Why did we love Zaira Wasim in Secret Superstar? When she made those videos from behind a burqa and then helped her mother leave an abusive marriage? Because it told us of the story of numerous women whose day-to-day reality is this. And it taught us to break out of the shackles and give wings to our dreams and fly. What made the film even more relatable was Zaira Wasim’s own identity as a teenager from The Valley who entered films and turned a superstar even before Secret Superstar. In Dangal, Zaira’s performance made her a star in her own right. A star, a role model, a liberated voice who many youngsters looked up to and dreamt of becoming. Much like her Secret Superstar act. But the problem with films is that they are just films. So no matter how many burqas Insia Malik shedded and emerged out of, Zaira Wasim ‘chooses’ today to go back to the ‘path of repentance’.
The problem here is not the fact that she chose to leave an industry that made her a household name. The problem lies in that very word, ‘choice’. Exactly how do you describe ‘choice’? Something that you are free to do? But as a woman in India or anywhere for that matter, is it really ‘choice’ if it is coated in praises for the very religion that oppresses you?
Zaira’s justification of leaving films is deeply problematic if not downright obnoxious. Sure, religious preachers will hail her decision to quit films and want her to go back to life within the shackles of religion. The same shackles that she broke out of in Secret Superstar. But alas. Life mirrors films only so much and no further.
In calling the path of films a path of sin, Zaira has done a great disservice to those millions of children and teenagers who dream of a life on the silver screen. It is the same mindset that we see clerics like this person slam women for choosing to wear sindoor and go to the Parliament and take her oath as an MP. It is the same mindset that paints the entire film industry black and calls it sophisticated prostitution. It is the same mindset that wants women to stay at home and attend to their husbands and produce
“Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.”
So you need a Zaira Wasim, a rising star, a talented actress, a girl who fought for her dreams, to turn to ‘repentance’ and ‘purify’ herself. Because the path of work is a sin. Don’t tell us it is her choice. In religions mine and hers, the place of women is right at the bottom, after all, kinds of men have been taken care of. In Sonchiriya (sorry for quoting from a work of ‘sin’), Phuliya tells Indumati, “Aurat ki toh jaat hi alag hoti hai.” The ‘caste’ of women lies right at the bottom of the ladder when you are done away with the Brahmins and Kshatriyas and Vaishyas and Shudras. The religion of women lies in the lies that men have told us, in the lies that men tell us every day. In the length of our clothes that men decide for us and in the breadth of our bodies that they think is right. Some of us women in this country ‘chose’ to reject those words, those statements, those orders. It is in the Zaira Wasims who fight their religions and work in films that her religion calls ‘haraam’. Why should Zaira not be a role model? She did something that deserved our applause and appreciation if not outright worshipping.
When that same Zaira Wasim ‘reasons’ that she is quitting films, her line of work because it interfered with her ‘religion’, that is an ailment. She inspires a generation of girls who are fighting oppression every single day in just stepping out of their homes to study, to work, to lead a life of their own.
“Do not let the judgment, ridicule, abuse, words or fear of people take you off from the path if you wish to be on or stop you from expressing yourself to the fullest, remember He is Al-Waliy the helper.”
Why did Zaira’s ‘Al-Waliy’ fall short of guiding her on the ‘path’ that she ‘wished to be on’? Because when women ‘choose’ their own paths, help is hard to come by. From mortals or God.
Source: India Today