The talk show host making waves in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (and apparently Kashmir) is purportedly a stylish, middle-aged, socialite widow of an army colonel. Her monologues are often laced with sexual innuendo, she flirts openly with her guests, and sometimes embarrasses them with probing questions about their private lives. Her guests include some of Pakistan’s most well-known personalities: the urban elite, film and television stars and even some top politicians. Most are nevertheless thrilled to be invited to appear on a program millions are watching.Viewers are obviously fascinated too. Dinner party conversations here in Karachi are often peppered with anecdotes about her risqué banter and sly digs at Pakistani politics. Women call the television station to inquire about the tailoring of her sequined blouses and where to buy her glamorous saris.
The thing is, Begum Nawazish Ali is actually a man. Ali Saleem, the 28-year-old man who dons lipstick, mascara and a wig to Begum Nawazish Ali, has managed to break many taboos in conservative Pakistan through the character.(more)
More than Begum Nawazish Ali, I found Etiraz Hussain’s responses fascinating. Hussain, a parliamentarian and lawyer, is one the invitees to the show along with the Pakistani actress, Nirma in this episode. Besides the delectable Urdu couplets, his passing remarks on Pakistani politics and society delivered with well tempered flamboyance are matched by those delivered somewhat more gregariously by the ‘Begum’. This comes out more in part II below.
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