Love On Screen - The Case of Romantic Pakistani Dramas
We can’t deny that we’re all a little too obsessed with TV romances. Everyone has a favourite OTP, a chai and drama session with their nearest and dearest, a favourite character that we all gush over. When it comes to Pakistani dramas, it’s even better because in this case we’re able to relate so much more. Or are we?
Are the relationships shown on Pakistani television really relatable? I’ve been told many times that the reason the same kinds of stories gain traction is because they reflect reality. If that is true, then are these relationships something to be proud of?
Our tv shows follow a set line of typical storylines. Saas-bahu relationships, marriages that seem to be dragging along and eventual romantic saviour heroes that almost always end up with sweeping the girl off her feet.
Here’s where my problem comes in. Love is not all about damsels in distress. Are we promoting love or a skewed saviour complex that tells men they can’t have love without control and women that love should always mean subservience.
Let’s talk about 2 popular dramas that took Pakistani society by storm and the way they depict love.
When it was released in 2011, many regarded Humsafar as the revival of the drama industry. Not only did it take Pakistan by storm it was also translated into Arabic and broadcasted in the Middle East by MBC. Humsafar was one of those dramas that you had to have been living under a rock to have not heard of. Khirad (Mahira Khan) and Ashar (Fawad Khan) became an everlasting symbol of romance. The quiet shy blushing Khirad who - wait no, that was pretty much all there was to her personality. On the other hand we had Ashar, a classic elite desi male who was brought up as his mother’s ladla and thought far too much of himself.
Yes the ending was all happiness and smiles, and despite the odds the two fall madly in love. But it was the journey there that surprised me the most. After all the accusations and ostracisation she faces, it took Khirad 3 episodes to go from “Yeh aik waqti samjhota hay” and “Aap ka beta meray liye mar gaya hay” to admitting in the final episode, “Mohabbat mari tou naheen, kho gaye hay.” This comes after Ashar’s lack of apology for not even letting her provide so much as an explanation for what had happened.
Sara’s (Naveen Waqar) role in this is also interesting. If Khirad seems one-dimensional, Sara is no different. She is characterised solely by her love bordering on obsession with Ashar even after his marriage - boxing her into the classic idea that it is always the woman who is the homewrecker.
Beyond marriage, the characters give little thought to anything else. It is almost as if marriage should be the sole purpose of our existence and yet the show fails to depict that in a holistic view as well.
Yeh Dil Mera
While Humsafar made its debut 9 years ago, Yeh Dil Mera is one of the latest ongoing hits to grace our screens. With a cast of newlyweds Ahad Raza Mir and Sajal Aly, along with Adnan Siddiqui the acting leaves little to be desired. The story itself is also somewhat different to what we’re normally used to - dark, twisted and a need for revenge that encompasses all.
But despite all its innovations, when it comes to love we seem to be following the same pattern. Aina (Sajal) is raised in a sheltered childhood that has left her with no exposure to the outside world. She falls in love with Aman (Ahad) despite the fact that he reveals nothing about himself, is constantly rude to her and exhibits multiple red flags even before he proposes. Despite all this she agrees to marry him, even when he tries to pull away.
Aman’s character is later revealed to be suffering from severe childhood trauma that leaves him with nightmares, fainting spells and apparent anger issues. While the show does try to show that he is not fully to blame for his actions - it is the romantic scenes that bother me more than his aggression. After all that he does to Aina, all it takes is for him to tell her “pyar mein aisa hee tau hota hai, tum mujhe accept kar lo” and she does so without a word. It is only when he accuses her father that she sees him as a monster.
Which brings me to another kind of love in the show. Aina and her beloved Agha Jaan (Adnan Siddiqi) - known as Farooq to everyone else. Farooq’s idea of love includes policing his university-going daughter’s meals, technology and even having her followed around all the time to make sure she doesn’t break his rules. He also lies to her psychologist about her childhood and calls it the most perfect childhood anyone can have. This leaves Aina in a state where she dotes on her Agha Jaan’s every word. It also leaves her defenceless against any sort of negative experience because of how sheltered she is. Farooq is not shown as a good character by any means but there is very little in the show that openly negates his treatment of Aina.
It’s high time the entertainment industry stops depicting women who mold easily, please everyone and are willing to bend over at the drop of a hat as the heroines we should all aspire to be. It’s also high time we gave our boys better heroes - romantic or otherwise - to look up to.