Pak filmmaker Asim Abbasi: Important to build culture without toxic masculinity

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New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) Pakistani filmmaker Asim Abbasi grew up watching women being treated as minority in real life as well as on screen, which made him wonder about the gender lines that society draws.

The director feels it is important to build a culture without toxic masculinity, and says men play a very important role in creating that culture.

Abbasi’s personal space was filled by strong women and an empathetic father, which was in stark contrast from reality.

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“To be honest, I was surrounded by strong women. I come from a family with a lot of sisters, and my mother is a very blunt and bold woman. I came from a household where my dad was very soft. He was not your alpha father with rules and a conservative outlook. He was very liberal, open and gentle. The empathy I saw in my father, I did not see in other men and often wondered about that,” Abbasi told IANS.

He wondered “why men grow up to be so unable to show emotions” and “why men are so unable to give hugs and stuff like that”. Such gender defined roles used to play in his mind.

“I haven’t personally met a woman who has been harassed or abused, but then you see that it’s happening all around you. You just need to pick up a newspaper. It is always there,” he mentioned.

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The director continued: “Women are treated like minority despite being 50 per cent of the population, which is mind boggling because in numbers they are almost identical.”

Abbasi made waves when his 2018 debut feature film “Cake” was selected as the official Pakistani entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 91st Oscars. He uses his lens to script a new female narrative, going on to break stereotypes.

His latest, the web series “Churails”, released in India as an original Zindagi content. With the series, Abbasi challenges the hypocrisy of patriarchal societies vanquishing women and their rights. And that’s an attempt from his side to set the female narrative right.

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“Men play a huge role (in getting gender balance), and I don’t think they are doing nearly enough. As shameful as that sounds, we’re not doing nearly enough because we are in a position of power,” he noted.

The director continued: “In an ideal situation, I would love to see 10 ‘Churails’ being made and them being made by female directors with a female voice. Because as much as I want to understand women or I think I understand women, I don’t live in a woman’s body… jitna bhi mein koshish kar loon samjhne ka, woh farak aayega (there will be a difference, no matter how hard I try to understand).”

Explaining his thought, he continued: “In reality, about 70 to 80 per cent filmmakers in the world are men, and what we can do is, at least as men, tell stories about women, be allies and push them forward. In the case of ‘Churails’, unless they are antagonists, men are soft, empathetic, understanding and support women.

“It is important to build a culture where you realise that toxic masculinity is not a good thing. That it is okay for a man to be gentle, empathetic and understanding. I think this is crucial. I don’t think it happens with one show, but it happens if there are 10 to 15 shows being made like that. Maybe someday some father will realise and raise a child and a son to be better, and that is what we as filmmakers and creators can ask for,” he added.

–IANS

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