Burka Avenger is an animated television series that is both entertaining and full of learning especially for the children. The original idea behind the series came from the pop star Haroon for an Iphone game called “Burka Revenge”, and later a decision was taken to make it into an animated series. The director of the show, Uzair Zaheer Khan along with the help of Haroon and Art Director, Yousaf Ejaz Khan made it a go and started to execute this fascinating concept. In the music part of the show, artists such as Ali Azmat, Ali Zafar, Josh, and Haroon himself have featured making it a bigger attraction.
It is is actually the story of three young kids and a school teacher, living in an imaginary land of Halwapur, who fight against the evils produced by a Baba Bandook and his confederates. The exciting thing in the series is the transformation of an ordinary school teacher into the Burka Avenger or what they call ‘The Lady in Black’. So the first superhero of Pakistan and a much needed one happens to be a woman in veil.
One of the foremost things that come into the mind of a viewer is resemblance of the story with that of Malala Yousafzai. On the face of it, the concept has been inspired from the famous incidents of Taliban takeover of Swat and the resistance symbolized by Malala Yousafzai. But Mr. Adi Abdurab, the script writer of Burka Avenger, has refuted this perception. Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Laaltain, he said: “There seems to be this presumption in the public eye that we have taken inspiration from the Malala incident, whereas truth is that we had this idea back in April of 2012, long before Malala was shot by Taliban. Our script was ready in May 2012 and animation had started back then, an episode normally takes between 4 and 6 weeks to complete, so to say this has been inspired by Malala is wildly inaccurate”.
Still the script has an uncanny semblance with the situation in Swat. And the fact that Malala was a national hero long before she was shot by the Taliban stands to raise questions against the official statement of the producers of Burka Avenger. The policy of dissociation from Malala is ironic and could have been adopted to avoid any controversy because Malala has been a subject of criticism from right wing sections of the society.
Burka Avenger, being the first top quality animated series of Pakistan is getting much popularity worldwide but it has also earned its critics. The use of ‘burka’ by the protagonist is the primary subject of controversy. In defence of the supposedly controversial use of ‘burka’, Adi Abdurab says, “No, I do not think there is any kind of issue to our work as the Burka Avenger is an alter ego of Jiya, a mild-mannered school teacher. Her choice to wear a burka is to promote the idea that women are free to wear whatever they please. Here, the burka as a superhero costume represents freedom of choice, not oppression; this is a common misconception that has led to some negative feedback, but most of those who hear us out usually ends up becoming our biggest supporters.”
In response to whether Burka Avenger focuses solely on women’s education as its message, Adi added: “The series is designed to be free of social, religious, ethnic and cultural bias. It promotes rising above internal disagreements, becoming better human beings and growing together as one nation. The villains of the series, the evil magician Baba Bandook and the corrupt Politician Vadero Pajero represent all evils in our society, not just acts of selected groups. In our coming episodes, we will be raising issues like Child labour, running away from home, load shedding, keeping our environment clean, helping friends out, etc. The aim is to help create a sense of responsibility in children and we felt that education is the best place to start”.
With the reputation of being Pakistan’s first top level animated series, there are huge expectations from Burka Avenger. The show has covered the internal domestic problems of Pakistan in a very intelligent way, it has casted the villain and a superhero that the people of Pakistan can easily relate to. The animation and music of the show has been widely considered to be of top quality and the marketing department has done its job in a very decent manner as well. The success of Burka Avenger still remains to be seen but the symptoms of Burka Avenger to be a big hit seems to be present already. Although, the effects and success of this show cannot be measured at this time, but the concept, initiative and fact that Burka Avenger is the pioneer show of its sort in Pakistan has to be appreciated.
Tarteel Rao is a student of M. Phil. Mass Communication, and the author of ‘Of Errors and I’ a novel.