This Disturbing Film Shows Just How Bad Pakistani Society Can Be For Girls

By Arslan Athar | 27 Nov, 2018

‘What Will People Say’ has created a lot of talk since its release a few months back on the popular streaming website, Netflix. The movie is originally Norwegian and was even the country’s submission to the Academy Awards.

The film is set in Norway and follows the life of a Pakistani family living in the country, adjusting to the customs and the lifestyle.

The parents are trying to keep their Pakistani values alive and strong, while completely avoiding Norwegian customs and society. This creates a divide, in terms of mindsets, between the parents and the children, in particular, the daughter,  Nisha. The mother is a typical doting wife and strict mother, while the father is a hardworking businessman. Their elder son is under the wing of his father, and then there’s Nisha, the rebellious one who smokes and hangs out with Norwegian kids.

Source: MerFilm

One fateful night she calls over a boy she likes but sneaks him in. All they do is talk but they’re caught by her father.

This kickstarts a series of unfortunate events of Nisha. Her family thinks she’s had sex with that boy and try to get her married to him, but she refuses. As a punishment, she’s sent to her phupo who lives in a small town in Pakistan, to relearn her values.

The rest of the movie involves the tussle between modernity and tradition values.

Source: MerFilm

Sometimes Nisha is winning and other times she’s losing, and losing horribly. The movie gives a VERY real look into what does happen silently in our society, and in our diasporas. Girls are sent ‘back to Pakistan’ to somehow repent on their actions. These families live in a Western society, yet the expectation that they will remain 100% Pakistani while living there is still alive and kicking. Children brought up in such a way as confused, they have two identities, one of which they HAVE to suppress.

‘What Will People Say’ also touches upon how such families act when their daughters don’t ‘fall in line’ 

Source: MerFilm

In the movie, Nisha and her cousin fall in love and are caught having sex (the horrifying aftermath of which I am glossing over because, to be honest, I’m still recovering from watching that). Nisha’s father HATES her for it, he spits on her face and even tries to force her to jump off a cliff. You might think that’s crazy and exaggerated but it’s not.

There are a multitude of news articles you can find on the topic


Daughters born to immigrant parents in the West have been a target, simply because the honor of their families lays with them


You can’t expect to raise a child in the West and expect them to be 100% Pakistani and traditional. That’s not only cruel, but it’s also unfair to the child. 


These are real issues that revolve around matters like honor, identity, and patriarchy. 

This issue of ‘family honor’ doesn’t seem to be going away, may it be Pakistani families living in Pakistan, or Pakistani families living elsewhere. We ignore this issue, therefore it still exists; we need to face it, straight on, because too many lives, too many women have been lost to this archaic concept.

People across the world have received the film well. 

It is definitely a must watch 

But do note, it is not for the faint of heart.

And it is an important film since it touches on a topic we hardly talk about 


If you’ve seen this film, let us know what you think in the comments.


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Cover Photo Courtesy Mer Films

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