Pakistan 01 Jan 2015 00:00
A crowd of men whistle and cheer when Afrin Khan, alias the “Princess” performs her ’sexy’ dance on the stage at the Alfalah theatre in Lahore. This is not a nightclub or a cabaret show - the theatre is rather a venue for stage drama.
During the two-hour show, actors perform comedy, drama or satire. As part of the show, three girls each perform a short 4-minutes theatrical dance. However, every play must be approved by government censors and every night the show is supervised by a city official.
The lyrics of songs played during the shows are also censored. Dances cannot be too explicit and dress code restricts revealing ’too much’. The Princess is well known in town for her daring and sexually provocative theatrical dancing. In a conservative Pakistani society, sex is hidden and therefore, the Princess attracts a large male audience. Punjabi men flock regularly to the theatre to see her perform. However, she was once banned from performing for a week by the government censors because of sexual connotations she made with a cushion. Afrin Khan is not happy with the censorship, she would like to perform more freely on the stage, but today, in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it is quite impossible.
The Princess started dancing when she was 13 years old after her family fell on hard times as a result of her father’s ill health and struggle with cancer. She began to perform at wedding ceremonies and became very popular. She was then recognized by a producer who promoted her stage performances. In order to be more attractive, she had breast enhancing surgery and she took supplements to make her figure more voluptuous.
"I started dancing at 13 but my body was not developed so i got breast implants,” she said. “I am also naturally too skinny. I get made fun of. So now I take pills to stay plump, because that is what the audience likes.”
Afrin Khan considers herself a western type of girl who would like to be free to walk in the street wearing a mini skirt - not restricted by the cultural local dress-code. Living in a middle class villa complex on the outskirt of Lahore, she shares a house with her mother and a brother, while her father lives with his parents in another home. She drives a brand new car and dresses in nice clothes. While there is a great demand for her performance without moral qualm, there is another face of society that defies its existence.
"I am a modern girl and I want to be able to wear miniskirts to the mall if I want to,” Afrin said. “But in this country, people may be educated, but they are still so small minded. They will always be hicks even if they move to the cities."
Recently, Afrin Khan played a part in a documentary film, Zunn: Showgirls of Pakistan. The documentary tells the story of the marginalized lives of showgirls in Pakistan. On the movie set, Princess could finally perform her provocative dance freely, without censorship. However, in Lahore, where the entrance of the theatre is armed guarded and the audience is individually checked to prevent terrorist attacks, it seems that the Princess will have a long wait before she can fulfill her dreams as an expressive ’sexy’ dancer.
FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST