJAY DUTT

Now about Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt. See, the first matter of fact is to admit that if there is anyone who can play Baba’s role is Baba himself because finding an actor to play him is most likely unworkable. So the selection of Ranbir for the role is by far the closest a director can think of because Ranbir naturally carries two exceptional qualities of Baba. One is height and the other is the voice.

No offense but sometimes I feel if Ranbir is Baba’s son more than Chintu‘s. Ali Asgar has to be Chintu’s son. Anyway, the struggle over being Baba has to be tougher because on the screen we do see Ranbir giving his best Sanjay Dutt impression as much as he can. Height and voice naturally helped Ranbir. The rest was the bravura of the makeup and styling artist whoever he/she was.

Let’s not say if this is Ranbir’s best performance to date because I believe his performance in Rockstar and Barfi was far superior to this. Because it is all about the execution of the role. Ranbir’s presentation of pain and grief in Rockstar is more compliant than in Sanju. His role in Barfi was more challenging and handicapped.

Ranbir with the gifted height and voice had strong assistance of makeup, styling and costume designing helping further to assume him Baba. But after all the tools and despite carefully adopting Baba’s mannerism, Ranbir reminds Ranbir.

There is one really intense scene in the jail when the pot overflows. Baba loses patience and gets emotionally disturbed. He repeatedly knocks the door while the water touches his feet. This is the time when I wait to see how Ranbir as Baba loses his patience and go maniac. But then the scene ends and moves two months later?!?!


It is not that the film is completely nil. Being a biopic, it do has some accuracies like Baba ticking all the drugs while filling the form, trying to commit suicide, the judge clearing him from terrorism, hiding heroin in his shoes while traveling with his sisters, Nargis dying a few days before Rocky‘s premiere, Tabu giving Filmfare Award for Munnabhai MBBS etc. Makeup, styling and costume designing are also top notch.

But then so many technical mistakes like chronological inconsistencies over most of the vehicles used in different timelines. Look at the KFC chain behind Baba during his struggle to reach New York. That is the current branding philosophy of the chain applied. That scene is from the 80s and KFC branding philosophy was extremely different back then.

Unnecessary tracks stretch the length and the background score is extremely ordinary. Leaves me towards Raju’s direction which I believe is the weakest of all the films he has directed. The story and the screenplay don’t buy me at all.

The filmmakers have to decide if the Indian cinema is ready for biopics. And when I say biopics, that means an honest and accurate biopics. Another point which comes to my mind is that the director must believe that a biopic can win the audience even without being concerned to entertain and box-office results.

I must appreciate that Ranbir did his best being Baba. He is a very talented actor. I am sure if project Sanju would have gone to the right man, may have pulled the right strings.

Ratings: 3/10

THE SIEGE OF BHOPAL, 1812 (LAST PART)

Gauhar Mahal built by Qudsiya Begum in 1820. The palace is notable for its beautiful Hindu and Mughal architectural fusion.

It was the 15th of October, 1812 when the powerful and furious army of the Marhattas comprised of Gwalior and Nagpur states numbering a force of 82,000 marched towards the Fatehgarh Fort under General Jagua Bapu, his deputy General Kachua and the Muslim General Sadiq Ali.

From Gwalior, Jagua was joined by one of his officers, Dan Singh. Jagua’s force amounting to 25,000 men was strengthened with 12 battalions of infantry and 30 guns. If that was not enough, the commanders of the infantry and cavalry, Ramlal and Krishna Bhau joined Bapu with their 15,000 men, horse and foot. And from Nagpur, General Sadiq Ali marched with an army of 30,000 men. So that is a force of 70,000 men out of the above-mentioned figure of 82,000. I am not aware what the rest of 12,000 was comprised of.

STRENGTH OF WAZIR’S ARMY AND HIS ALLIES

As compared to the gigantic Marhatta force, Wazir Mohammad Khan was able to convince his Rajput Allies and Sikh mercenaries to fight by his side against the Marhattas. And along with his ever loyal Pathan army, Wazir had a Rajput-Sikh alliance support of only 6000 horse-and-foot, and 2000 men provided by the zamindars of Tal pargana and Ratan Singh Thakur. Besides, the other support came from Namdar Khan of Tonk and his 3000 Pindaris. Namdar Khan was the nephew of Karim Khan who was once a prisoner of Sindhia for five years.

