16th February 2024

Exclusive Interview with Guleraana Mir: Captivating thoughts from the co-host of Chai and Chat

By Lola, Work Experience Placement

Ahead of the upcoming Chai and Chat: I Am The Ghost of Qandeel Baloch, we had the pleasure of speaking with one of the hosts, Guleraana Mir, award-winning writer and theatre maker. She is set to facilitate a fascinating and essential discussion by inviting the audience to reflect on how we use theatre to talk about themes such as violence against women and girls. Guleraana will be presenting new sections of her play, ‘I Am The Ghost of Qandeel Baloch‘.

Q: Why do you think you chose to focus on Qandeel Baloch’s story?
I felt it was a story not given enough attention by the western media for something that had such lasting implications for women, not just in Pakistan but all across the world. It is also interesting to share the perspective of a British Pakistani woman as opposed to it being completely biographical.

Q: Do you think the awareness of honour violence and killing is prevalent enough in modern society?
The perception of the definition of ‘honour violence’ is definitely interesting, I think people see it as purely murders within religious communities while in reality, shame towards women is common in the UK, just labelled differently.  Glorification of control in relationships on television shows such as Love Island and Made In Chelsea perpetuates the misogyny which has been proven to lead directly to physical violence against women. It comes back to the hatred of women by men and proves that shame and honour violence against women is prevalent today but viewed in different ways. 

Q: You used an ‘Images’ article while researching for the play that focuses on Qandeel Baloch’s life before her murder. Do you think it is important to humanise the victims of honour violence and not just remember them as victims?
Absolutely, what she did in her life might have been the reason for her death but morally we have a duty to talk about more than just that. Victims should not be defined by the worst thing that ever happened to them. Additionally, theatre wise, nobody wants to view a play purely about trauma, there needs to be a balance in tone.

Q: I Am The Ghost of Qandeel Baloch is about a playwright. As the writer of this play, do you think any of the play’s events are identifiable to your own life and can audiences expect a more personal insight into the life of a writer?
Especially as a writer with ADHD, my processes are very chaotic, which I didn’t really realise until it came down to writing the play, and I don’t think audiences realise how much work it takes. From Minni’s perspective, you can definitely expect an authentic portrayal, maybe even surprising at times. 

Q: If this play resulted in some kind of social conversation, what do you hope it will be?
Just to get people talking about honour violence and whether it is different to standard violence against women. To work out why we put crimes in boxes and separate them. Figuring out why they are committed in the first place, and maybe even begin to solve the problems. that cause those crimes.

Q: On your website, you say that in 2021 you were diagnosed with ADHD and ‘suddenly everything made sense’. Could you elaborate on what you mean by that?
When your brain is different and you don’t know why it isn’t the same as everyone else’s or why you find things easier or harder than others, it can just be confusing. But being told it was ADHD and beginning to understand what that meant made everything make sense about why I am the way I am. I think the key to writing is being able to understand people and how are you supposed to do that if you can’t even understand yourself. Finally finding out was really quite revelatory.

Q: Are there any writers or artists that you look up to or that inspire you?
Yes, loads. For literature, I am massively inspired by writers of magical realism, such as Salman Rushdie. Michaela Coel with I May destroy You which is just a masterpiece. You may be able to see me drawing inspiration from some of these when it comes to the more wacky and social themes of the play. 

Q: Do you have a favourite stage production?
I loved Brother’s Size at the Young Vic, 2018. They did so much with such little and it was a joy to watch such raw, stripped back performances. 

Q: Can you give us some ideas of what to expect from your Chai and Chat?
Some scenes from the play, some hard-hitting and absurd conversations about theatre and violence. It’s not for the faint hearted and I know violence can be triggering for some, but rarely do we get a safe space to talk freely without judgement and blame, especially about topics within the South Asian community.

Q: Who do you think would enjoy your Chai and Chat?
People who are passionate about speaking up and are interested in utilising the arts to talk about political topics through a personal lens. Women who like getting angry at injustice and anyone really, who wants to have an open and lively discussion about deep and personal topics. 

Be part of this important discussion on the 21st February. Get your tickets here.