A video clip that I’m sure all of us have chanced upon recently is one where senior actor Firdous Jamal states that Mahira Khan, a “mediocre model” according to him, has reached an age where she should be playing the role of a mother.
Contextually, Faisal Qureshi also condescendingly states that none of Mahira’s films have worked as of late – a jab that was uncalled for – and he follows this up by stating that he hopes her upcoming film does well. Firdous Jamal chimes in to state that she isn’t made of”heroine stuff,” then stating his rather backward, ageist views.
First of all, let me take a minute to talk about Mahira Khan.
Mahira has given Pakistan some of her absolute best work that is still considered to be iconic. Her debut performance in Bol – a film that was a critical and commercial success, and is one of the highest-grossing Pakistani films of all time – earned her a nomination for the Lux Style Award for Best Actress (film). Straight off the bat.
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7 years to Bol today, 7 years to my first ever acting job. There are so many songs that are close to my heart but this one might be the most special. @atifaslam tried his best to teach me how to play the guitar. Also our voices feel so different in the scene! Shoaib Mansoor used to have @maramaabroo cover my lips with concealer, thought they were too pink. All of us would chill for hours up on this roof, singing songs and talking about life ( as we knew it then). This is to the beginnings, to the times of innocence and purity, when we didn’t know where we were headed, when living in the moment was enough.. and to all the love ever since that time, to all of you 💋 Hona tha pyar 🙂
She’s one half of the iconic Khirad-Asher duo that reigned on screen for years, with Humsafar still being considered an iconic drama.
This earned her a Lux Style Award for Satellite Best TV Actress and a Hum Award for Best Onscreen Couple. But that’s not where the accolades stop. A quick Google search will testify as to just how accomplished Mahira truly is.
This “mediocre model” as Firdous Jamal states, has made it to Bollywood…
Moreover, Mahira tackled a pertinent issue in Verna, where she received immense praise for her depiction of a sexual assault victim – a topic that remains a taboo, often swept under the carpet. If this is the film that Faisal Qureshi believes was unsuccessful, he’s clearly looking at box office collections instead of how this furthered the dialogue around sexual assault.
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‘I have chained all my three films together since all deal with Women Empowerment… “Khuda ke Liye Bol Verna”. I sincerely hope it will not only spark off the process of shifting people’s patriarchal mindsets but will rejuvenate the movement against this crime. Most of all I hope that it will at least make women reflect that rape does not rob them of ‘honor’, it is something they earn and no one can snatch away from them.’ – Shoaib Mansoor #Verna 17.11.17
The subcontinent is unfair to its women. We’ve seen and are currently still witnessing 50-year-old men romancing 20-year-old actresses on-screen. Age and talent, though they have no correlation, are often tied in together when considering women for roles. However, let’s look at some of the most pivotal roles played by Pakistani actresses till date.
For instance, Saba Qamar is being praised thoroughly for her role as Mannat in Cheekh. She was also applauded for her powerful portrayal of Qandeel Baloch in Baaghi as well.
The stunning actress has shown nothing but immense talent and it’s a testament to how hard she works and how she’s excellent at what she does. Does her age play a role in her excellent depictions of the characters she essays? Absolutely not.
Mehwish Hayat is another gem, who has not only starred in some of the highest-grossing films, but is still continuing to wow audiences with her talent.
She’s unstoppable and a force to be reckoned with. Does her age need to factor in when stating that she’s probably already more accomplished than a large chunk of the existing industry? Not at all.
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Very flattered to receive the viewer’s choice award for best actor female for my role in "Load Wedding". Thank you to all those who voted for me – it's moments like this that makes all the blood sweat and tears we go through worth it. Thank you to @nabqur and @fizza_999 who managed to touch the nation with a film about dowry . @mustafafahad26 for being such an amazing co-star. And the entire team of LW this is for YOU! ❤️ #MehwishHayat #LSA2019 #Loadwedding
Even a look across the border shows how women like Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, and Deepika Padukone have managed to stand their ground and fight this regressive mindset that states that an actress has a shelf-life.
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Deepika and alia💕❤️💞#coffeewithkaran #deepikapadukone #deepikapadukonefans #deepikapadukonelovers #deepikafans #deepikalovers #deepikafc #deepikaranveer #deepveer #deepika #padukone #ranveer #singh #beautiful #deepikasquads #deepveerfans #aliabhatt #aliafans #aliadeepika #deepikaalia . . . . . . Follow @deepikasquads for more videos and pictures 🌞💕
Moreover, could you imagine if Humayun Saeed retired at 30? Or if Shah Rukh Khan was told he’s too old to romance Deepika Padukone? Men seem to successfully avoid this conversation about them altogether – a conversation that was only recently had when news broke that Salman Khan would romance Alia Bhatt on-screen – yet, our actresses are disturbingly made to work on a clock.
I’m sure that Firdous Jamal comes from a time when this mindset mattered, or when saying these things was not considered problematic. However, for a man to sit there and call Mahira a “mediocre model” – an opinion that he’s entitled to, but is probably not very well-researched – and to dictate her shelf-life, is absurd, uncalled for, and misogynistic.
Consequently, people are also coming to her defense on social media.
I am really appalled that senior and respectable persons like #Firdousjamal sahab still think that a woman has a heroine by date….till when will we continue on this repressive path and pull peers down. @TheMahiraKhan is a star in every sense of the word like her or hate her. pic.twitter.com/fZTEBUgJDj
— FK (@faisalkapadia) July 26, 2019
Massive eyeroll at people taking potshots at Mahira Khan for airing their own toxic views. She never does this. Never attacks people this way. And yet she’s always in the line of fire, always attacked by people in the industry. What a shameful attitude by some stars. https://t.co/n5BGjKITo2
— Mahwash Ajaz (@mahwashajaz_) July 26, 2019
Hilarious overage “heroes” want a teenage heroine @faysalquraishi aap ki fan thi expected so much better of you
Firdause Jamal just lost the respect he earned thru these #misogynist #agist cheap statements typical Male patriarchal arrogance
Carry on boys, #Mahirakhan REIGNS https://t.co/1mtzzZnBjt
— Sadaf Says (@tomtomatoe) July 26, 2019
.@faysalquraishi shutting down misogynistic, ageist tattle from a nonentity, is the least one expected off you. 2019 & we’re talking about the shelf life of actresses? That too someone who‘d let you have a peak at her passport. “Age” ki baat aye toh kaafi logon ko masla par jaye!
— Natz (@AntiGhazal) July 26, 2019
What a cheap shot from Firdous Jamal – least expected. @TheMahiraKhan is one of our finest actress. None of the description Firdous Jamal gave of Mahira is correct. Expected @faysalquraishi to defend her!! pic.twitter.com/5fwDNOgyq9
— Kalim Khan (@Kallerz37) July 26, 2019
“Iss age pe toh ma ke roles play karne chahiye” says Firdous Jamal about Mahira who is in her mid-30s while 50-year-old Humayun Saeed plays lead roles opposite young girls in movies. 🙂 🙂 🙂 https://t.co/ieUX7SC5vP
— R. (@rahimaso) July 27, 2019
The fact that this still needs to be called out in 2019 is disappointing, but it’s heartening to note that many people have risen to the occasion and are supporting or defending Mahira Khan. Statements like these, if made to maintain relevance, or to simply be hurtful, have no place in 2019.
A performer only owes you their art and what comes of it – nothing more, nothing less. Here’s hoping this massive uproar serves as a reminder to all those who wish to take such shots in the future that the sun has set on your problematic mindset.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments.
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Cover image via @mahirahkhan/Instagram