The chaotic streets of Karachi have always been eventful to say the least. But never could have we imagined that the same streets would give rise to something rather someone that would smash all the norms and challenge the society. Well, meet Bloody Nasreen- Pakistani’s street fighting woman from Karachi, who is without the scarves and burkhas or the traditional ‘tehzeeb’. Clad in salwar kameez and sneakers with a bra strap poking out as if to say ‘danger’, this beautiful girl with blazing eyes is so cool, so powerful, and so fictitious. The main character of Shahan Zaidi- a Karachi born illustrator who shot to fame after because of this character- is unlike any heroine you’d have ever seen. Bloody Nasreen is a 27-year-old girl who likes to smoke and kill mercilessly.
Don’t go by her attire. Yes, the American superheroes have taught us something called ‘power dressing’, which involves high heels, super-tight pants- basically unrealistic clothes. But Bloody Nasreen is hell bent on defying the rules. In the words of her creator “I wanted my heroine to portray a regular girl-next-door from Karachi, someone every Pakistani girl could relate to,” says Zaidi. He hasn’t given Nasreen any superpowers, explaining that she “picked up fighting skills along the way”.
The graphic novel, Bloody Nasreen does not deal with the binaries of good and evil. It is left for the readers to decide. In fact, the entire concept of evil in his creation is subjective and the fact that we enjoy seeing the bad guys get beaten up and killed is because we start seeing things from Nasreen’s perspective.
Nasreen fights a brutal and ruthless war against terrorism, human trafficking, corruption, injustice, and thinks being stupid is more evil than evil itself. Now that’s something!
On why he made Nasreen without any superpowers Zaidi, in an interview with Dawn, said “I’m always more into humans than mutants or aliens. I like Batman for that matter. How can I connect to a hero who is not from my planet? Or who has super powers beyond my thoughts?
The theme of Nasreen was conceptualized long before Burka avenger came into picture. For those who are not aware, Burka Avenger is a Pakistani animated television series created by Aaron Haroon Rashid (a.k.a Haroon). But it was not until 2009 when Zaidi shared the rough sketeches with his friends and noticed the growing interest.
Zaidi grew up on a healthy diet of Vertigo and Constantine comics, and also admires female-centric movies such as Kill Bill and Bandit Queen, and this is what inspired him to create a badass female comic superheroine.
Unlike most storytellers, Zaidi does not believe in the concept of pure evil. According to him nothing is completely good or completely bad, but everything has different layers to it. He says about his book ,’ the villains will be more intense and multi-layered, not stereotypical terrorists with no brains’. He further goes on to say that he wants to make stuff for mature audience, not for kids under thirteen, or ‘for kids under thirty’, he adds cheekily.
Why a woman character?
Zaidi believes that men have been shown as the protectors of justice since ages, and yet no one has asked the question ‘why men’? Yet when a woman character does the same, people feel that the attempt to showcase her as a gun-wielding, ruthless killer is deliberate. In his words,” ‘What is a male character? Why can’t a woman fight crime? Does that make Men less men? Men have been fighting crime for ages. Why can’t a woman do the same? Bloody Nasreen is psychotic, in that manner. She doesn’t care about these ideologies.”
Bloody Nasreen is art, and no one ever said that art is easy. Yes art can be provocative and controversial, and well, that is the beauty of it!