Pakistan’s fist supermodel could really pack a punch, literally. Rakhshanda Khattak is probably as famous for her prowess is martial arts as she is for her knockout figure and lucrative modeling career. Her film moniker ‘Jane Bond’, reminds us all that Rakshanda was, and will forever remain, a force to be reckoned with. That, and her preference for gorgeous vintage bikinis. A bit of a maverick as far as models from the 70s were concerned. Rakhshanda was equally at home striking demure poses for paint ads as she was doing her own stunts – something unique and ‘unheard of’ from Pakistan’s meandering fashion and lifestyle scene in the 70s. HELLO! Pakistan looks back at this icon, and her remarkable life in Pakistan and later, Canada, as told by her son, Chengis Javeri, also a stuntman who followed in her mother’s footsteps.
BACK TO BASICS
Rakhshanda started at the bottom, and success came at the end of a steep and difficult climb. At the time, a Pakistani ‘ top model’ would make roughly Rs 1000 for a shoot (this was considered quite the haul back then) while Rakhshanda only made Rs 300, despite being more diverse and multifaceted than all the other models of her time put together; despite a black belt in Karate and a second Dan in Jiu-Jitsu. Chengis fondly recalls how his father, the indomitable jeweler Husain Javeri, eventually stepped in to request better wage for his wife-to-be.
“One day Dad decided to see what his girlfriend did for a living and went to the set and spent pretty much the whole day there watching a director make his woman get into all these awkward and difficult positions. When he realized how much money she made, he called the director over and demanded she get more. ‘How much more?’ the asked, and Dad said ten times more.”
Suffice to say it worked, and Rakhshanda catapulted to showbiz fame as the highest-paid model in Pakistan.
A spinoff from James Bond, Rakhshanda’s film avatar mixes combat with 70s couture-creating the most lethal fashionista the country has ever seen. “I feel her career was a bit like Elvis’s,” Explains Chengis. “She wasn’t great actress, but she was so good-looking and such a martial arts champ, they had to put her in films. She did all her own stunts; there is a part in Jane Bond where she had to fly a plane, and she really drove it a little on the runway, which is ridiculous because she didn’t even know how to drive a car.”
We learn that Rakhshanda took her martial arts training very seriously, and went as far as chugging strakes made from raw eggs and eating uncooked red meat to prep for a fight. “You couldn’t talk to her or look at her in the eyes for those two days before a tournament.” This is a far cry from the sort of look expected of international fashion weeks in New York, Paris and Milan; Rakhshanda upended all stereotypes of anorexic, emaciated models and tissue-thin ramp waifs.
Rakhshanda, with Chengis in tow, migrated to Canada in 1979 after retiring from full-time modeling. Still her love for fashion never departed, and Rakhshanda switched to designing and retail work. Neither did the move diminish Rakhshanda’s fists of fury, her fighting abilities would serve her well thousands of miles from home. Chengis recounts how his mother’s skills were put to the test when Rakhshanda foiled an armed robbery in the video store she helped run, and beat the culprit to a pulp.
“She hadn’t done martial arts for probably twenty-plus years but she disarmed him, then beat him in the store and then in the street.”
Still, Rakhshanda struggled with adjusting to life in Canada; particular, the lack of spicy food and ample nightlife added to her homesickness. “Back in the old country they used to go to parties at least twice a week and then host one. Once Mum was done with modelling she was done. She never talked about it; you would have to ask her again and again. If she could’ve gone back home every year she would have … but she probably made it back 20 times in 30 years.”