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.”


Film Review: Line of Descent is a dramatic tale of crime and atonement 

Updated 16 February 2019
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Film Review: Line of Descent is a dramatic tale of crime and atonement 

CHENNAI: Cinema has often told stories about crime families. Hollywood’s “The Godfather” series, or Scott Cooper’s 2015 “Black Mass” with an unrecognizable Johnny Depp, or even Bollywood’s bloody thriller “Titli” about a Delhi carjacking family, which first screened at Cannes in 2014. 

The latest addition to the genre is writer-director Rohit Karn Batra’s “Line of Descent” which premiered on Sunday at the European Film Market, currently running alongside the Berlin Film Festival. This movie is also set in Delhi, India’s crime capital, where some families have built unimaginable wealth through nefarious land deals, extortion, kidnapping and murder. 

An aged patriarch, Bharath Sinha (essayed by Hindi cinema’s legendary villain, Prem Chopra), heads a family of three sons — Prithvi (Ronit Roy), Siddharth (Neeraj Kabi) and Suraj (Ali Haji). Equally at home in Delhi’s seedy underbelly as in some of the poshest enclaves and among India’s elite, this is a clan with many conflicting faces, unified on the outside, but conflicted within by division, vice and repentance. 

Bharath’s notoriety as a criminal gives way to remorse and shame for the legacy he will leave behind. His death, and the bequesting of all his ill-gotten wealth to his eldest son Prithvi, creates a storm among the brothers, with Siddharth demanding his share so that he may partner with an arms-dealer, Charu (Brendan Fraser). When things begin to get out of hand, a cop named Raghav (Abhay Deol), is drawn into the mix, and asked to go undercover. 

“Line of Descent” is tightly and imaginatively scripted. Its exposition of organized crime is masterful, and some brilliant performances, especially from Deol, Roy and Kabi add a dash of class to an otherwise gritty enterprise. A compelling dramatic arc is established from the start in this fast-paced thriller, and the themes of guilt and atonement permeate throughout the movie, with both coming home to roost for the Sinha family in a touching final sequence.