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London Nai Jaunga - Khalil ur Rehman Qamar’s saving grace?

*has spoilers*

Even before the movie was released, Khalil ur Rehman Qamar was vocal about it being a slap on the face of those who accused him of misogyny. Qamar faced severe repercussions, after his movie Punjab Nai Jaungi, that was outstanding at the box office, received backlash for a particular slap scene, followed later by his viral altercations with Marvi Sirmed and being called out by Mahira Khan. He was labelled a misogynist and many actors who had earlier performed his work dissaociated themselves from him, for example, Rehmat Ajmal. Others vowed to boycott the man who was perceived as having no respect for women and famous for doing everything in his power to bring them down, whether it be in real life or through his characters.

Then came London Nai Jaunga, that although he denied was written as a response to this very backlash, would prove it wrong none the less. It touches quite a few sensitive spots for the audience and there is no doubt that seeing some of these scenes in a Khalil ur Rehman Qamar movie was surprising, yet refreshing.

In one of the scenes as Zara Mansoor played by Mehwish Hayat is being chased by goons she collides with Chaudhry Jameel Qamar played by Humayun Saeed. The audience expects the typical male hero to act as the saviour for his lady love while he faces danger head on. However, the audience is caught off guard when Hayat kicks the goons around, participating equally in the action sequence.

There are subtle lines throughout the movie that reflect the lack of agency that women have because men tend to make everything about ghairat (honour). This is also shown through the history upon which the movie lays its foundation, where Zara’s father had been murdered because her mother dared to marry for love.

A particularly touching scene, that I am not embarrassed to admit brought me to tears, was one where Chaudhry Jameel Qamar points towards the unfair double standards for men and women in society and explains to his father how the concept of izzat (self-respect) and ghairat (honour) should not be the women’s burden to carry. The scene is well written, well directed and well performed and would easily be one of the best scenes for me because it does everything right and hits home at the same time.

Yet, a few scenes later we witness Chaudhry Kafil (Humayun’s father played by Sohail Ahmed) going to his estranged sister’s house to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage. One of the first dialogues he utters with regards to his son is “uss par feminism ka bhooth sawaar hogaya hai.” Immediately one feels like all the good messages that were imparted a few scenes ago might just collapse entirely given the tone and language of this dialogue that essentially paints feminism as propoganda.

And again, we have yet to understand as a society and an industry that when a woman says no, thats exactly what she means (and you don't need to follow her all all the way to London to convince her of your love). Chaudhry Jameel Qamar’s unwavering stalker behaviour coupled with the poor development of his character in the course of the movie is easily the most off putting, yet what the story is in fact based upon. He has no reason not to take no for an answer, except that he believes he has experiencd love at first sight and as the old tale goes, believes he reserves right over the woman.

So one then really ponders, is this media piece really as progressive as it was hyped up to be or does it carry forward the same patriarchal and mysoginistic views, painted over with a guise of feminism to make it more digestble for the larger audience? Or is it a sugar coated and feeble attempt by Qamar to redeem himself with the masses with a big budget film that contains all the commercial elements siginificant of a box office success?

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