SPOILS ALERT! Actions in the film are discussed in the review. I kindly invite you to watch the film before reading the article.
DISCLAIMER: I dont have a background on cinema, nor I have lived in Pakistan or know in deep the Pakistani culture. I do not know to what extend is true what the film shows about the Pakistani traditions. My criticisms below refer solely to the way in which the story is developed in the film. Please feel free to comment, correct or elaborate on my thoughts. Discussions are more than welcomed. Also, I am not a native english speaker so please forgive the linguistic mistakes in the text.
"What will people say" starts with Nisha in party clothes and make up, racing breathlessly to her home in the dark, while her father is switching off lights and inspecting room by room that her siblings are all right in bed. Nisha arrives just in time to climb up the windows of her room, sneak behind the glass and jump into the mattress before his father steps inside the room and observes with a tender smile at his oldest daughter sleeping. It is a dynamic start in which the two conflicting mobiles of the story are well introduced: 1) Nisha belongs, at least in part, to the western culture and 2) his father loves and cares about her and her siblings. However, the hook of this strong beginning is soon lost by a development of a story in which actions are forced into a unique direction and the behaviour and choices of the characters contradicts the way they are introduced in the film.
First incoherence: Nisha is not being rise in the heart of a strictly traditional family. It is true that she has a double life. Behind her parents watch she is a "western" teenager, partying with her friends, smoking weed, flirting with guys. In the intimacy of her family however she is a calm, studious daughter. Nevertheless, nothing indicates that she is growing in a repressive environment. For instance, there is the scene of his father birthday. The father plays his favourite song and starts dancing with Nisha, her mother and her brother. When the party is over the mother complains to the father that it is shameful for women to dance in front of men, even if they are close relatives. The father is rather chill about the complaint and Nisha even states that it is stupid that family cannot dance together. No one blinks at the harsh words of Nisha, not even the classical "watch your mouth you child and respect your elders" kind of comment that -by the way- you would get in western families. In another scene Nisha arrives home. Her mum is doing the chores in the kitchen, her dad and brother are taking care of the accountability of the little store the family owns. The mother tells Nisha to help her, but Nisha refuses stating that she is exhausted and just like that sits at the table, texting in the phone. No one even questions the fact that everyone is working, with the chores or the business, while Nisha is just resting as she pleases. Later in the film we get to know that Nisha doesn't know how to cook and that she does not pray. How is that having such a traditionally minded parents as the ones the film depicts later we are presented to a 16 years' old that doesn't pray, doesn't cook, doesn't help in the house, and literally call stupid to the Pakistani traditions?
Second incoherence: Nisha knows very well where to draw the limits between home and her "western" life. For instance, in one scene we see Nisha playing basketball with her friends. She receives a call from her mum, looks at the time in the phone and with full resolution abandons the game and takes the way home. In another occasion she is coming back to her neighbourhood and her Norwegian love interest -they were never a couple as it is suggested in other reviews- starts walking next to her while engaging in a conversation. In a moment, Nisha sees a woman with a Muslim headscarf in the other street, coming towards them. She immediately interrupts the conversation with the boy and hurry up home. But for me, the key scene is the one in which Nisha is sitting at the table next to her father and her brother, who are doing the store accountability. Nisha is texting continuously in the phone. Her father realises and stares at her suspiciously. Just with one look back at her father Nisha understands he is suspicious about her texting. She quickly asks him to do a math calculation. The father is first confused, then Nisha lies and tell him that a friend of her is texting her, asking about maths. Nisha hides very well her other life, she is smart, and she knows how to fool her family. How is then possible that she ends up sneaking a boy into her room, in the middle of the night, right next to her parents' bed? She is not naïve, she is not stupid, she knows how to play the game and she knows there are parks, toilets, the house of the boy or anywhere else where they could go and have some privacy.