Wazir realized that such a small number of force is not enough to fight against them. So he considered a defensive approach and ordered his guards to close all the gates of Fatehgarh Fort with the entire population of Bhopal inside. Looking at the scenario, the enemies encircled the fort and stormed the gates every day or threw rope ladders over the walls at night. When they lifted from the ladders, they were welcomed by the Bhopalis pouring boiling water above them. The other alternative was to throw a barrage of rocks and stones over their heads to dissuade them from climbing.

The enemies cannonaded during the first few weeks. The friends of Wazir had the utmost difficulty in prevailing on him to abandon the tombs of his ancestors where the principal battery of the enemy was afterward raised.

Wazir and his army defended this way for a few weeks but then their spirits met a new low when all of Wazir’s allies, the Rajputs, the Sikhs and the Pindaris decided to quit and withdraw from the fort. I am not aware of the reason but most certainly they realized that was not their war to defend or sacrifice. They assisted as much as they can but being inside the gates for weeks was too much a favor.

Pindaris were in such a distressing situation due to being unable to procure forages for their horses. With the departure of his allies, the army strength of Wazir was reduced from 11,000 to 6,000.

Out of the remaining 6,000 force, Wazir posted and assigned half of them this way;

  1. 100 men at the old fort (guarded by Doongar Singh, a Rajput officer)
  2. 200 men at the Ginnor (guarded by Thakur Jay Singh)
  3. 200 men at the Gondwara gate (guarded by Mir Bakar Ali)
  4. 200 men at the Mangalwara gate (guarded by Nanga Sar meaning bearheaded)
  5. 200 men at the Itwara gate (guarded by Mulaim Khan)
  6. 200 men at the Jumarat gate (guarded by Khawaja Bakhsh)
  7. 400 men at the Sondwara gate (guarded by Moiz Mohammad Khan, son of Ghous Mohammad Khan)
  8. 200 men at the Humamil gate (guarded by Karim Mohammad Khan)
  9. 500 men at Wazir-gunj, a suburb outside the town (guarded by Gulshan Rao)
  10. 200 men for Fatehgarh (guarded by Dil Mohammad Khan)
  11. 100 men at Bala Fort (guarded by Zalim Singh)
  12. 100 men for Fatehgarh’s port (guarded by Soota Khan)
  13. 500 men for Wazir’s personal command
One of the six gates built in the 18th century under the command of Dost Mohammad Khan, Jumerati Gate is the only gate still standing. The rest according to the historians were demolished back in the 1950s.
THE ALARMING

Ghous Mohammad Khan, to whom goes the credit of bringing this wrath on his Bhopalis gave up on hunger, depravity, and hardship. Because of him, Wazir had to negotiate safe passage to move him outside Bhopal in comfort under the company of eunuchs and courtesans. It is hard to visualize and measure the level of embarrassment and shame he brought on the efforts of the Bhopalis. His wife Zeenat Begum and her eldest daughter Qudsia decided to stay on in the fort to rally their people in resisting the siege. Qudsia in a few years became the first of the four female rulers to rule Bhopal typically termed as the Begums of Bhopal. Yes, you read it right, Qudsia was the daughter of this Ghous who was so worthless that even the enemies didn’t bother to take him as a hostage.

Many times, the defense of the fort was in jeopardy and the measures had to be taken in haste. One day, the enemies broke into the fort by attacking the guards on the Budhwara Gate. The gate was wide opened for the Marhattas to finally march and enforce a possible bloodbath but Wazir’s commander-in-chief and the most loyal of all the Barrukat Pathans, Sardar Bakhshi Bahadur Khan, bravely fought the enemies at the gate. Bhopali women assisted Sardar by throwing stones and pouring boiling water on them. When the news of the attack reached to Wazir, he came to the rescue and successfully defended the gate. Sardar served severe gashes but his gallantry boosted the morale and augmented the much-needed courage among the Bhopalis.

FOOD SUPPLY

With the weeks passed, the normal consumption of food was deadly compromised. Bhopalis began to eat leaves and boiled shoe leather. During this painfully ravenous time, Wazir’s loyal Rajput allies, Ratan Singh and Aman Singh, the zamindars of Rajput, helped the Bhopalis by arranging grains enough to feed them. So when the food was required, Wazir would seek help from them and agree to reach on a certain spot after midnight. Then Aman and Ratan (or their men, I am not sure here) would bring cartloads of grain through the jungle to an agreed spot on the far side of the lake overlooked by the fort in the darkness of the night.

