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Meet ‘Bloody Nasreen’, Pakistan’s Very Own Ruthless Crime-Fighting ‘Badass’ Anti-Hero

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By Saparya Sood:

With ‘feminism’ being one of the most commonly chanted words these days, it is no surprise that female superheroes are in the spotlight in the new age comic books. But this daring and intrepid designer and cartoonist has ventured beyond the traditional super hero zone of unabashed strength, invisibility spells or superhuman endurance.

Artwork by Shahan Zaidi
Artwork by Shahan Zaidi

Shahan Zaidi, a designer and cartoonist from Pakistan, has created a female superhero called Bloody Nasreen, who fights all sorts of crimes and criminals – terrorists, traffickers and thugs. 27 year old Nasreen hails from Karachi in the novel set in 2030, which is to be released later this year. Already a big hit on the social media, Nasreen has gained a lot of critique on one hand and widespread appreciation on the other. There are fans waiting eagerly for the release of the novel and haters creating a hue and cry about the same.

By choosing a common Muslim name in Pakistan, Zaidi has tried to keep out of the religious sect based controversy as much as possible. Zaidi claims that Karachi, often being the target of crime and terrorism, has seen a lot of families being torn apart. What happens to these families after a member dies is never of much consequence to those outside the family. He has portrayed Nasreen to belong to one such family who sets out to take revenge. Lingering on the thin borderline between the good-girl and the not-so-good girl image, Nasreen has a vehement personality that makes her an interesting character.

Zaidi claims that he has tried to keep her image close to a next-door Pakistani girl so that most people can relate to her character. What is unclear, however, is that how does a big bad bold woman, clad in kurtis with skulls printed on them, churidars and sneakers, often seen without a dupatta or scarf and a cigarette in hand, conform to that image even if it is set in an optimistic and progressive future which is hardly a decade and a half from now? While people may relate to her cause but the idea of thdm relating to her character seems a little too far fetched.

With Nasreen’s bold personality, smoking habits and dressing style carrying a touch of western liberalism, there is a lurking danger that in a land where women are still veiled behind burqas and confined to the boundaries of a house, she can also be perceived as a passive form of rebellion against the traditional ways or a ‘bad influence’ on the culture by the orthodox section of the society resisting any sort of change.

Artwork by Shahan Zaidi
Artwork by Shahan Zaidi

Whenever something has the potential to become controversial, it becoming viral is inevitable. It makes one wonder whether the hype about Nasreen’s character is primarily because of her radical persona, unique style or the mere potential of it getting controversial because of the lack of acceptance of the society towards anything that might turn out to be the harbinger of change. While a lot of people would welcome a form of change that portrays women in a position of power, strength and self reliance, a major chunk is bound to raise concerns and go to lengths to resist such drastic ideas inspiring change.

Artwork by Shahan Zaidi
Artwork by Shahan Zaidi

How, then, will this graphic novel which could create a spark about women’s rights and emancipation, and a lot of other issues with respect to crime and terrorism in the society, hold out in the face of radicalism and Islamic orthodoxy will be interesting to see. If it isn’t received with much agitation and resistance, this soon to come out novel which might be made into a motion picture subsequently could mark an epoch in the history of feminism, else Bloody Nasreen could end up starting a bloody war that she had initially set out to stop!

You can check more pictures on their Facebook page, click here.

You must be to comment.
  1. aiman

    This is definitely awesome..however i don’t think the character needs to smoke a cigarrete to assert her’s a trend to associate female liberation with cigarette smoking..even though it’s an equally harmful habit for men and women alike..there’s nothing ‘rebellious’ about smoking a’s the most common thing ever nowadays..the idea of the character is powerful enough in need for stereotypes

  2. Khizra

    This comment might be all over the place.
    I think the writer is too worried about how this will be perceived in ‘a land where women are still veiled behind burqas and confined to the boundaries of a house’. This is a sad generalization. Don’t forget we have the Arts here. Television dramas with different representations of women and no, there aren’t rallies, poster burnings or death threats about any of them. You’ll get an idea from watching Zindagi channel by Ztv.
    Yes we’re conservative in majority, but its a strange balance that exists and in that balance, this will be accepted. In fact, something similar’s been done:

  3. Babar

    Apparently smoking is a symbol of women’s emancipation and liberation, the same propaganda which women have bought that has told them that working outside the home and competing with men is going to bring them happiness.

    The following is from Wikipedia:

    “Torches of Freedom” was a phrase used to encourage women’s smoking by exploiting women’s aspirations for a better life during the women’s liberation movement in the United States. Cigarettes were described as symbols of emancipation and equality with men. The term was first used by psychoanalyst A. A. Brill when describing the natural desire for women to smoke and was used by Edward Bernays to encourage women to smoke in public despite social taboos. Bernays hired women to march while smoking their “torches of freedom” in the Easter Sunday Parade of 1929 which was a significant moment for fighting social barriers for women smokers.

    1. Shraddha

      Smoking is not a symbol of power or liberation. It is rather to break the stereotype which directs a women to not smoke because they are not ‘supposed’ to smoke if they want to be called good, decent girls. Smoking is connected less to health and more to character when it comes to women specifically. And therefore the need to break this thinking and put it in right perspective. The idea here is to revolt against such generalization. It was the same for many male characters in our old movies too where they were shown to smoke or drink to depict that they walk differently from what society instructs them to do. Something similar to bra burning movement. The idea was not that women do not like bras and don’t want to wear them. The idea was to break away from convention and show independence.
      The day people accept a smoking woman as same as every other women, and stop casting aspersions on her character based on her choice of smoking, would be the day you would stop seeing women smoking or portrayals of women smoking as symbol of women liberation.

    2. Shraddha

      Aaaand I missed your comment! – “propaganda which women have bought that has told them that working outside the home and competing with men is going to bring them happiness”!!!!!!!
      I am not sure what you mean here but it sure bought me a lot more happiness than ‘working in home and serving men’.

    3. Babar

      It is an undeniable fact that women were encouraged to smoke by Edward Bernays in the name of emancipation and equality with men.

      Women are makers of families, but feminists want to break families, which is why they spew venom at the very thought of a woman being in the comfort and security of her home, because they are led to believe, with false theories and notions, that they will be happier working outside the home.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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