When a fictional rape survivor cannot even demand justice from her fictional rapist on film without fear of censorship, we must ask ourselves what hope of support do real victims have? For example, how does a good husband respond to his wife’s rape in a supportive way?
This was a question that Haroon Shahid, who makes his debut in the thriller, battled with during the course of the film as his character responds in what he calls “a typical husband” way to his wife’s assault.
But there is nothing typical about Haroon’s role. He plays one of the few serious characters with a mental disability in modern film.
“My character is disabled but that does not reflect how he sees the world,” Haroon explains.
“I spent a lot of time at the Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled to understand how differently abled people behave. During my time there I saw people who were born disabled or became disabled as the result of an accident, and the more I worked with them I understood they are all human, with unique problems and a need for respect. It really helped me prepare for my character because it helped me realize an aspect of why my character struggles so much to come to terms with his wife’s rape.”
This dimension Shoaib Mansoor’s film Verna reassert the ‘power di game‘ as privilege is a form of invisible power. A character who feels helpless due to a physical or mental impairment has less power in our social dynamic. Or perhaps Mansoor is showing that some men are ‘handicapped’ when it comes to coming to terms with their wives being attacked.
“My character goes through a cycle of emotions when his wife (played by Mahira Khan) is assaulted – we see how difficult and complicated it becomes when something like this happens,” the musician turned actor explains.
Male Victims Of Sexual Assault Need To Be Part Of The Conversation
Though Shahid says he does not relate to the character he plays – he does hope that the film will resonate with the men in the audience, particularly those that have been victims of abuse.
“Sexual assault is not restricted to a gender and the message of #BolKhudaKeLiyenVerna is for everyone,” he says “It’s important to understand that assault can happen to anyone and we need to learn to talk about it.”
“I hope that male victims of abuse will also find the courage speak up.”
According to Shahid our society is not forgiving to any victims and perhaps more so males. He hopes Verna will help us address how we treat survivors.
“The film won’t change much but it I hope it will put a small dent in some mens minds and they walk away thinking about the far reaching consequences of this horrific act.”