Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, May 31st, 2020

Star of ‘Buddha Collapsed out of Shame’ is Forgotten


Star of ‘Buddha Collapsed  out of Shame’ is Forgotten

Nikbakht Frahmand, who starred the film “Buddha Collapsed out of Shame” directed by Hana Makhmalbaf in 2007, is seeking to continue her role in terms of culture and art, however, she encounters challenges and there is no organ to support her to reach her ambitions.
The movie, Nikhbakht starred in Bamyan province, begins and ends with the shocking 2001 newsreel image of the Taliban blowing up the gigantic statues of the Buddha in Bamyan and in between presents a day in the life of a girl living in the impoverished village still littered with the rubble from the explosion.
In the film, Nikbakht, known as Bakhtay in Foladi Valley in Bamyan, seeks to go to school, but she is waylaid by a gang of boys playing the role of the Taliban militants. They terrorize Bakhtay, rip pages from her book, seize her irreligious lipsticks, put a paper bag over her head and pretend to bury her alive. This game reflects the ideology of the Taliban, who violated women’s rights to education and closed girls’ schools. Bakhtay weeps painfully when the gang stop her from going to school. “Was the cry real?”, I asked Nikbakht, in a personal interview in Bamyan. “Since it was a very emotional scene, I really cried,” she answered.
Nikbakht neither watched a movie nor trained as an actress before playing role in the film. She had been simply guided minutes before playing the scene. She presented in the movie with her own local dress. Although the movie got highly popular and won a number of prizes, Nikbakht was forgotten. She was simply paid Afghanis 250 (around $ 3) per day while playing the scene, but none of the prizes. All the praises and privileges went to Iranian director Hana Makhmalbaf, with home Nikbakht lost contact.
Nikbakht has five brothers, who go to school, but no sister and her middle-aged father works in a farm. She lives in a simple mud-built house in Bamyan province. She studies her first year in archeology department in Bamyan University. Despite all economic and cultural challenges, Nikbakht is directing and producing short movies and documentaries to play her role in art and culture. “I face many challenges and people do not view a girl, engaged in cinema or film, positively. They are very traditional. But I have to campaign in cultural activities and arts,” said Nikbakht. She is not happy with the government since neither a governmental organ nor any non-governmental organization supports her.
However, she seems very determined and hopeful and her active role in art is inspiring for other Bamyani girls. “What is your dream come true?” I asked. “I would like to continue my education in the current department, but I am highly interested in art and will continue my activity in this regard, too,” she replied.
She is happy for having the support of her family with her. She said, with a smile, that her father supports her to get education and continue her artistic role.
Leaving her home, I went to visit the statues of Bamyan Buddha, where Nikbakht played the scene. The two 6th-century monumental statues of Gautama Buddha carved into the side of a cliff in Bamyan were dynamited and destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban, after their leadership declared that they were idols.
Despite carrying great cultural significance, the two statues are now the reminiscent of Taliban’s cruel acts and radical ideology.
Overall, the film “Buddha Collapsed out of Shame” reflects the Taliban’s destructive role towards cultural relics and their restrictive role regarding women’s education. Although Nikbakht played the best possible role in the movie, she had been fully forgotten.
Nikbkhat’s great artistic talent is easily noticed in the movie she starred. She cherishes lofty ambitions with strong determination and struggle. The government has to support the country’s talents, especially those like Nikbakht who struggles to reflect the life of women despite cultural restrictions.
If young talents are not encouraged, they are likely to lose their morale. The government has to provide best education opportunities for them and support them economically. 
Meanwhile, we are lucky to have a large number of hard-working and ambitious people despite all the challenges. Those who remain hopeful amid a surge in disappointment will generate hope and optimism for others. With this in mind, the government should not underestimate their constructive role in the society and do not turn its back on them.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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