Adnan Sami, Benazir and the PPP

Why is a couple's domestic problem so important that not only does it become news but also a diplomatic issue between two countries?

Aside from the fact that Adnan Sami's marriage has made the headlines, it is distressing to note that he has contacted the Pakistani president and prime minister after reportedly getting death threats. He says it is to ensure that the wrong people are not accused. What the hell does he mean? Should there be a serious attempt on his life, on what grounds can the government of his country of origin point fingers and demand an explanation?

We create doubts about the intentions of our own people from certain communities.

So why keep quiet as the Adnan tamasha gets into top gear with even an element of violence?

I don't know and don't care about the inside story of the Sami affair but it is disgusting for Pooja Bedi to make the report available to the media where she gives a graphic description of what his wife did to ironically mimic Pooja's sense of dressing. What is she trying to prove?

Where in all this vulgar recounting of details do the Pakistani leaders come in?


Talking about Pakistani leaders, specifically the PPP, they had sent their members early this month to disrupt the Shanakht art festival. They objected to one particular painting of Benazir Bhutto on the lap of General Zia.

I have not seen any images of it and it is obvious the artist was making a political point. It does not look like a tasteful idea but then reams have been written about how Pakistani democracy invariably plays along with the army. This happens to be historical reality. Besides, is art merely supposed to be tasteful and not comment wryly, or even with a whiplash, at prevalent norms and mishaps?

Did the PPP have to go on a rampage at the venue where other art was displayed and theatre to be performed?

Pakistan does have some amazing artists and they are quite open about even painting nudity. I have seen such exhibitions so I know. Would the artists dispassionately say that the BB painting was vulgar? Then, does a rampage not qualify as vulgar too? If, say, Benazir is shown as Mother Teresa, would the moral-keepers of Pakistani society object to her non-Muslimness, her Indian connection or her canonisation, which is against Islam?

I am curious.


  1. It was refreshing to have some public BB bashing now that she's been turned into a deity. Of course the PPP can't take that, their thuggery was as predictable as it was disgusting. But it did make the picture famous.

    And I don't understand your question, "Would the artists dispassionately say that the BB painting was vulgar?"
    Why would artists say such shit?

  2. "Pakistan does have some amazing artists and they are quite open about even painting nudity. I have seen such exhibitions so I know."

    Sounds very condescending ... "open about 'even' painting nudity" like they shouldn't be ... "I have seen such exhibitions 'so I know' " makes you an expert on Pakistani art? This does read like some Victorian snob encouraging art of the colonies, and yes that will include India.

  3. I don't think artists have to suffer because of govt policies.I am not in Bombay so I don't know about Adnan Sami but it was wrong for him to talk to Pak politicians.
    The painting incident reminded me of BJP and all doing the same.You are right about not all art being tasteful,look at so many artists who paint happenings

  4. First, a huge thank you to the kind and wonderful person who promptly sent me a picture of the painting.

    It is art in as much as quite a bit of innovative experiments are; no aesthetic virtue here and rather over-the-top in my opinion. I would have loved to analyse it but it is not available to everyone since it is off websites. Right now I cannot upload the pic and am not sure if I want to.

    Nah, no Victorian snobbery. For Victorians never did engage in open discussions about nudity and obscenity, unless it was to corset either. But adjectives are sooooooo important, although a snob is also just a snob.


    The query was rhetorical because it was followed by a reference to rampage - how does one define vulgarity? Why would the artists say such shit, you ask. The reason, if we go beyond the rhetorical nature of the query, is that nudity or any form of blatant display in the subcontinent invites censure. I have held forth at length on the many protests we have in India over controversial works of art.

    I saw a series of nude works by Jamal Naqsh displayed at the Fatima Jinnah Palace; I think they use a few rooms for exhibitions. Now, having had this first-hand experience I was intrigued as to how other artists viewed it.

    It is one thing for us to comment but how do those in the same boat react? It is interesting to see how varied the responses can be.

    Wonder if that makes me an expert on Jamal Naqsh, the Fatima Jinnah gallery, Pakistani version of nudity, or just the body in general...like I say, "I have seen the Tower of Pisa and it really is leaning" and the Italian says, "Si, si, experto!" And I reply, Senora likes eet theen and craasty and Senor bangs his hand on forehead and gasps, "Ooh la la, non comprendo, mamma mia?!"

    "Si, il maama ees a miyan"

    Excuse mah Pashto...


    All of us have been regaled by artistes but I feel we need to have some give-and-take here. Incidentally, my Pakistani friends feel the same, esp those who have not been able to invite their contemporaries from here for events.

    I am sure the Congress would make a huge noise if Sonia Gandhi were depicted in a certain way. They did stop a film being made on her.

  5. Hi Ms. Versey,

    I haven't seen the work depicting Ms. Bhutto perched on Gen Zia's lap either; but one can well imagine. As a part of our paternity here in the west, we have such expressions as, "in the lap of luxury," which is suggestive of especial privilege. Another such expression plays off a fairly common domestic image of a child nestled comfortably on the lap of a parent or caregiver while being regaled with a story. We say "X learned it at Y's knee," which conveys the transference of cultural wisdom from an elder to a youngster. The image of Santa Claus in countless shopping malls across the US, hordes of children lined up to take their turn on his lap to make their particular request(s) for consumer goods, is still thought to illustrate the winsome innocence of children and their pressing desires.

    Nudity (and/or the comparative ages of the principals involved) changes the complexion of this imagery somewhat.

    Certainly many western (and eastern) businessmen have some familiarity with the "lap dance." And, likewise, there yet remains in the consciousness of some the not-altogether-bygone imagery of a secretary (generally female) with notepad in hand athwart the manager's lap (generally male), "taking dictation" (it may be helpful for folks from Mumbai to exchange the secretary for starlet and the manager for film director, with the activity being "learning his/her lines," lol).

    Certainly it makes sense that the personalities involved (Ms. Bhutto and Gen Zia, in this instance) might cue the viewer as to how this arrangement is to be interpreted. After all, there are countless paintings of "Madonna and Child" that depict a naked baby Jesus holding forth from the lap of a fully clothed Virgin Mother; but I have yet to hear of any interpretation of these works that suggests the naked (perhaps even "vulnerable") Christ-child as being, say, a ventriloquist's dummy . . .

    Just some thoughts. :)

  6. mstaab:

    How I'd love to mine your comment! It seems unfair to respond without the image because a lot of what you say sort of fits in. I do plan to post the picture later in the day and juxtapose it with some other images. If I am successful at locating those, then I hope you won't mind my re-posting your comment there. If I can't then I shall respond here itself.

    Thanks for getting me on the track I so delight in!

  7. Greetings mstaab:

    I have used your comments in the body of the post, and am now wondering whether you are ok by it...

    Thank you so much for a studied comment, and I only wish I could write more and with greater depth on the subject now...



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