There are many young women who lose their husbands due to unfortunate accidents in Pakistan. While the death of a spouse is heartbreaking and life altering, this alteration in life does not generally affect the middle and upper class in a rejection from society. Women leave the house, have friends, maintain jobs and, yes, even continue to live with their in-laws, including a brother-in-law. While Hassad is a dramatic show and amusing to watch, the track that the creatives have chosen to follow is one that is not only infuriating, but also indigestible. The household depicted in this show is, at the least, a middle-class, educated household. Why then is this family behaving as though Naintara should be sitting for Sati after the death of her husband?
Episodes 11 and 12 are thoroughly anger-inducing episodes, leaving the audience fuming over the nonsensical behavior of the characters. Zari (Arij Fatyma) and her next-door neighbor Erum have taken it upon themselves to make Naintara’s (Aiman Khan) life miserable. At present, Zari’s goal in life is to have Naintara married off, so she can raise Naintara’s child as her own. The audacity and gall of a character like Zari is beyond comprehension – in what world would Naintara, who has lost her husband and only has his offspring to remember him by, give Zari her child? Erum pokes and prods at Zari, convincing her that Naintara is up to no good with Farhan (Noor Hasan). Zari begins to accuse Farhan of having an affair with Naintara, which obviously angers Farhan. When Zari threatens to leave if Naintara refuses to marry her brother, Kashi, Farhan asks her to leave and tells her not to return. And yet, Zari continues to believe that Farhan will bend and call her back home once Naintara agrees to marry Kashi.
In a particularly lovely scene, Naintara’s sister comes over to apologize before leaving for England. Her husband follows her and begins to insult Naintara, because of course, Naintara is having an affair with her brother-in-law. Living under the same roof with a baby, her mother-in-law and several servants must constitute evil intentions, right?
Within this episode, Naintara’s baby, mother-in-law and Naintara herself all fall ill and have to be rushed to the hospital. This provides several occasions for Farhan to leave the house with Naintara, which gives an open window for the “Mauhallay waalay” (neighbors) to gossip. One has to wonder – who are these mauhallay waalay and why are they so “farigh”? Erum immediately calls up Zari to inform her of Farhan and Naintara’s romantic excursion. But the interference doesn’t stop here. Erum then picks up her husband and the nosy, gossiping, have-no-life-of-their-own couple head over to Farhan’s house and proceed to instruct Farhan and his mother on how to conduct their household affairs. “Get Naintara married.” Excuse me, sir? But who are you exactly and why are you commenting on the marriage of a woman you’ve never met? When Farhan essentially informs the couple that they need to mind their own business, they begin shrieking about decency, “izzat” and begin accusing Farhan and Naintara of having an affair. Later, when Naintara goes to the market to buy groceries, Erum spots her and decides to extract her revenge by openly discussing Naintara’s affair with Farhan. Of course, all the gossiping aunties in the market cannot hold their joy at being witness to some drama and immediately begin offering their words of wisdom – of course, Erum, a woman they’ve never met, said it so it must be true. They do not waste a moment in shunning Naintara, the dirty girl having an affair with her brother in law.
Hassad is an interesting show, no doubt. It is full of dramatics, the sort that both disgust the viewer and bring them back each week for more. However, the presentation and depiction of a widow in Pakistan is troubling. Why can’t a woman rise from her unfortunate situation and build a life for herself without marriage? Why is marriage the be-all and end-all for a woman in a Pakistani drama? Having recently lost her husband, the love of her life, Naintara has consistently been pushed towards marriage with someone or another. Why can’t Naintara go back to school or begin a job? Instead, she will be married off to her brother-in-law, therefore proving all the gossip-mongers right, left to believe she was having an affair with Farhan the entire time. Entertainment has its own place, but at some point, shows do have a responsibility to depict empowering shows, shows that depict women breaking out of their misery and doing something positive with their lives – for themselves. Unfortunately, Hassad is not suh a show.