On the other side, Wazir with his few loyal companions including Bakhshi Bahadur would carefully leave the fort through the gates and swim across the lake carrying empty mushuks (water bags) to fill with grain and return with weight. These were the times which we will never imagine to exist. Escaping from your enemies by slipping from the gates and trying to reach at a spot on an agreed time and trying to return safely again from their enemies while carrying the weight. Too much to ask but that is loyalty to defend while resisting the siege.

Grains were not enough. Wazir somehow contacted the Hindu corn merchants who were commissioned to supply wheat to the Marhatta army at one rupee for five seers. He knew that the merchants will not supply wheat to the enemies of the Marhattas and that too on this rate. So he paid exorbitant sums to convince the dealers. Therefore, the merchants black marketed the wheat to the Bhopalis at 10 rupees per seer. Wazir risked his life and spent a huge fortune to feed his people, leaving the conclusion on God. Pure madness but the gem of example to determine the leadership.

Maulvi Jamaluddin (left), Sikandar Begum (center), Mattu Khan (right)
ZEENAT BEGUM

This continued for six months. An abnormality of a life survival was on the count and many people began giving up or became treacherous due to lack of food and water, and sanitation. Observing the Bhopalis breaking their courage, the Marhattas began bribing the guards to open the gates. Looking at these circumstances, anyone at Wazir’s position would have either committed suicide or waved a white flag but he patiently waited.

Zeenat Begum bravely led the Bhopali women, both Hindus and Muslims, and supported their men’s army. They supplied them food and water, learned musketry and the other arts of combat. The women put themselves to exercise to fill cannons with gunpowder and fire so that made it easy for the men to take rest and let the women, dressed as men, stand to guard at nights.

Zeenat Begum unified all classes of women into one. Under her, there was no difference between the rich and the poor women. They all sat together beside her at the table meeting. She led with examples. One day, Zeenat ordered her 14-year-old daughter Qudsia to give two chapatis to a cleaning woman after being informed that her children were starving for a couple of days. Qudsia gave one and hid the other for her brother Faujdar. When Zeenat inspected, she scolded her daughter.

On the other occasion, Zeenat’s other son Moiz was wounded by the enemy musket-fire and fell unconscious. Her mother came for the rescue, dressed her son’s gashes with her dopatta and loaded and fired cannon herself for several hours until Moiz revived. Yes, it is really hard to believe that she was Ghous’ wife.

A TREASURE OF HOPE

The resistance of siege continued until they tolerated the deprivation. The time length of the ultimate wait in the line of defending the land was outnumbering due to the succumbing of the women and children. After nine months to the siege, Wazir held a meeting and decided to negotiate with the enemies a safe passage for the women and children through Qazi Mohammad Yusuf and Molvi Nizamuddin so the remainders in the fort can launch a suicide attack because there was no other way to conclude of what Wazir decided for his people.

This decision was agreed and both, Qazi and Molvi, were sent to the enemy as the envoys. During all this, Wazir went to a faqeer for the spiritual guidance. Pir Mastan Shah was known as the dancing Pir living in Bhopal for past 12 years. Wazir dropped his turban and sword, and placed at his feet and asked for the final blessing. Inclined towards the circle of devotion, Pir chanted ‘Fatah Fatah, Nacho Nacho’ (Victory Victory, Dance Dance) and indicated a location in the fort to discover and dig. Expecting it to be a God’s sign of the lasting hope, Wazir reached a secret chamber of the fort where he discovered around 500 bags of dynamites. Not a confirmed source but the legacy is that long time ago, an old servant of Wazir’s great-uncle and Ghous’ grandfather, Yar Mohammad Khan hid or stored those dynamites there. Wazir found the courage and postponed the likely surrender for a day making Qazi and Molvi think if they were deceived by altering the agreement.

Sultan Shah Jahan Begum of Bhopal, 1872
SADIQ ALI’S DREAM

Wazir assembled his force to revise the plan but had no idea to the situation inflicted around his enemies. Major General Sir John Malcolm has accounted for an interesting turnaround in one of his books about Sadiq Ali.

One day out of nowhere and beyond anyone’s expectations, Sadiq Ali announced that he had a horrible dream about some force from the ground cursing him for joining hands with the infidels against the people of his faith. He was further warned by the force to dissuade from fighting against them as the period of nine months without genuine progress was certain evidence of not breaking the defense of the Bhopalis because they were protected by the divine powers.

