What is common between a woman and an automobile? Apparently not much. A woman is a human being, fueled by emotions while an automobile is all fuel and no emotions. But in most languages, both are referred to as a feminine gender. And to the chagrin of the feminist ideologues, beautiful and curvy cars are regarded ‘sexy’ in the sexist sense. But it is rare that a motor bike is associated with the female gender.In countries where two-wheelers are used by women, scooters are more popular (India is full of scooter-driving ladies}. A motorbike is apparently very masculine, noisy and aggressive and in most cases needs to be kicked (a very common male trait). But things seem to be changing, even in Pakistan. Women are being trained to drive motorcycles and offered the machines at throw away prices. And to add to the excitement, ‘Motorcycle Girl’ has appeared on the big screen coinciding with the women bikers march in the city. If you want to empower women, then empower them. Don’t show them as victims. Victims of society, of their husbands, their fathers, and themselves. Show them as strong, powerful individuals. The bottles of ‘glycerin’ (fake tears) would have dried up given the number of times the protagonist (played by Sohai Ali Abro) cried throughout the film‘Motorcycle Girl’, the latest Pakistani release, is based on the true story of 22-year-old Zenith Irfan, who biked all the way to Khujnraab in 2015, is written and directed by Adnan Sarwar, who earlier produced ‘Shah’, also a biopic on boxer Hussain Shah. Zenith, an army officer’s daughter decided to fulfill her late father’s dream of biking to the north, and drive through all the patriarchal roadblocks. Good story and great message. But a good thematic film is one which is as enjoyable as it is motivational. The story had all the potential for stunning scenery, adventure, cultural and dramatic conflict. What we have at the end is yet another very long TV play, with plenty of screaming and crying.Apart from the fact that there are so many inspiring and dramatic stories of brave women rising above the challenges they have faced, stories which have action, romance, thrill and meaning: all the ingredients of a successful film. If the filmmakers were trying to capture a ‘slice of life’ by telling a simple story, from a purely filmmaking perspective, they failed miserably. Camera, which could have played wonders in view of the ever-moving protagonist and breath-taking natural beauty, remains static and lazy. The director did not go beyond the a typical structure of a typical TV soap: start of the scene with a long shot, put in a couple of mid and close shots, end the scene with another long shot, and voila! You have yourself a ‘film’.The lighting was not quite innovative either. No shadows, not even any change of shades. Just a blank, all-encompassing light filling indoor locations adding to the shade-less outdoor locations. Goody goody lighting like in an average commercial advertisement. Apart from the shots being irrelevant (why the sudden close up of an awkward hand eating biryani), most of the ‘profound’ dialogues were profoundly irrelevant as well. From inane banter leading nowhere to poetry taken out of some old (Urdu medium) school kid’s diary, the film was a blatant revamp of any typical Pakistani soap showing the inescapable plight of our poor women. If you want to empower women, then empower them. Don’t show them as victims. Victims of society, of their husbands, their fathers, and themselves. Show them as strong, powerful individuals. The bottles of ‘glycerin’ (fake tears) would have dried up given the number of times the protagonist (played by Sohai Ali Abro) cried throughout the film. Sometimes she remembers an old memory. She cries. Someone says something to her. She cries. Coworkers make fun of her. She cries. Finally she reaches the summit, after all the effort, but falls just before she reaches her destination. What does she decide to do? Cry of course! She is of course eventually saved by men, since only men can solve ‘real’ problems. Why not show her, after getting battered and bruised, to still carry on like any other super hero? Why not show how the very men who make fun of her actually go to bed crying alone? Why not focus on her struggle, her determination, her victories? The filmmakers had a tremendous opportunity to make Pakistan’s first female super hero, and they blew it.Apart from old cliché dialogues and the film seldom venturing out from the drawing room, the script itself was too slow. This could have been an adventure genre. A do or die girl, venturing forth in a dangerous country. Imagine the possibilities. Imagine all the adventures on her journey, the people she could’ve met, the subtle moments that make all journeys unforgettable. Maybe she could have gotten stuck on a mountain, maybe she could have thwarted thieves. Maybe the filmmakers could have made her journey just that bit more interesting. Revolving in cyclical motions, the story was not going anywhere. Just as soon as an opportunity presented itself, she reverted back to memories of her past, then proceeded to shed more tears. The music too was slow, designed perhaps to squeeze out the maximum tears from its female listeners. After all, the ad companies pay big money for it. With empty frames, no depth of field, lack of imaginative set design, a slowly paced and awkward script, the only good thing about the film was that there was no intermission.The saving grace was the rising star Meher Bano’s acting. In the few scenes, she appeared, she stole the show. Each scene lit up with not only her charisma but her natural and subtle acting skills as well. She would have been much better suited for the tomboyish role given to the not-so-tomboyish Sohai Ali Abro. The protagonist needed to be a strong, fearless woman, not a delicate damsel in distress. Compare that to the recently banned ‘Padman’. A wonderful film, it portrays the real life story of how a simple villager goes on a mission to raise awareness on the use of Pads for women, inspired by the ordeal and social taboo his beloved wife goes through. Humiliation, pain, suffering, grief, nothing stops him. Apart from the fact that it is a brilliantly paced film, with exquisite lighting, beautiful music and strong acting, it also talks about wider issues. Starting off with a simple issue and premise, it builds upon it to comment on the very notion of capitalism itself. Frame by frame compare it with ‘Motorcycle Girl’. You will see each frame is an art piece, carefully crafted to convey the innate meaning of each scene. There are twists, there are turns, the audience is glued to the big screen, wondering and debating amongst themselves what will happen next, as any good film should be.Life could be more interesting for women who choose to fight the patriarchal system, it can be full of adventures, challenges and high drama. It does not have to be boring, colourless and depressing. And it does not have to be elitist either. What about the bicycles which are not only cheaper but also pollution-free. May be the biopic specialist director will consider a cycle-wal larki next!Published in Daily Times, May 18th 2018.