This web-series encourages Pakistani women to unapologetically be themselves

By IMAGES STAFF DESK REPORT for DAWN

Budding filmmaker Anam Abbas (fourth from left) takes on the patriarchy and the ridiculous standards women are forced to conform to Budding filmmaker Anam Abbas takes on the patriarchy and the ridiculous standards women are forced to conform to

Television shows are great but this year, we're really digging web-series.

The rise of digital content has increased over the last couple of years and web-series can tackle issues and stories that aren't represented in mainstream media. Yes, the budgets aren't as big but that doesn't mean it's not innovative content.

Inspired by web-series like Broad City and Delusional Divas, one Pakistani filmmaker has decided to give this format a go.

Anam Abbas is the woman behind Ladies Only, a homegrown Pakistani feminist web-series made by women for women.

"This has been entirely possible because friends came together and brainstormed and agreed to act, help with editing, help with social media and share, support and give love; it's really created this sense of community," she shares.

So far, they've released four episodes, focusing on topics like harassment, the "mullahs" crying against the Women's Protection Bill and even a kick-ass tribute to Qandeel Baloch.

"Ladies Only is allowing me and us to live out some fantasies with the camera as a safety net. Episode four, which was about Qandeel, was so powerful to film. We were all full of rage and in mourning, I don't think it's something we're ever going to forget. I'm pretty sure we fully weirded out my friend's parents though; we filmed at their house and they were like uuhhh..."

"In episode one, the "liberal mullah" dialogues have actually been pieced together from real comments we read on articles about the bill in Tribune and Dawn, among other publications. Maha Makhdum, an anchor from PTV World and Munir Ahmed, someone who got in touch through Facebook, are the stars of the pilot," explains Anam.

"One line from the episode is particularly important to me. When Sophie provides an alternate meaning for the Arabic word other than to beat. I believe in arming yourself with knowledge to beat religious misogynists at their own game. I'm a Muslim feminist and those who want to take my religious identity away from me if i identify with feminism need to be set straight."

Four episodes in, the show proves something we've been thinking for a while: that web-series are valuable because creators can hone their voice and audience outside corporate development.

And the more we saturate society with ideas of women being free and doing their own thing, the more we can inoculate the future against stereotypes that limit the potential of women.

"The camera has allowed us to agitate real life or rather to be subversive in real life. For example, in the second episode, we have a woman in a blue Afghan burqa riding a horse down Seaview; I mean that was real, that was we filming with a little DSLR in a public space. I went to Seaview again many weeks later sans camera and was recognised by a vendor there," reveals Anam.

"Similarly in the third episode, the character wears a golden chaddar and is seen around Islamabad holding a pink sign that says 'God is love', including outside Lal Masjid. The reactions are real, that intrusion into public space was real."

Screengrab from episode 3 Screengrab from episode 3

"What's great about what's happening in western pop culture is that since more women are writing and running shows, suddenly we have a lot of flawed, sometimes unlikable, female characters on television. The women in Ladies Only are not infallible. This series does claim to be feminist and part of that is to see the contradictions of the lives we live, in a patriarchal capitalist society. It's essential to laugh at ourselves, to be a bit sacrilegious."

She adds, "Now that the episodes are out, I'm getting so many lovely messages from women wanting to act, write or just expressing support. It's so lovely and this means that the series will only grow and there are that many more ideas to explore, I'm stoked!"


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