With the explanation of such a dream, he ordered his army to withdraw. Dan Singh and other Sindhia commanders struggled to convince but there was no stopping. Sadiq Ali and his army raised the siege and left to Sarangpur.

Moreover, Jagua Bapu’s army suffered a dreadful attack of cholera taking Bapu’s life which further weakened and reduced the opposing force. So when Wazir and his army went on for the final assault finally after nine months, only the weakest force was left. Women from the ramparts fired with cannons. Bakhshi Bahadur bravely fought and faced severe injuries again. Jagua Bapu’s deputy Kachua committed suicide by swallowing the diamond dust.

After nine months of Bhopal’s siege and self-arrest of the entire population, the historic Fatehgarh Fort was not invaded. In one of the most incredible circumstances, Bhopal was saved from the Marhatta Army under the most ideal leadership of Wazir Mohammad Khan and proved to be the true bloodline of his great-grandfather, Dost Mohammad Khan. True to his noble tradition, Wazir declined to claim the title of Nawab. He pensioned off Ghous to Islamnagar.

After the victory, the dancing Pir disappeared…

Tomb of Wazir Mohammad Khan in Bhopal. The site is hardly 3kms far from the tomb of his great-grandfather, Dost Mohammad Khan.

Bibliography
  1. Begums Of Bhopal: A Dynasty Of Women Rulers In Raj India (Shahryar M. Khan)
  2. A Brief History Of The Bhopal Principality In Central India: From The Period Of Its Foundation, About 150 Years Ago, To The Present Time (Major William Hough)
  3. Muslim Women, Reform And Princely Patronage: Nawab Sultan Jahan Begam Of Bhopal (Siobhan Lambert-Hurley)
  4. Census of India 2011 Madhya Pradesh: District Census Handbook Bhopal

Entering in 2019, these kind of stories are impossible to believe to exist. Because things are drastically changed, the soldiers do not wait for their opponents to come out from their place for nine months. There have been many sieges. To my surprise, Bhopal’s siege is hardly available on the internet. Many names I mentioned in the story here cannot be detected by any search engine. Which actually proves that there is still a lot of treasure to gain from the books which cannot be found on the internet. My piece from Hindustan’s history is a favor to the global readers who can treasure this through my blog and benefit to the coming generations. Thank you for reading.”

FATAH, FATAH, NACHO, NACHO

The Siege Of Bhopal, 1812 (First Part)

Moti Masjid built in 1860 by Sikandar Begum, daughter of Qudsiya Begum

I have been struggling to focus for past few months about reading this history book called ‘The Begums of Bhopal‘ written by Shahryar M. Khan, the former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and the former chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board.

This book came to my attention when I came to know that he was the cousin of the Nawab of Pataudi which meant that he belonged to the royal house. So when I read about him on Wikipedia, I was reintroduced to his name as an author. One of the books had this title envisaging some blood connection and when I read that some of the women ruled the Bhopal state for more than one hundred years, that knowledge encouraged me to read this book.

Mr Khan emigrated to Pakistan with his mother in 1950. His mother inspired him to write this book and for the research, he used his mother’s library to read all the available books, documents, and manuscripts, even the recorded tapes about his ancestors in the state’s history. No book on Bhopal can challenge the heaviest and rich detailing of this book due to the fact of Mr Khan having the luxury of storing the most authentic sources about Bhopal.

In this book, Mr Khan attempts incredible research and enriches the readers about his ancestors in which four Muslim women rulers reigned over Bhopal between 1819 and 1926. Therefore, the length of the blood lineage of Mr Khan can be traced back to Dost Mohammad Khan of the 17th century.

This double-storey palace was built by Rani Kamlapai in 1722. Rani was the widow of Nizam Shah, the Gond Raja who ruled Ginnor. When Dost Mohammad Khan protected her from her Gond rivals, she gifted the village of Bhopal. A new chapter of Dost’s dominance over Bhopal began from that moment.

This blog is not a book review. My reading to this book is merely 60 pages old but what has made my mind to write this blog is to inform you about one of the sieges mentioned in the book which was occurred in extraordinary circumstances. I would like to take you back to the chapters of the Indian history to tell you how the soldiers defended their piece of land. An example which is hard to imagine and nearly impossible to exist today.

