For someone often credited with revitalizing the industry (twice), Shoaib Mansoor certainly takes his time with his projects. Mahira Khan chalked this up to how much thought and attention he gives to every line (not letting actors change a word he spent days on). He might not be speedy but he certainly is timely. Whether it is by coincidence or incredible foresight, Verna inserts itself perfectly into the current conversation.
The trailer of Verna was released the same day that the #metoo campaign really gained traction in Pakistan.
The hashtag became viral on social media after actress Alyssa Milano called upon women to speak up “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet”. The movement was a direct result of Hollwood producer Harvey Weinstein being accused of rape and sexual assault by a number of actresses, and yet it resonated with women all over the world from all walks of life.
Watching this trailer right after reading a multitude of personal stories from women I knew, gave it more weight. It encompassed the very real trauma that people face and along with a revenge fantasy. Women are conditioned to stay silent or blame themselves, so when we see one actually speak up for herself she is our version of a superhero.
In the movie Mahira’s character may eventually get justice or not but in the real world Pakistani are often not even allowed to seek it. According to a survey by the National Commission on Status of Women there were only four convictions of the 153 cases filed from 2006-2015.under the Womens Protection Act.
It seems the film and the actress make no attempt to whitewash the horror of these statistics.
After the trailer was screened Mahira said that the movie may not provide clear cut solutions but it asks the right questions: “It will start an important dialogue no matter what side of the debate you are on.”
Mahira said the intensity of the character she plays inadvertently seeped into her own life.
It’s not hard to see the parallels. As her character Sara tells her husband: “Main sirf tumhari biwi nahi hun, mein tum se alag ek poori insan hun [I am not just your wife, but also a whole person apart from you]”.
This could just as easily be Mahira Khan telling her fans that she is a whole person apart from all the burdens and projections they put on her. They expect her to be a certain way and the minute she deviates from their version of her, she is tarnished in their eyes.
Just last month she was on the receiving end of all kinds of abuse because she was smoking in a “revealing” dress. Now she is the official spokesperson for L’Oreal pushing her further into the spotlight and open to even more criticism for simply existing.
Mahira does not let outside forces define her or decide her worth and from the small glimpse that we get – Sara from Verna does not either.