Big Brother is gawking
Pakistani actress Veena Malik leaves her country’s clergy
struck and the Twitterati cheering with a bristling defence of her
appearance on Indian reality TV show Big Boss
Despite starlets like
Rakhi Sawant and a format designed to shock and titillate audiences,
Bigg Boss, the Indian version of reality TV show Big Brother, was a
relatively unknown show in Pakistan. However, once a Pakistani
contingent—of Veena Malik and Ali Saleem aka Begum Nawazish—signed
up to appear on Bigg Boss’ fourth season, Pakistanis sat up and took
While Bigg Boss is
mostly about catfights, petty quarrels and footage of relatively unknown
celebrities running household errands, what has made the recently
concluded fourth season unforgettable is Veena Malik. Clad in shorts or
tight-fitting dresses, the 26-year-old actress was the star of the show.
Whether it was teaching Pamela Anderson how to make chapatis, or
flirting with Bollywood actor Ashmit Patel, Veena did it all—often
wearing four-inch heels.
While many in Pakistan
cheered Veena on, others were not amused. Pages condemning Malik for her
flirtatious behaviour popped up on Facebook, and curses and death
threats against her proliferated on discussion forums online. A resident
of Lahore has filed a case against her in a local court for her
‘immoral behaviour’ on the show, urging authorities to take action
against the actress.
But she isn’t going
down without a fight. On Friday night, Veena Malik took on a cleric,
Mufti Abdul Qavi, on a popular talk show on a local news channel, who
condemned her for her appearance on Big Boss, which he considered an
affront to Pakistanihood. Ironically, Qavi also admitted that he had
never seen the Indian reality show. No matter; Qavi told Malik that her
pictures were so shameful that any Pakistani in the company of his
daughter could not bear to look at them.
Qavi represents a
section of Pakistani society that condemns women for anything from their
wardrobe choices to public displays of affection. In 2007, for example,
clerics issued a fatwa against Nilofer Bakhtiar, a female minister,
after photographs emerged of her hugging her instructor after a
In the face of
creeping conservatism, Veena Malik’s bristling defence of her
appearance on Bigg Boss electrified viewers. On air, “representing the
entertainment industry of Pakistan” in her words, she questioned the
mullah on problems within his own community of clerics. “There are
other ways to protect Islam… what of those mullahs who rape the boys
they teach in mosques?”
Towards the end of the
talk show, tears rolled down her face. “Where were my people when I
was attacked on the show, where was the media? I gave my love to every
person on the show to prove to them that it’s not just Pakistanis who
are involved in terror attacks... this is also a side of Pakistan.
You’ve set up a court for me… all the men stood up and condemned me,
and there was a barrage of accusations. Did any one of you stop to
appreciate me? Why, because I’m a woman?” Her indignation rang loud
The talk show was
watched by thousands of people across Pakistan and abroad. On Twitter,
Veena Malik became the first Pakistani woman to become a ‘trending’
topic. Many commended her bravery in taking on a religious figure, that
too on solid ground, and emerging victorious in the debate.
Being a woman in
Pakistan is no easy task, and being an actress is even harder. Thousands
of women are raped, abused and killed in the country every year. Laws
protecting women against harassment and violence are rarely enforced.
Women in the limelight, be they parliamentarians or models, are
routinely attacked for a variety of reasons, with rumours of their
personal lives and religious beliefs making ultra-righteous headlines.
Not that Pakistani
films are very family-friendly, a point Malik raised on the talk show;
with heaving bosoms and explicit lyrics a regular feature, rarely does
local cinema present a woman in a role other than that of a sex symbol.
Yet, it’s her ‘immoral’ behaviour on a reality TV show that churns
the stomachs of Pakistan’s moral police.
Unfazed by the angry
voices, Veena Malik remains defiant. “I’m not scared,” she says on
the telephone from her residence in Lahore, having returned after her
sojourn in the Bigg Boss house, “and that mullah does not represent
Pakistan. I went on the show to answer the allegations against me,
because these are my people and I wanted to give them my point of view.
But that mullah had nothing concrete against me; he hasn’t even
watched the show… that’s pathetic. The liberals of Pakistan are
supporting me. So many people from Pakistan and India appreciated
me on the show.” She feels it is time that the entertainment industry
is accepted for what it is, or else it should be completely shut down.
The fourth season of
Bigg Boss was telecast on a local entertainment channel in Pakistan, and
was followed avidly by many via the internet. Buzz about the show spread
once news of Malik and Ali Saleem’s appearance made headlines in local
dailies. While Saleem was voted off the show soon after his debut, Malik
managed to dig her heels in for 12 weeks.
journalist Hasan Zaidi believes that the controversy has nothing to do
with India. “It’s just a matter of cheap publicity and because these
are high-profile women. How is it that no one said anything to Ali
Saleem for being on the show? Veena is right when she says that far more
risqué things happen in Pakistani films than what happens on Bigg Boss.
The premise that she somehow needs to be a beacon for Pakistani culture
is wrong in itself.”
model-turned-actress is no stranger to controversy. After an affair with
the controversial Pakistani cricketer Mohammed Asif turned sour and they
had a rather public breakup, Malik accused him of stealing money from
her, being involved in match fixing, and even of assaulting her
physically. “I didn’t get justice in the Asif case either, but it is
my right to raise my voice,” she says, adding that she won’t be
deterred by the multiple threats she faces.
