Pakistani Dramas and a Skewed Sense of Right and Wrong
In Pakistani dramas, the narrative of a man caught between two women isn’t anything new; however, of late, channels have become confused as how to write these stories with sensible shades of grey
Pakistani shows tend to love one thing: miserable women. They push these female characters to a point where they are so down-trodden, miserable, helpless and mistreated, the viewer must sympathize with the character. There are two shows on air right now (that I’m watching) that follow this path, a path that attempts to make the illogical, actually rather unacceptable behavior of a woman seem logical because…..well, she’s sweet, she wears shalwar kameez, she is timid, she is “devoted” in her “love” and, the real validation to her innocence and purity, she’s an orphan. Let’s take a look at our suspects.
The first show in question is “Thoda Sa Haq.” The show is illogical, has an unbelievable amount of negativity – mostly coming from Saba Faisal’s character – and the worst part about the show is simply that….who are we supposed to be rooting for exactly? The storyline is straightforward initially. Zamin (Imran Abbas) and Hareem (Mashal Khan) are cousins and childhood sweethearts. They’re in love and have planned on getting married for probably fifteen years. There should be a clear path to happiness, right? Right? Of course not. Enter Sehar (Ayeza Khan) who has a loving father – but her father dies on her wedding day after her groom refuses to show up, leaving her cousin and wedding guest Zamin (oh no!) to step in and marry Sehar.
Sehar enters Zamin’s home as a cousin and the two meet secretly and lie behind Hareem’s back. After Zamin and Hareem get married, the sneaking continues, leaving Hareem angry, emotionally upset and, ultimately, just working to earn Zamin’s love and affection back….like it used to be. Now reading all this, who is the audience supposed to root for? A logical way to have dealt with the situation would have been for Sehar to ask for a divorce immediately and leave to stay in a hostel and go to school (with Zamin and her Chacha’s support). Instead, the two deceive everyone – most of all, Hareem. And viewers are supposed to see Hareem as the villain? For what reason? She’s the one who has been betrayed! Of course, it all boils down to Sehar being “apologetic,” mazloom and….yatim? Why is being an orphan an excuse for bad behavior, I’m not sure, but I’m certainly not on board with it.
Moving on to our second culprit – surprise! It’s another Imran Abbas show. “Jo Tu Chahay,” initially titled “Kun Faya Kun,” is a story about a dysfunctional family. We have Daadi who cares for “yatim” (yup, here we go again) Mashal (Alizeh Shah). Mashal studies, works in the house and is doted upon by her Daadi – and yet, Mashal cries and cries, whines and whines to Allah about her misfortune and bad luck. This is not logical Kashaf Murtaza whining, it’s whining for problems she creates for herself. For example, Mashal falls in love with her cousin Armaan who, incidentally, confesses his love for her first. The two are set to discuss their relationship when Mashal realizes Areesha (Areej Mohyuddin), her self-obsessed, conniving cousin, also loves Armaan and wants to marry him. What’s the logical thing to do here? Step out of the way, of course! Armaan should marry a self-obsessed, conniving girl! This is the right thing to do! Right? Sure. So Mashal and Daadi convince Armaan to marry Areesha. Mashal cries and whines, cries and whines.
This poor girl, she’s alone, no one cares about her, no one loves her…..wait, but….oh well, she bullied him into marrying someone else. Now Bisma (Zarnish Khan) and Haris (Imran Abbas), who have been in love for easily ten years, are now trying to get their families on board for their wedding. However, our innocent, naïve, sweet, “yatim” Mashal, hungry for love and affection, now needs someone as well. So she decides to read her very brother-sister type of relationship with Haris as one of love and spends two devoted months dreaming of “Haris Bhai” as her intended husband. Bisma becomes uncomfortable with Haris spending so much time with Mashal – as would any woman, because really, that’s just our 6th sense. When the revelation is made to Mashal that Haris wants to marry Bisma, she falls apart, crying to God as to why her love is being overlooked like this. She makes grand declarations of not sacrificing her love this time and says she won’t let it go. Once again, this storyline begs the question – who are we as viewers supposed to be rooting for again? Mashal? Why? Because she’s innocent, sweet, naïve and…..well, an orphan? Why can’t innocent Mashal find a guy elsewhere? Why does innocent Mashal have to latch on to Bisma’s love? Isn’t this a great character flaw here? Why do we depict the slightly catty girls as vamps and then excuse real catty behavior by draping the characters in dupattas and chaadars?
At the end of the day, drama writers (and producers) need to understand that the type of characters portrayed on screen have to resonate with viewers somehow. Showing negative lead characters (ex: Iqra Hussain in Jhooti) is okay, because viewers are aware that she’s not supposed to be a “good” girl. She’s a girl who is supposed to have character flaws. Why then are characters like Sehar and Mashal projected as saints when they have, in fact, infringed on the lives of others? Whether the mistakes are intentional or not, they have hurt others by their actions and yet, they are constantly projected as the innocents. When will creative teams recognize that the characters must become more than just one-dimensional beings on screen. Audiences will accept a Saman from Maat as an interesting character, despite realizing that she’s one to hate. But characters that are simply depicted as “good” while making poor life choices – this should not continue to be a trend.