But no, she decides to bring the guy home and the obvious happen, they get discovered by the father. The father thinks they had sex and became blind in rave. And here comes the third incoherence in the film, to my view a big flaw in the argument: the immigrant father beats the underage native Norwegian to the point that the neighbours call the police. However not apparent consequences derive from his actions. WHAT?!!!! No way you beat an underage in Europe and you are not sent to prison, or at least face court. You would even risk the custody of your own children. No way an immigrant beats a native and it is not appearing all over the media the next day. The beating of the boy would have had huge consequences for Nisha's father, but no, in this film all the suffering is just canalized to the daughter.
And this bring us to the four incoherence, flaw or forced development in the movie: Nisha is kidnapped by her parents and sent to Pakistan because she is thought to have had sex with the boy and thereby she dishonoured herself and her family. After the incident with the boy occurred, Nisha ends up in the hands of social workers. These social workers are responsible of mediating between Nisha and the family, but specially they provide support to Nisha. All right, does any of the social workers thought about having a doctor examining the Imen of Nisha? It is true that we do not know whether Nisha has had sex or not before her Norwegian love interest. However, at least I will ask her the question. If she is still virgin it is really easy to show that her Imen is intact. She didn't have sex with the boy outside marriage, she didn't commit the huge dishonour she is being blame for. Still I agree that the family could have sent her to Pakistan, thinking that in any case kissing was already scandalous. However, as I discussed above, the family is not presented as a hardcore traditional one that will just risk "the better future in Norway for their children" they father said he wanted because of kissing.
But all right, we the audience accept that no one though about doing a medical examination of Nisha. The parents are more traditional than first depicted and Nisha is sent to Pakistan. There, we experience the fifth forced action in the movie: Nisha made out with her cousin, in the middle of the street in the night in Pakistan. They are discovered by the police. In a highly violent scene the police force the youngsters to get naked and pretend they are having sex. They take pictures, blackmail the family and get a chunk of money in exchange of their silence. Really? Is this whole scene likely to happen? Nisha was sent to Pakistan in the first place because she was discovered getting intimate with a male. Will she really risk the consequences of being discovered in the same situation a second time? Also, the movie leaves clear that Nisha is heavily westernized. If you are from the modern western culture the idea of having sex with a first cousin -a close relative- is considered gross. That for her would have already been a cultural barrier, regardless of how handsome -he is dammed handsome-is the cousin. But fine, she couldn't resist the charm of his cousin and she didn't mind the family bond. The cousin has spent all his life in Pakistan, she has spent 8 months. If you live in a place where the police are so corrupt and unpunished that they can do what they did to them for sure you know, for sure you have listened to stories or witnessed episodes of police violence against innocent people. Really you have never seen the police patrolling at night? It never crossed your mind what they could do to you if they catch you having sex in public in a traditional village?
The consequences of this second episode are the worst for Nisha. The cousin's parents refuse he marries her. She is almost assassinated by her father because of her "dishonourable" behaviour. At last she is brought back to Norway, where she commits to bend to the Pakistani norms and to regain the trust of her family. The ending of the film precipitates when Nisha is set up into an arrange marriage in Canada. The broom, a Pakistani doctor, doesn't want his future wife to study. She just needs to take care of the house and the children. Of course, Nisha ends up doing the only possible thing in her situation: she runs away from home. The last scene is Nisha disappearing into the street while her father looks at her through the windows.
I went to watch the film with high expectations. The trailer looked appealing and the first scenes promising. However, I soon felt disappointed. The film does not show the conflict between two different cultures, but the contrast between a western one which represents freedom and a middle east one which represents brutality and repression against women. Black and white, full stop. There is not thinking diversity in the Pakistanis in the film and the only image we have from Pakistan is the one of an isolated country enclosed in tradition.
What Will People Say
What Will People Say
Sixteen year-old Nisha lives a double life. At home with her family she is the perfect Pakistani daughter, but when out with her friends, she is a normal Norwegian teenager. When her father catches her in bed with her boyfriend, Nisha's two worlds brutally collide. To set an example, Nisha's parents decide to kidnap her and place her with relatives in Pakistan. Here, in a country she has never been to before, Nisha is forced to adapt to her parents' culture.
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February 07, 2019 at 03:28 AM