She is not the first
Pakistani to have performed in India and faced censure as a result.
Pakistani actress Meera, who starred in the Mahesh Bhatt film Nazar, was
condemned in Pakistan for kissing her co-star onscreen. Yet Pakistani
musicians, including Ali Zafar, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Jal and Atif Aslam,
rarely ever face criticism for their performances in India. They are
regulars. Ali Zafar is also co-starring in a film with Bollywood actress
Katrina Kaif. “Anita Ayub, a former model, was also attacked in the
1990s when she went to India,” says Zaidi, “but we didn’t have an
overwhelming media in everyone’s face all the time. This is just a way
to keep ratings going.”
Ratings or not,
expressing an opinion in Pakistan has become a risky affair. On 4
January, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down by his police
guard for criticising the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Legions
of prominent lawyers, moderate religious clerics and political
personalities have faced death threats for their ‘liberal’ stances
on issues of women’s rights and Islam. In 2007, Zille Huma Usman, a
female parliamentarian, was assassinated for being active in politics
without covering her head.
In a country where
taking on the clergy is often likened to signing one’s own death
warrant, Malik remains vociferous. “I’ll never give up, and I’m
not a coward. My father was in the army. It’s not in my blood to be
scared. I’m a believer in destiny—the day death has to come, it
will,” says Malik, “But I’m hopeful… maybe things will be
different here after five years because I raised my voice.”
Strings and Euphoria to collaborate for Aman Ki Asha
Just last year Strings
had flown to India to share the stage with Indian band Euphoria in a
promote the Aman Ki Asha peace initiative. A year down the road, Strings
and Euphoria are joining hands once more to build further upon their
belief in the project.
“The idea for the
song germinated at the concert last year,” explains Palash Sen,
vocalist for Euphoria. “They (Strings) heard it and loved it, and
that’s when we decided to do it together.”
Palash talks about a
song titled ‘Aman Ki Asha’, a tune on which the two bands will
collaborate.The last time the two bands worked together was in 2003 on a
track called ‘Jeet Lo Dil’.
Faisal Kapadia of
Strings has high hopes for this collaboration. “Every Indian and
Pakistani citizen wants peace,” he says, “and Aman Ki Asha is all
about that. It is a message-oriented song which says both countries need
to progress together.”
As for working with
another band with a different sound, Strings seems to take it in their
stride. They have before worked with Hariharan Singh and on the
soundtracks of Bollywood flicks Zinda and Shootout At Lokhandwala.
“There’s a median point where you meet the other musician; you
don’t have to make an extra effort to reach a conclusion. They have a
different style of expressing emotions, and that’s the beauty of
music,” Faisal elaborates.
are now friends
We want to make some
kind of Dostana crack but that would be as lame as Deepika extending a
of friendship to Katrina. Seriously, who does that? This is not an
episode of 90210. You don’t make friends with the other woman. You
whoop her ass is what you do. Or at least be snarky about her trout
pout. Argh. But at a KJo party recently, Deepika did indeed tell Kats
all was forgiven and could they please just both star in Dostana 2?
Okay, so we don’t know how exactly that is going to work but yeah. Eye
witness report coming up.
“Deepika walked up
to Katrina and told her, ‘Let bygones be bygones. Jo ho gaya so ho
gaya. I hold nothing against you. I don’t blame anybody. I have moved
on in life and am in a very happy space now’.”
we learnt from the Kareena-Shahid reunion, eye witnesses are not our
best friends. They know nothing and relay as much information. So after
Deepika made that statement which she clearly stole from a Dr Phil
appearance on Oprah, Katrina said something equally lame.
fine,” she is reported to have said, “I am very happy that you spoke
to me. The load is off my chest.”
What is up with all
the lameness? Also, when did it become ok to steal somebody’s boy and
then tell them, ‘oh it’s fine’ when they say all is forgiven?
Unless Katrina is
planning on drowning Ranbir in a hot tub with Deepika’s help, because
he is probably dating that Nargis chick on the side, this is the worst
story we’ve ever heard. Lameness all around. Things are not looking
good for Dostana 2, if just a third hand report of two of the supposed
stars is making us making us say ‘lame’ in all its variations more
times than we have in a decade.
Ricky Gervais asked to host Globes again
Just a little while
ago, a Hollywood Foreign Press Association member, speaking anonymously
Popeater had claimed that “Ricky (Gervais) will not be invited back to
host the show next year, for sure.” The FPA guys had sounded really
ticked off as he predicted that Gervais will now be a thing of the past
in Hollywood. “For sure any movie he makes he can forget about getting
nominated,” the member had said. “He humiliated the organization
last night and went too far with several celebrities whose
representatives have already called to complain.”
However, in a ‘diary
entry’ for Heat TV magazine, Ricky drags us pictorially through a week
in his life. And explains what actually happened post Golden Globes this
“The ratings went up
again,” Ricky writes, “the organisers asked me to consider a third
year. I don’t think I should. I don’t know what I could do better. I
certainly couldn’t get more press for them, that’s for sure. You
know me. Two seasons is enough.”