‘Akeli aurat zimmedari hai, mauqa nahin…’ (A lone woman is a responsibility, not an opportunity)

This is the impactful statement made towards the end of Ab Buss, a short film starring Sanam Saeed, narrating the mental turmoil caused by the recent rape of a woman on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway. But many such statements have been made time and again, following the horrific incident.

Produced by Ali Hussain and Mahib Bukhari, the film follows the story of a woman arming herself with extreme measures as she prepares to embark on a long journey with her daughter.

There were incessant debates on media as people marched out in protest of the comments and the act of rape and in support of the woman, holding placards printed with hard-hitting messages.

Sometimes, however, a visual story can help in driving the message home, giving you goosebumps with a narrative that is advocating for initiating change.

Released on the channel See Prime on YouTube, Ab Buss is a story short and simple, told in less than 10 minutes and held together with the aid of suspense and some very fine acting.

“It’s a very smartly written film; simple, impactful, with a punchline right at the end,” says Sanam. “That’s the beauty of short films; their strength lies in delivering a message creatively and simply," she says, adding that it took only half a day to shoot.

“In fact, sometimes when a short film is done well, you wish that it could be slightly longer.”

Does it also irk her, as an artist, when a project that she is proud of is not available to a mass audience via TV and instead, can only be seen on the Internet?

“Yes, it is disappointing because I do think that such content should be made available for mass viewership, offering a broader perspective from what people see daily on their television screens. At the same time, the internet has allowed the film to be seen by a wide, international audience.”

How was working for the web different?

“It allows greater artistic license; there is no red tape, no politics and a wider range of topics to work with.”

Does this particular topic, focusing on how a woman feels unsafe traveling alone, particularly ring true with Sanam as a woman?

“I do think that a sense of insecurity is there but for most women, including myself, it’s become second nature to take precautions. I have been lucky; I have never been followed or harassed and I do tend to drive alone at night but I’d always inadvertently opt for a route that has more traffic or has police or rangers stationed in the vicinity. I’ll take a longer route if necessary and I wouldn’t loiter on the road alone. My car key and house keys would be within easy access.”

“These precautions aren’t limited to Pakistan,” she continues. “I wouldn’t want to take the late night subway in the US or go for a late night stroll in the UK. Women feel insecure anywhere in the world where they may become victims of predatory behaviour.”

All the more reason for consistently pushing forward the rhetoric on creating a more secure environment for women. A short film, with strong, crisp storytelling, broadcast on mainstream TV could help with this.

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