Brave, bold and beautiful: the female warrior fighting to save Karachi

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Zaidi decided to call this extraordinary character “Bloody Nasreen.” He armed her with guns, a yakuza sword and a ruthless attitude, though he didn’t give her superpowers.
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Zaidi decided to call this extraordinary character “Bloody Nasreen.” He armed her with guns, a yakuza sword and a ruthless attitude, though he didn’t give her superpowers.
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Zaidi decided to call this extraordinary character “Bloody Nasreen.” He armed her with guns, a yakuza sword and a ruthless attitude, though he didn’t give her superpowers.
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Zaidi decided to call this extraordinary character “Bloody Nasreen.” He armed her with guns, a yakuza sword and a ruthless attitude, though he didn’t give her superpowers.
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Zaidi decided to call this extraordinary character “Bloody Nasreen.” He armed her with guns, a yakuza sword and a ruthless attitude, though he didn’t give her superpowers.
Updated 14 February 2018
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Brave, bold and beautiful: the female warrior fighting to save Karachi

KARACHI: When Shahan Zaidi picked up his sketch pencil almost a decade ago, his imagination gave birth to a young woman — a fictional antihero on a mission to salvage her violence-prone city. Although the story unfolds in Pakistan’s volatile commercial capital in 2030, the backdrop resembles DC Comics’ Gotham City, where Batman lives.
Zaidi decided to call this extraordinary character “Bloody Nasreen.” He armed her with guns, a yakuza sword and a ruthless attitude, though he didn’t give her superpowers. And his depiction of the city is not too far removed from the reality of Pakistan’s commercial hub, which has been home to violence and turmoil at the hands of political and criminal elements. The work is fiction, but location names are real.
The story arc isn’t complicated, Zaidi says. It is sprinkled with terrorism, corruption, human trafficking, extortion, gang violence and bloodshed. These are some of the things the creator of the story has witnessed since the 1990s and which led him to create Nasreen.
“It’s the inner loss that I am trying to showcase,” Zaidi said. “It’s not a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ kind of story.
“You can relate to her, I can relate to her,” he said.
Nasreen is so attractive that Zaidi’s artwork could be viewed as sexually provocative by the conservative-minded. In Zaidi’s comic realm, Nasreen depicts a woman’s vengeance, a female warrior trying to right wrongs in a male-dominated society. He wants to take female empowerment to a new level.
“I made her a bold girl because she’s fighting the most vicious criminals in Karachi,” said Zaidi.
“There is a rich and a poor Karachi that we are already seeing. The crime ratio is so high that it has triggered a chaotic situation in the metropolis. There’s no order, making it a perfect place for her to rise,” he said.
Film producer Faisal Rafi, who holds the screen rights, has described Nasreen as “the product of her environment.” She will also “drive the narrative, showing the darker side of the city,” he said.
The film, however, is yet to gain funding. Rafi said that investors had approached him, but his unwillingness to compromise on even the slightest element had narrowed the range of opportunities.
If they do appear, Zaidi’s English graphic novel and Rafi’s film would be the first of their kind in Pakistan. Unlike the award-winning “Burka Avenger,” a Pakistani cartoon series for children that Zaidi had also been involved in, “Bloody Nasreen” is for a mature audiences.
“She isn’t fighting for education,” he said. “She’s fighting for basic rights.”
Nasreen has a major fan following. “Her persona and rebellious” character attracts many people, though her haters strongly oppose “her looks, smoking, name and use of foul language,” said Zaidi.
“There are good characters and bad characters,” he said, “but I make characters in the gray areas.”
Zaidi is optimistic about positive change, and cautiously hopeful that his novel and the film will not face too much of a backlash from conservatives.
“When I started making the concept art of ‘Bloody Nasreen’, I got many negative comments on my social media page,” he said. “Now positive comments outnumber the negative ones. I believe that we are progressing.”


Russian orchestra brings classical music to Saudi Arabia

Updated 18 June 2018
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Russian orchestra brings classical music to Saudi Arabia

  • The prestigious world-class orchestra was hosted by the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra),
  • The orchestra has recorded symphonies and piano concertos by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich

DHAHRAN: The Russian Mariinsky Orchestra treated its Saudi audience with masterpieces created by Prokofiev, Grieg, Vivaldi, Mozart and other maestros at a concert to mark the inauguration of the Ithra Theater in Dhahran in the Eastern Province.

It was the first performance of this renowned Russian orchestra not only in the Kingdom but also in the entire Gulf Cooperation Council region.

The prestigious world-class orchestra was hosted by the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), in collaboration with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Saudi Aramco, as part of Eid Al-Fitr celebrations.

“The Mariinsky Theater is one of Russia’s most distinguished and historic theaters. It has amazed audiences worldwide, including in Asia, Europe, North America and now Saudi Arabia,” Fatmah Al-Rashid, the acting director of Ithra, told Arab News. 

She said: “Ithra’s mission is to broaden horizons, and provide its visitors with a cultural window that reflects the richness of our world.”

The event was part of the cultural exchange between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which aims to strengthen the bond between the two countries.  

The CEO of the RDIF, Kirill Dmitriev, who is also a member of the Mariinsky Theatre’s board of trustees, said: “It is a great honor for RDIF to organize the first symphonic concert in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We all saw the admiration of the center’s audience who listened to the enchanting playing of the Russian musicians conducted by the maestro Valery Gergiev, and their enthusiastic standing ovation for the Russian orchestra.”

The orchestra has recorded symphonies and piano concertos by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, operas by German composer Richard Wagner, France’s Jules Massenet as well as Russia’s Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cinderella” ballet music.

Led by renowned conductor Valery Gergiev, the orchestra presented its first performance on June 16. In their second performance, they played Prokofiev’s Symphony No.1 and Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite and arias from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.”

“It is a very important part of our relationship because our Saudi partners can see that we bring the best of Russian art, and we have a lot to be proud of,” the RDIF chief said.

“RDIF will further contribute to strengthening cultural relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Our next project will be a week of Russian culture later this year.”   

In 2017, RDIF and Saudi Aramco signed a memorandum to create a $1 billion mutual fund to invest in the energy sector. Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have actively developed in recent years due to the support of the leaders of both countries. 

In 2015, during the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Moscow, the sovereign fund of Saudi Arabia, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced its intention to invest $10 billion in Russian projects through a partnership with RDIF. 

The visit of King Salman to the Russian Federation in October 2017 gave a new momentum to these relations. The PIF has invested $2 billion in 15 mutual projects with RDIF. 

The concert was attended by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Information Minister Awwad Alawwad, and Saudi Aramco CEO Amin H. Nasser. 

The area of the state-of-the-art Ithra Theater is 1,500 square meters with a capacity for 900 people. It is the only proscenium theater in the Kingdom, a venue in which the audience faces the stage straight on. As a result, the moment a person steps into the auditorium, he is wowed by the look and feel of the famous traditional theaters in Europe, rather than simply a large hall with a stage. The proscenium arch, which frames the stage, is nine meters tall and 16 meters wide.