Reviews TV + Movies

Aadat Review: A Failed Attempt At Navigating Queer Desire

While the description of the movie says it centers emotional and sexual connection, the movie doesn’t really address any of it adequately. Perhaps, the movie works as a cautionary tale about the consequences of being queer and or engaging in sexual acts that are outside the hetero normativity.

The short film Aadat follows the story of a young man in a conservative society. Set in Pakistan, the Iqran Rasheed directorial largely centers on desires with the plot involving Kashif hiring a sex worker (Tariq) to initiate an emotional and sexual connection. The film has been marketed as a South Asian Queer Story where we follow Kashif as he lies about going to study with a friend. Then he calls Tariqm, hinting that they met in a park first. Then we see him getting ready, making his hair, putting perfume, and counting money before he meets Tariq. 

When he meets Tariq (masseur/malish wala), he nervously asks him if there will be any problem. Tariq ensures him that there won’t be any and later says he has been doing this since he was 15 years old.  We see them booking a room and paying money for the same as Kashif nervously goes through dingy corridors followed by Kashif asking him to wash his mouth and check his own breath if it’s good or bad.  They both engage in a conversation about having sex, and Kashif ends up hugging him from the side. At one point, it seems like that the movie is giving a message about queer people being so socially excluded that all they need is a hug.

While the description of the movie says it centers emotional and sexual connection, the movie doesn’t really address any of it adequately. Perhaps, the movie works as a cautionary tale about the consequences of being queer and or engaging in sexual acts that are outside the hetero normativity. The title of the movie which means the word habit has been used as referring to a habit that is unnatural or abnormal. Once when the sex worker asks Kashif (who later reveals his name is Ali to the police) when did he get this habit and then towards the end when it is used by police in a derogatory manner. And that’s about the end of the movie where they both are caught by the police and Kashif ends up blaming the other person citing he brought him here for a massage. The movie closes with the sound of someone opening their belt, possibly hinting at sexual harassment  and then the credit rolls.

For what it promises, the movie is a mere cautionary tale about the difficulties of being queer in a conservative society but fails to address desire (emotional or sexual or otherwise) in any sense at all. The involvement of two cis gay men in such stories is not something unique and there was a possibility of showing sex work in a different light, which is also primarily lost.

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Rajeev completed their under graduation in Political Science Hons. from Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi in 2020. They graduated with Masters in Women’s Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in 2022 and were a participant at the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute, University of Iowa for the 2021-22 session. They have been the recipient of Mavelinadu Collective’s grant for non-fiction for the first issue of Debrahminising Gender. Their work can be found in EPW, Women’s Link Journal, Shuddhashar, Gaysi Family, Feminism in India and Hindu College Gazette among others. Their research interests include queer experiences, feminist ethics of care, and masculinities.

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