Pakistani dramas have a reputation for following typical storylines with the same old run-of-the-mill characters. Right?
Well, not always. While watching Bin Roye, something dawned on me: although it makes sense that we've become immune to the quintessential momster-in-laws and the "baechari" who lets everyone treat her like a doormat, when did we become so accepting of first cousins getting married? Or a woman marrying her former brother-in-law in the event of her sister's death?
Certain relationship dynamics just make you feel uneasy, make you do a double take. Five such couples I spotted on television are:
1) Mahira Khan and Adnan Malik in Sadqay Tumhare
Relationship status: First cousins hopelessly in love, without really knowing anything about each other
Funnily enough, it was Mahira Khan's Bin Roye that kick-started this discussion; this seems to be a pattern. A classic tale of forbidden love, Mahira and Adnan play the roles of Shanno and Khalil who are first cousins, "promised" to each other since they were toddlers.
As if that wasn't weird enough, Khalil goes off to live in a different city. No Facebook, no Whatsapp - the two don't keep in touch yet Shanno is madly in love with the idea of him.
It gets even weirder when they see each other at a family function and instantly fall in love with one another. Are these characters genetically programmed to find their significant other from within extended family only? Have they forgotten that their mothers are sisters?
I guess we'll never know.
2) Aamina Sheikh and Adnan Siddiqui in Maat
Relationship status: Ex-brother in law turned husband turned divorcee turned brother-in-law AGAIN
This whole show was a web of inappropriate relationships: Saba Qamar played Adnan Siddiqui's first wife, Saman, who leaves him after a whirlwind affair for his business partner. She was also Aamina Sheikh's sister, who was initially engaged to Siddiqui's character. Wait, what? Confused? I was too!
While Saman abandons her husband and her child, Aiman (Aamina Sheikh) has to step in and take over her responsibilities and before you know it, she's married to the guy who was once her brother-in-law -- let those words just sink in. Like that wasn't odd enough, he leaves her AGAIN to go back to Saman.
Adnan Siddiqui's character, Faisal, took the four marriages allowed in Islam bit too seriously in this serial; the only thing is he just keeps remarrying the same two women! Also, those two are sisters!
3) Alishba Yousuf and Babar Ali in Ek Nazar Meri Taraf
Relationship status: Widow and former brother-in-law get married
Yet another bizarre television couple that made me go, "What? Uh, why?"
You'd think that any woman's worst nightmare would be to become a young widow. The makers of Ek Nazar Meri Taraf take it up a notch so we've got the death of a husband in the story, coupled with the fact that after he dies, the wife, Siffat (Yousuf) discovers he had a mistress.
Like mourning a cheater wasn't bad enough, Siffat's life falls apart at the seams so much so that her brother-in-law, Raza (Babar Ali) feels the only way he can help her is by marrying her. Initially, the idea is dismissed and I was relieved but in true Pakistani drama fashion, it is revisited and they end up together. Uneasy factor on a scale of 1 to 10? 9!
To be fair, Raza's intentions are in the right place but he paints Siffat like way too much of a victim — could he be any more cliche?
4) Fawad Khan and Sania Saeed in Numm
Relationship status:Spouses married off as toddlers with a considerable age difference
Did I mention the two were married through the Vani custom? Since it's typical for every character that Fawad plays to be educated from an Ivy League or Oxford/Cambridge, the story picks up from the time when he comes back after finishing his education.
Upon his return he marries another, much younger girl, Neelum (Kanza Wayne) while older wife Mahjabeen (Sania Saeed) is more or less relegated to a housekeeping role.The fact that Wali is a jerk isn't what irks me; what's interesting about this duo is the way their interactions bring forward how women are still exploited by men with wealth and power.
It just goes to show that no matter how well-educated you are and even if you intend to be different, there are some shackles you can't escape and oppressing women is rooted in tradition in many cultures and families in the country.
One thing's for sure — Numm shed light on the feudalistic rituals that are more commonplace in Pakistan than we'd like to admit. I mean, it's not very nice when the dad's idea of fatherly advice is to say, "Zindagi mein aurto ka aana jana laga rehta."
That being said, in this day and age, is this really something that should be glorified on television?
5) Adnan Siddiqui and Sanam Jung in Mere Hum Dum Mere Dost
Relationship status: An older man who falls for his friend's estranged young daughter
To be fair, Aimen's (Sanam Jung) actual father (Farhan Ali Agha) wasn't even much of a parent to her, much less his friend but it's still pretty odd. Haider (Adnan Siddiqui) doesn't seduce her or corner her into anything which keeps it from being completely creepy like Chup Raho. Instead, he acts like a guide, helping her through a tumultuous time in her life, much like a father figure would do.
The age gap wasn't so much an issue; after all, age is just a number and just like we eventually got used to Richard Burke and Monica Geller from Friends, you will start warming up to this couple too. Even so, the ick factor remains — Dad's friends are just off limits!