The film “Bijli” opens with an off-key rendition of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s haunting Sanu Ik Pal Chain Na Aave. The poetry of the song describes a man who cannot find a moment’s peace without his beloved. Some might consider this analogous to Bijli’s predicament as a woman trapped in a man’s body: constantly ill at ease without his other “half.” Bijli is Fayaaz, the drag alter ego of this Pakistani-born dancer, who presently resides in New York City.
This short film by filmmaker Adnan Malik is a 15-minute foray into a man’s struggle with gender identity, religion, and social acceptance set against the bustling metropolis of Manhattan. While Begum Nawazish has gained popularity internationally and in Pakistan, carving out a niche for himself as a “credible” entertainer, Bijli tells the story of a man who by day passes off as an ordinary New Yorker and by night transforms into “Bijli,” dancing on stage to Bollywood numbers in sequined chiffon, dainty wigs and fake eyelashes. The word “bijli” is Urdu for electricity or electric current and is a name bestowed upon the dancer by a writer who, for lack of a better word, found her “electrifying,”