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.
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.
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.
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!
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