Would ‘My Name Is Naji’ Make Enough Waves?
By A.H. Cemendtaur
Human rights activists who oppose prostitution point to the often exploitative nature of the profession, termed the oldest way of making a living. This scribe has not come across a study that would tell him what percentage of prostitutes are in this profession by their own free will, because for them it is the easiest way of making money: besides marketing--and that too not very involved as the demand is high--no skill set is needed in renting out the asset you were born with, your body.
If models can sell their nude photographs, why can’t others go a step beyond and let customers use prostitutes’ bodies for short periods of time? But circumstantial evidence indicates prostitution is often coerced: that most of the prostitutes do not enjoy the act, that they are in this profession only because they are not in a position to try out any other way to earn their living. One can imagine some adult prostitutes to be in the profession by their own choice, but such imagination can definitely not be stretched in the cases of child prostitutes.
“My name is Naji”, a short film based on a fictional story taking place in Pakistan of post-2010 floods, deals with the issue of child prostitution. The story is about a young boy (Zohaab Khan as Naji) who is sold into prostitution by none other than his own parents. The boy is found along roadside by a good Samaritan (Caisin Kamran as Nabi Baksh), after an apparent incident of gang rape -- presumably the child was dumped because his exploiters assumed him to be dead. Nabi Baksh takes the boy to the nearest hospital where a young doctor (Beenish Chohan as Dr. Mahnoor ) treats the child. Dr. Mahnoor’s love interest (Mohib Mirza as Mansoor Suri) is a fledgling journalist not getting along with his pragmatic father (Mehmood Aslam as D.A. Suri). Inspector Ryasat (Jawaid Jamal) investigates the case and ultimately discovers that influential people are involved in this racket. But just before a police raid is conducted, higher authorities order the inspector to stop the investigations and close the case. The good-hearted inspector still wants to expose the criminals -- he gives the case file to the young journalist. How the young journalist reveals the names of these influential people, what big names are exposed, and how the story reaches a climax is not to be told but to be seen.
“My Name is Naji”, written by Shoieb Yunus, was transformed into an effective screenplay by Ibne Aaas. Saqlain Raza was the director of photography, Wajid Saeed added appropriate music, and the film was edited by Kareem Junejo and Waseem Shareef.
San Francisco Bay Area based filmmaker Shoieb Yunus has been rolling out films for quite some time -- mentionable productions being “Streets of Karachi” and “Cemetery of the Lost Tribe.” With “My name is Naji,” Yunus seems to have taken the task of making socially conscious films. It is hard to tell how extensive the practice of selling one’s own children is in Pakistan, but even one child psychologically scarred by an experience of prostitution is one too many. One certainly hopes ‘My Name is Naji’ would make enough waves so that activists in Pakistan would be shaken into action and the society would take effective measures to stop such practices.