We are observing a lot of wars, bloodbaths, riots, protests, ceasefires, political and religious disturbances between any of the two which is dismantling the way this world used to function. In these times, when all our ancestors of the golden periods are vanishing and becoming a part of history, there is a certain possibility that one day there will be no one and nothing to tell the new generations. The history books are already losing its value because of the priorities the new generations are setting to read. So it is the duty of some of us to share a part of history what we have read. Today, I will tell you the story of a siege and try to memorize you the significance of sacrifice. This is about the siege of Bhopal occurred in 1812.

Before I speak about the siege, I must enlighten you about some points which connect you towards the reason behind this siege. I will try to summarize the details.

DOST MOHAMMAD KHAN (1672-1728)

Now I mentioned this name before, Dost Mohammad Khan. This is the man from whom the history of Bhopal is genuinely spoken because he was the founder of the Bhopal state. He was a Pashtun from the Mirazi Khel clan of the Orakzai tribe from Tirah. He was a powerful warrior who fought under the army rank of Emperor Aurangzeb.

After the death of the emperor in 1707, he was employed in Malwa‘s Rajput state called Mangalgarh by Raja Anand Singh Solanki. Solanki’s mother was highly impressed with his service and after Raja’s death, she appointed him the guardian of Mangalgarh in 1708. Dost also married their Rajput girl, Kunwar Sardar Bai, who later converted to Islam and become Fateh Bibi. Dost had 11 children. The most popular of those were Yar, Wasil, Fazil, and Sultan.

By the next year, Dost bought Berasia on lease from Taj Mohammad Khan and built his fiefdom on it. He also built a mosque and a fort and appointed a qazi (judge). He gave administrative assignments to his trusted Afghan lieutenants and persuaded his clan in Tirah to join him and settle in Berasia. By 1712, fifty of his clan people along with his father and five brothers traveled and joined him. Thus, his Mirazi Khel clan became the pioneer settlers of Bhopal and were called Barru-Kat (shrub dwellers) Pathans of Bhopal.

Bhopal’s first mosque, Dhai Seedhi Ki Masjid, was built by Dost Mohammad Khan in 1722

In 1722, the foundation of Fatehgarh Fort was laid by Dost naming the fort after his beloved wife Fateh Bibi. Bhopal’s first mosque Dhai Seedhi Ki Masjid (Two-And-Half-Steps Mosque) was also built inside the fort. This fort has never been conquered. During this period, Dost was entitled as the Nawab of Bhopal for what he did for the state. It was his charismatic leadership by which he created a Muslim state with 90% Hindu population and surrounded by a sea of Rajput and Marhatta adversaries.

Mausoleum of Dost Mohammad Khan is located near Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal
YAR MOHAMMAD KHAN (1710-1742)

Six years later, Dost died and his son, Yar Mohammad, became the second Nawab at 18. The post-Dost era was a pretty hard time in the beginning as the Marhattas began dominating over Malwa under Peshwa Baji Rao I. Peshwa, in 1736, fought and defeated the Nizam of Hyderabad. In 1740, Bajirao died and his son Balaji Rao succeeded him. Yar’s leadership lacked the charisma which his father had and his 14-year reign saw Bhopal genuflect towards the Marhattas. In 1742, Yar died of illness at a young age of 32 leaving his Hindu wife Mamola Bai behind. She was the first significant woman of Bhopal’s political history. She didn’t give birth to any of Yar’s but ruled over Bhopal for over 50 years under the name of Yar’s sons, Faiz and Hayat with the assistance of another Hindu loyalist Bijjeh Ram who was Dost’s faithful chief minister. It was ironic to observe two Hindus giving a helping hand to rule the Muslim state over a population of most of the Hindus and invoking the Islamic legitimacy in favor of her stepsons. Mamola herself adopted a Brahmin, Chottey Khan who later became her chief minister.

FAIZ MOHAMMAD KHAN (1731-1777)

Faiz, the third Nawab, was a very religious man whose devotion to Sufism grew to an extent that he lost his interest in the state politics. Mamola ruled under his name for the next 35 years until he died of an illness leaving his wife behind. His wife was Saleha Begum, better known as Bahu Begum, his first cousin. Begum was the daughter of Yar’s brother Wasil Mohammad Khan, the traitor who once helped Peshwa to invade Bhopal.

