Published On: Fri, Mar 9th, 2018

Pakistani Star Mahira Khan Stands Up for Women’s Rights in Film Verna

Actress Mahira Kahn, largely considered the biggest female star in Pakistan’s film industry and the first Pakistani actress to enter Bollywood, stands up for women’s rights in the controversial film Verna.

The 33-year-old actress shared the big screen with Bollywood’s biggest star, Shah Rukh Khan, in the 2017 film Raees. She’s also making headlines as the first Pakistani ambassador for L’Oreal.

Her latest film, Verna, which was briefly banned in Pakistan, follows a woman who is raped and tormented by her abuser. Khan’s character seeks her own justice when the law fails her.

The film will be featured at the 2018 UK Asian Film Festival in March. This year, the film is celebrating the achievements of women in the film industry.

Ahead of her visit to the UK, Kahn spoke with Newsweek and discussed how the Time’s Up movement has been making its way into Pakistan.

The actress says women are raising their voices in Pakistan. She also says that she would like to see better roles written for women.

Kahn says she and other women in the industry are laying the groundwork for future generations so that they may not face the same struggles and challenges.

Talking about Verna‘s brief ban in Pakistan, Kahn told Newsweek, “We knew there are certain things that have been said in this film that won’t go down well with certain people, certain institutions. And they didn’t. There was a feeling of, OK, it’s been banned—now what do we do? There was a handful of people who did not want it to go out, and then there was the entire brigade of people—a society—who created an uproar and said they want this film to be released.”

Kahn joins a growing list of people, like Fawad Khan, Ali Zafar, and filmmaker Habib Ullah Afridi, who are helping to revive Pakistan’s film industry.

But for the star who is breaking down walls in a challenging industry, her films are more than just entertainment.

“More than anything, Verna talks about power,” Kahn said. “Whether we talk about misogyny or patriarchal society or even abuse, they’re an act of power.  That’s what the film tackles. My character is an empowered woman who fights the system. It’s not just a story about rape.”

The actress said Shoaib Mansoor, director of Verna, was her first director and considers him one of the best in Pakistan.

“When I heard the story, all I knew was that there are lines in the film that I wanted to be able to say,” Kahn said. “There were a lot of other great commercial projects that were around at the same time but as an actor, it was a hunger… to be able to be part of something like this.”

Kahn is an anomaly in the industry, as she is the first Pakistani to break into Bollywood. But that may change, as India is upholding its ban on Pakistani actors and actresses in Indian films.

“It’s something governments are deciding, and so be it,” she said of the ban.

Author: Jacob Maslow

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