The following screenplay excerpt first appeared in The Aleph Review, Vol. 1 (2017). Three screenplay excerpts were published that were being developed by young students of drama training at the Qalambaaz workshop for young writers. Qalambaaz is a six-month screenwriting lab experience. It is an initiative of filmmaker Iram Parveen Bilal, who believes in a culture of plenty as can be seen by her initiatives not only for this program, but also for forming the Pakistan Oscar Committee to encourage her peers to excel at the international level.
EXT. DEFENCE MOR TRAFFIC SIGNAL – CONTINUOUS
Zainab steps out of the car with some stickers in her hand. She looks up at the billboards; next to an advert for designer wear, another hoarding reads: Just Say No! Say No to Vulgarism via Valentineism.
She starts going to cars and putting bumper stickers behind them. The sticker says: Just Say Yes to Love.
There is a young couple closely observing Zainab. As she comes towards the car, they give her a thumbs up. Zainab smiles and moves on. Reza is discreetly filming Zainab from afar.
A middle-aged man is sitting behind the wheel in his car, looking at Zainab. As she approaches his car to place a sticker, he honks to catch her attention and gestures to call her to his window.
What does this mean? What is this nonsense?
These stickers? It’s a message of love, sir, don’t you think our society could use some?
What our society needs is to move on from this western propaganda! The British left but you slaves of the white man have still stayed behind.
As the man starts to raise his voice, bystanders gather around him and Zainab. Maryum also joins the crowd and starts listening intently.
Leave these ideas in the West, please. We are not so modern yet, this is not our culture!
Zainab is visibly angry, she opens her mouth, as if to briefly consider responding to the man, but decides against it, shows him her hand and walks towards other cars.
As the man’s car moves up, he approaches a traffic policeman.
Maryum sees him talking to the policeman, and pointing towards Zainab. Zainab is placing stickers on cars, she is still angry and sticking them on with force.
Maryum approaches her.
Assalam o alaikum, Baji.
Walaikum asslam. Please not right now, forgive me, I have no money for you right now.
What do these say?
Zainab ignores Maryum and continues to put stickers on cars. Maryum follows her.
There is a lot of traffic, honking and noise. Maryum thinks that Zainab has not heard her question.
What does this mean?
Zainab looks at her, makes a fist and responds to Maryum while controlling her temper.
Why are you shouting? No one’s deaf here!
Cars are swooping by and there is even more noise as the light has turned green. Maryum covers one of her ears to try to listen to Zainab better.
This is a message of love, how could anyone think this is against our culture? What does this mean, what kind of a question is that?
Maryum looks at the ground, embarrassed. The cars are at a standstill again as the signal has turned red again.
I don’t have a problem with the message, I just couldn’t read it. I… I am not literate madam.
Zainab stops putting on the stickers and puts her hand on Maryum’s arm.
Oh, my God! I’m so stupid, I’m really…
She is interrupted by the policeman.
Madam, what are you doing? Do you have permission for this?
It is a public space. I do not need permission.
Madam, please let us do our job, and go on with your day. Why are you creating a scene and disturbing others?
Maryum who has been listening chimes in.
Sir, she’s just…
What she’s just? Am I talking to you? Go mind your own business.
There’s no need to misbehave!
Misbehave? Madam, I suggest you leave before I show you what misbehaving really is.
Reza walks towards Zainab as he sees that things are heating up. He tries to pull Zainab aside.
What Reza? I’m trying to talk here.
It’s not worth it. Just come.
Yes, control her please.
Control me?! Oh yes, man, please control this hysterical woman.
Come Z, it’s not worth it. Please.
He pulls Zainab aside and her stickers fall on the road.
The policeman starts to walk towards the signal.
Maryum picks up some of the stickers and quickly starts to put them on cars’ bumpers.
The policeman runs back towards her, and forcefully grabs the stickers from her.
What do you think you’re doing, fool?
Even as he manages to grab most of the stickers, Maryum still runs away with a couple of stickers in her hand. She waves them at the policeman and sticks out her tongue to tease him.
Zainab is seeing all this from the car, elated. She stands out from her car window as Reza drives past.
You go, girl!
Maryum smiles. The policeman starts to chase her.
Fahad Naveed is a filmmaker, video artist and multimedia journalist. He primarily focuses on long form, character-driven narratives. A graduate of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Fahad continues to experiment with different storytelling mediums. He is cofounder of a Karachi-based artist collective called the Mandarjazail Collective.