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Mehram preview: Exploring human gateways to heaven

Zain Anwar’s short film explores the idea of Mehram through the story of Aamna, whose burning wish is to go on the pilgrimage.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

In Zain Anwar’s short film, Mehram, Noor Bibi (Sushma Seth) says to a dejected Aamna (Farida Jalal), “If you seek God through the eyes of clerics, you will never find God”. The film explores the role of men in religion, where God’s diktat is interpreted by clerics and laid down as the law, which may be unfavourable towards different sections of society, especially, women.

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Under the sharia law, women without a ‘Mehram’ (a male blood relative) are forbidden to perform Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Zain Anwar’s short film explores this subject through the story of Aamna, whose burning wish is to go on the pilgrimage but as she does not have a male blood relative, she must struggle against the patriarchal system to claim her right to perform the Hajj.

While Aamna’s struggle to get to Mecca is the focus of the film, her life has been a series of denied opportunities, where as a daughter and wife, she was forced to do the bidding of male heads of the household. The web of patriarchal power and its effect on Aamna is powerfully portrayed as she perseveres to get her right to God.

Why you must watch this film?

While the film’s main character is Muslim, the comment on religion is universal. The film also references other religions subtly, taking the subject well beyond a straight-jacketed Muslim issue.

With powerful performances by veteran actors Rajit Kapoor and Sushma Seth, the film is a portrayal of Aamna’s journey, captured commendably by all the characters. We understand the compulsions of the main characters and empathize with them. Seth as Noor Bibi is a delight as she adds some humour in an otherwise serious narrative.

Mehram will be showcased at the Woodpecker International Film Festival on 11 November, 6.40pm, Siri Fort Auditorium-III.

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Woodpecker International Film Festival