November 6, 2006

"The most amazing thing was the fact that he was able to deliver it all in a way that the masses could relate to it."

"It" is Pakistan's transvestite talk show, delivered by Ali Saleem -- aka Begum Nawazish Ali:
Flirting and skirting her way through politics, society gossip and plain old sexual chemistry, Begum has become the most popular icon to inundate Pakistani fantasy in a while.

How is this possible in Pakistan where what is acceptable behaviour from female actors is still largely determined conservative Islamic values?
It's possible, apparently, through this particular individual's personality and talent.

What about the politics?
Ali [says] "our politicians have been destroyed under a well thought campaign", adding "I want them to be popular again".

Furthermore, he says that the military - such a powerful influence in Pakistan - have been deliberately kept out of the show.

"I believe that democracy is the only option for us, and this is my contribution to the cause," Ali says determinedly.

He also wants to show what kind of country Pakistan really is, in contrast to the 'Terrorism Central' nation that it is often portrayed as.

"And I will do it," Begum exclaims and, smiling seductively, adds "after all who can resist me?"

1 comment:

ignacio said...

A novel by Mohsin Hamid, "Moth Smoke," published in the US by Farrar Straus and Giroux a couple years ago, provides a look at a side of Pakistan rarely seen. For instance, the hero early on is driving home at night a bit drunk, is stopped by the police... and although alcohol is of course strictly forbidden in Muslim countries, he manages to bribe his way out of trouble (although, after haggling, it's still 700 rupees he cannot really afford).

Once again, fiction illuminates the contradictions of a society in a "take no prisoners" fashion no journalism by an outsider could ever touch. There are moments in this novel when one may be reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald or of "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" by Horace McCoy. An accessible, mordantly hardboiled tale of an anti-hero's gradual descent.

After reading "Moth Smoke" the success of Ali makes perfect sense. Pakistan is not like you think.