Often, it is easy to miss out on one’s struggles –– whether those be social, mental, or even circumstantial. We meet people and quickly understand a personality that is superficial but to assume that the simple passage of time and your proximity to them will allow you to truly know them is unfair. Many suppress certain alternative identities, especially the ones that are suffering.
The short film Stray Dogs Come Out At Night is a representation of this concept in Karachi, Pakistan. Following a street-masseur, Iqbal (Mohammad Ali Hashmi) living under the weights of several spheres - work, sexuality, illness, mental health - is reaching a point where he is unable to take it all. With his uncle and roommate, Khurrum (Adnan Shah), Iqbal visits the beach to gain some clarity, and overall just feel better. Creator Hamza Bangash describes it as “a revolt against toxic masculinity” and displays nuances of Iqbal truly struggling in what may be quite natural, but is never witnessed, nor displayed by those feeling so.
The busting and nonstop nature of Karachi bogs Iqbal further down, and he wonders where he could seek help. With these negative emotions repressed due to the stereotypes of a ‘strong man’, he suffers indefinitely. Ending his life comes to him as a reasonable option and even procures a weapon for it.
“I wanted to create a film that speaks to the intersection of capitalism and unspoken sexuality; Pakistan, as a hyper-masculine and sexually-repressed society that exploits the bodies of its young population. Set in the subculture of street masseurs, who are visible on every corner past sunset, the film speaks to the human cost of feeding secret desires.”— Hamza Bangash
The fact that people, especially men, like Iqbal are pushed to almost a point of no return due to the heavy-weighing nature of the perpetuated culture around him is no less than shameful. In South Asia, we have built an ill reputation for keeping ourselves going even through the toughest of times, but rarely are we allowed to believe that to slow down is to take care of ourselves. Matters of illness and life, too, take a backseat as they do in Iqbal’s case.
Stray Dogs Come Out At Night is almost like a mirror held up to South Asian society –– our values, while rooted in the relentless hunt for success or a ‘good life’, are also harsh, damaging, and dangerous. The film portrays a man’s struggles with the same, and here, he seems to be losing the battle.
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