Bebaak Review: Performances Power Sarah Hashmi, Nawazuddin Short Film On How Religion Is Weaponised To Oppress Women

It's a must-watch!

The JioCinema Digital Film Festival kicked off on September 29 with the first short film, The Comedian ft. Satish Kaushik and Grae Girdhar. On Day 3 of the grand virtual event, Shazia Iqbal directed the 2019 short film Bebaak was released on the OTT platform JioCinema on October 1. This short film starring Sarah Hashmi, Nawazuddin Siddique, Sheeba Chadha and Vipin Sharma is based on true events. Take a look at our review of Bebaak, produced by Anurag Kashyap under the banner of Jar Pictures.


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The Plot of Bebaak

Bebaak essentially means fearless, courageous or bold in Urdu. This short film also follows the tale of a bold girl, Fatin (played by Sarah Hashmi). The young architecture student has been raised by her liberal parents to break social and patriarchal norms. But while they gave her wings, their financial condition forces the family to seek out a scholarship from a religious leader to ensure that Fatin can continue her studies and attain the financial freedom they need to truly be free. However, a scholarship interview with the religious leader reminds Fatin that she lives in a patriarchal world when he asks her about her religious education and goes on to reprimand her for not being modest and covering up by wearing a hijab. And when she tries to make a religious but logical argument, the religious leader gives her a misogynistic response. Will Fatin bow down to this systematic use of religion to oppress women in order to be truly free?

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Sarah Hashmi as Fatin: Sarah Hashim delivers a stellar performance as Fatin. The actor perfectly portrays the young girl who struggles to relate to people of her own religious group due to her liberal upbringing. While Fatin is religious in her own way, she does not allow religion to be used against her gender. A feminist in her own way, Fatin and her battle with patriarchy, misogyny and oppression is relatable. The actress has portrayed her character’s complexities in a very nuanced manner. It’s easy to see her internal battle to come to terms with her own religious identity, financial condition, realities of life and her idealistic thinking and her battle with feeling oppressed by her own life.


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Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Niyaz Sheikh: NGL but that actor ensures that the viewers take an instant dislike to his character who reeks of misogyny from a mile away. From the way he turns around to look at Fatin and judge her to the way he casually questions what she brings to the table by becoming an architect to his lack of awareness and knowledge about the difference between to professions to the way he chastises Fatin for her choice of clothing, everything makes one hate the character with passion. And that, my friends, makes an actor a truly nuanced actor!

Vipin Sharma as Fatin’s Father: Vipin Sharma aces the role of a likeable father who raised his kids away from his own religious locality to raise them liberally. But at the same time, he’s someone who believes in “musibat mein gadhe ko bhi baap banana padta hai”. He’s likeable as a liberal but realist.


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Sheeba Chadha as Fatin’s Mother: TBH, we didn’t get to see enough of Sheeba Chadha but in whatever limited screen time that the actress had, she manages to grab one’s attention as a mother who reminds her daughter that a woman must dress for the occasion in this patriarchal world where men dress however they like. But at the same time, she’s also the mother who won’t let her daughter be oppressed due to their financial condition!


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The supporting cast featuring Sammaera Jaiswal, Afreen Khan, Sana Pathan, Nagma Pathan and more also deliver earnest performances that make the short film more meaningful and real.

Verdict: Relatable Tale Of Every Woman’s Battle Against Systematic Oppression, Misogyny

Let’s begin with what works for this film. The film is extremely relatable for every single woman who battles patriarchy, misogyny and sexism on a daily basis. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character is straight out of our nightmares. He’s the man who begins foaming at the mouth at the sight of a liberal woman. The condescending manner with which he speaks and the way he asks an architecture student how she will uplift her community by obtaining an education in the field make one want to smack him. The entire time the character spoke and the satisfied look he had on his face when he thought he finally managed to subdue a liberated Fatin will make you hate the man with passion.


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On the other hand are Sheeba Chadha and Vipin Sharma’s characters, who are realists but also liberal. Vipin’s realistic attitude is relatable to me personally. As a woman, there have been times I’ve done things I hate to get my own way. And much like Sheeba Chadha’s character, as a fauji brat, I’ve been raised to dress for the occasion. I’ve been time and again reminded that we don’t wear ripped jeans to ship visits out of respect and we don’t wear flats to parties to keep up with the unsaid dress code. Sheeba Chadha’s character is someone we can all relate to and adore. She asks her daughter to cover her head to not feel out of place in an Orthodox Muslim locality but at the same time, she doesn’t blink an eyelid when her daughter cuts her skirt short to be with the it crowd at her English-medium school.


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Sarah Hashmi is even more likeable and relatable as a young girl who struggles to identify with people of her religious community because she doesn’t look or dress like them. For someone who shies away from telling her friend that she’s going to Bhendi Bazaar, she sure relates to people of her own community when she meets a girl who is oppressed under the guise of religion and forced to wear hijab. She’s also the woman who decides that one does not need to be oppressed to become a free bird, set the right example and be someone the oppressed women can take inspiration from.


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Speaking of what doesn’t work for the film. It rushes to the main theme without giving more context to the story. Vipin Sharma and Sheeba Chadha’s characters are essential to the central theme of the story but forget the character arc, their characters haven’t even been named in the film or the credits for that matter. The film rushes to explain the central theme instead of giving any kind of build-up to create tension in the story for a worthy climax. The architecture of the story in itself is not strong enough. However, the nuanced storytelling, complex and flawed characters as well as strong performances make this film a must-watch.

Bebaak is currently streaming on JioCinema.

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Janvi Manchanda

​​She uses her pen to slice through patriarchy. She could be Geet one day, Wednesday Addams next. Writing is the bane of her existence and the object of all her desires!

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