The internet has been buzzing with Chain Aye Na, a film that will surely raise bad cinema to new heights. But before the infamous trailer was released, another Pakistani film released its trailer. Na Maloom Afraad 2 is set to grace cinemas in September. It published a high-voltage promo a few days ago.
Similar viral notoriety didn’t accompany this one. In fact it is even being applauded. People are still tweeting about Chain Aye Na’s clumsy dialogues (can I kiss indeed) but Na Maloom Afraad 2 has been met with positivity. Think pieces declare that this is a film that the public has been waiting for and that the trailer hits all the right notes. It has even been accepted by the ever elusive YouTube audience with steadily growing views and more likes than dislikes.
But far from seeing this as a positive sign for local films, I feel that the contrast is just indicative of a dichotomy present within Pakistani society.
The trailer for Chain Aye Na is clearly a mess because it demonstrates poor acting, lacklustre sets and dated dialogue.
But Na Maloom Afraad 2 is even more disturbing, because it is guilty of something that a lot of South Asian cinema has been party to; trivializing rape.
To summarize, the film is set in Cape Town, it involves Fahad Mustafa, Javed Sheikh, Mohsin Abbas Haider reprising the roles of three loveable misfits trying to come up with a harebrained scheme to make some quick millions. An vilely Arab prince is involved, as is a gold toilet.
Along the ride, their companions, Urwa Hocane and Hania Aamir, are kidnapped by the prince. At this point in a short exchange between the ladies, Aamir says to her friend, “we have to avoid getting raped.”
Followed by the shot of a decidedly sultry ‘item’ song (no need to guess who the item is) and the implication is that the ladies will seduce said prince to “avoid getting raped”.
There are obviously two problems here, and both have been ignored. Firstly, it is disappointing and bizarre that a Pakistani film is perpetuating the lusty Arab stereotype. Simply, because have you seen how Pakistanis are represented in international films? Do we really want to go down the rabbit hole of misrepresenting other ethnicities?
But that is a lengthy discussion for another time. Which brings me to the second problem and the subject of this post; the treatment of rape as a joke.
Rape is not a joke, let’s just begin by getting that out of the way. Let’s also just accept that while a lot of people in Pakistan treat it as such, it is not okay to think of rape as a joke.
I don’t want anyone to think that I am hating on a franchise that I don’t like. On the contrary, despite its many flaws, I actually liked the first Na Maloom Afraad.
I felt that it was an important film because it experimented with political satire. So in a way, I was actually looking forward to Na Maloom Afrad 2 because I felt that it could have fixed the weaknesses of the first. These being the choppy editing, the performances of some actors and loopholes in the script.
However, this trailer constructed new problems of its own.
Often, even great films have a tendency to perpetuate disturbing jokes (3 idiots anyone). But here it is even more problematic because it implies that victims can do something to “avoid getting raped”. Suggesting that the onus is on them, and even more worryingly that seducing the perpetrator might accomplish the avoidance.
Surprisingly while we were quick to drag a badly made film across social media, this we collectively excused. The articles about Na Maloom Afrad 2, and general reaction seems to forgo the unsavoury remark because the film looks glamorous. We as a people seem to respond to style over substance, that a film is making a dangerous insinuation seems pardonable as long as it does it with the aplomb of a blockbuster.
Perhaps this is the greatest confusion facing our emerging film culture; as long as it looks pretty anything is allowed.
Simultaneously though, the one thing that can change this situation is consumer power. Some weeks ago when Yasir Hussain made an unsavoury remark regarding the child abuse theme in Udaari, social media exploded with criticism. Eventually this translated into an apology. We can argue about the sincerity of said apology but the fact is that collective outrage inspired change.
If we can channel similar rage towards this oft-repeated gag, maybe we can finally evolve past it.