Photo: Mahnoor Mahar
Photo: Mahnoor Mahar

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could just wake up and walk fearlessly on the streets? If women could be vendors, and all your errands could be run with comfortable ease?

For Zahra Paracha — an up and coming Indie music artist in Pakistan, whose sweet melodious vocals and relatable lyrics are uplifting and refreshing — the music video for her song Bekhudi is a representation of just that utopian dream.

It's music for a generation that has wondered what it would be like for women to enjoy existing in the same public spaces largely occupied by men.

The song works like a trajectory of her thoughts, as does the music video, which lives up to a similar flow, and is the masterpiece of an all-women team.

"The idea of an all female/non-binary crew came about because of our experiences working in male-dominated fields," video director Mahnoor Mahar tells Images, as she recalls their collective ordeals.

"Zahra is a music producer and there aren't many female producers in Pakistan, so that is something she struggles with. There have been times when I'm the only woman on set and I wish it was different," she says. "There are no women in the camera teams either. So I wanted to create a film/production company where we could deliberately choose to work with women and non-binary people."

The video is fairly simple in its execution — at first glance, it follows the journey of a little girl walking on the streets fearlessly. Look closely and you find yourself in a utopian dream, with women vendors, and a no-money, conflict-free barter system.

The idea also stems from the writer and producer for the music video Sadia Khatri's own politics. She's also one of the founders of the feminist collective 'Girls At Dhabas'.

"It's something we all agreed with and supported," Mahar tells me. "Women occupying public spaces has been such a large part of her resistance. We asked our friends who we think are brilliant women to play those parts, and the rest just fell into place and turned into a caring and nurturing space to create."

It is often assumed that women working together breeds toxic politics and disputes, but the brains behind Bekhudi don't agree.

"This was easily the most hassle-free easy production. There was literally no conflict, we worked together like a well oiled machine. I didn't even know this was possible," she adds.

"Men don't listen. That's the limitation. They have an issue with women telling them what to do. It's frustrating and makes it very difficult to do our jobs," she adds, talking about how working with women on the other hand, was a completely different and wholesome experience.

Paracha seemed to agree, adding how being a woman in a technical field is exceptionally difficult in Pakistan. "You have to be twice as good to prove that you're just as good as your male colleagues in the same field," she says.

"I was fortunate enough to have people guiding me through the process but a lot of women don't have that and because of that they are discouraged from entering the field or just staying in it," she explains, saying that if she didn't love what she did so much, she would have quit a long time ago.

"This is going to sound dramatic but Bell Hooks writes about approaching everything with a love ethic, and I feel like this [music video] has really been created that way," Mahar says, talking about the project and how the experience turned out to be.

She also confessed how the team wants to work on projects that are not just feminist on screen, but also feminist through the entire process and its politics as well. "We feel this was the most important. To notice how people working were feeling and how they were being treated."

The inspiration for the video stemmed from Dhani by Strings, which was directed by Jami in 2003 and incorporated the essence of women occupying the streets.

The cinematography for Bekhudi by Mariam Iqbal Desai, alongside Rania Ahmed as the production assistant and colourist Sourath Behan has given the film a soft dreamy feel. You go girls!

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