HAYAT MOHAMMAD KHAN (1735-1807)

The era of the fourth Nawab, Hayat, met serious crisis when he allowed his cousin, Murid Mohammad Khan, to enter the Bhopal state in 1796 (a year after Mamola Bai died). Murid was the son of the conspirator Sultan Mohammad Khan, who once attempted to claim the title of Nawab from Yar once their father died. Murid was a pure villain and treacherous. In 1797, he killed Hayat’s wife and later called Marhatta leaders for support to take over Bhopal state. Hayat summoned Fazil’s grandson, Wazir Mohammad Khan to take the charge. Hayat and Wazir with 1000 tribesmen were assisted by Kuli Khan, the jagirdar (landlord) of Ambapani and defeated Murid in the battle where his other opponents were Bala Rao Anglia of Gwalior, Raghuji Bhonsle of Nagpur, and Amir Khan of Tonk with a force of forty thousand.

WAZIR-GHOUS RIVALRY

Although the opponents tasted a bitter defeat and the Bhopalis defended their state under Hayat but it was Wazir whose heroics earned the highest reputation hoping to revive the legacy of his great-grandfather, Dost Mohammad Khan. Almost 70 years to Dost’s demise and their people missed that leadership quality among Yar and his sons Faiz and Hayat. In fact, it was Mamola Bai most of the times when she ruled with proper care under their names.

Wazir became the deserving commander-in-chief in 1797. He recovered many territories which were lost under Hayat’s rule. His growing reputation became a huge concern for Hayat and his son, Ghous Mohammad Khan. Wazir and Ghous were rivals but Ghous had permission by his father to exercise the powers of Nawab. After all, Ghous was next in line. Wazir had no interest in the power, he was a born warrior who wanted things to go in the best interest of his state.

Sensing a possible threat from the powerful neighboring states of Gwalior and Nagpur who were recently defeated, Wazir negotiated with the British in 1804 to support them against the Marhattas. This may have proceeded in a mutual agreement if Ghous wouldn’t interfere. His enmity for Wazir was so venomous that in 1807 when Hayat died and he became the fifth Nawab, he banished Wazir from Bhopal and made treacherous deals with his rival, Daulat Rao Sindhia. As per the deal, Ghous was willing to surrender the Islamnagar Fort, pay four lakhs of rupees in cash, present an annual tribute of 50,000 to Sindhia and 11,000 rupees to his public officers.

BHOPAL UNDER THREAT
In 1807, when Ghous banished Wazir from Bhopal, he moved to Ginnor and took a temporary residence in this fort, Ginnorgarh Fort.

With this deal, the British drew themselves back because they were obviously unsure of Bhopal’s commitments. Looking at Ghous’ impotency, Raghuji Bhonsle took his chance to take revenge from their defeat and sent a colossal force of 40,000 under a Muslim general, Sadiq Ali.

Wazir on his tailless horse Pankhraj took a temporary residence in the Ginnorgarh Fort, an ancient fort built in the times of Gond Rajas. Areas of Hoshangabad and Cheynpoor Barree were taken by the Nagpur army.

Rahatgarh Fort is located in a town, Rahatgarh. Built by Sultan Mohammad Khan. In 1807, when Daulat Rao Sindhia besieged the fort, it was Wazir Mohammad Khan who began to recover Bhopal back by fighting his enemies from this fort.

Sadiq Ali stayed for six weeks at Bhopal, took Ghous’ eldest son Moiz as a hostage and returned Nagpur. Sindhia besieged the evacuated Rahatgarh Fort. Wazir scrutinized the security on the fort weaker enough to confront and overtake. After taking the fort back, he determined on an attempt to return for the rescue, kick the Nagpur force out and take the control from here.

Raisen Fort is over an 800-year-old fort to be first under the control of the Rajputs and various Hindu rulers until the 16th century when the fort was captured by Sher Shah Suri in 1543. Faiz Mohammad Khan occupied the fort in 1760 and remained under the princely state of Bhopal when India achieved independence in 1947.

There was no way the state would trust Ghous as their leader. Wazir accused him of treachery and banished him to Raisen fort. Ghous remained Nawab but with no authority to exercise. The situation was alarming after the omen which Ghous brought on the Bhopalis. In 1812, the states of Gwalior and Nagpur who had differences with each other during this period, resolved their issues because both had a common enemy to deal with.

Daulat Rao Sindhia and Raghuji Bhonsle joined hands to defeat Wazir, invade Fatehgarh Fort and take over Bhopal. Their collective Marhatta army of 82,000 under the generals, Jagua Bapu and Sadiq Ali, marched towards the state of Bhopal to the siege. Bhopalis faced the greatest crisis and the toughest times in their history.

How possibly would Wazir defend his state and his people against the mighty Marhattas this time?

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