Social fantasia beamed on PTV make me squirm many a times. Soapy stories of the worst kind, they usually revolve around women who are either weak or wild – damaging stereotypes that subtly strengthen wrongful images of women.
PTV’s popular stereotypes: rural woman. Meak, submissive, pitiable creature, with no control whatsoever over her destiny. If wealthy, she is vile and creates trouble for others. Lower-class urban illiterate woman. Pushes her husband into corruption. Else indulges in petty jealousies and social gossiping. Educated middle-class woman has nothing to do except NOT to get any suitors and be a burden to ageing parents. If married and working, plays havoc with her married life. Upper-class women: frivolous, immoral, pretentious.
Besides stereotyping, the playwright often succumbs to grotesque characterization which makes matters worse. What saddens me is that women playwrights more or less follow the same track though they do try to etch strong female characters.
Perhaps women playwrights are not aware of the potential role they can play in projecting a balanced image of women and in molding social attitudes. When I watch Bajiya’s current serial “Ana” I wonder if Bajiya hadn’t made a mess of it, if she had handled it within a realistic frame work, without driving her characters to the extremes, could it have emerged as a feminist play?
In “Ana” there are countless irritants. For instance, in its earlier episodes, Tara’s temper tantrums – flinging sarees and jewelry onto her husband’s face – disgusted me. How could Bajiya make the poor woman act manic without afflicting her with some affective disorder?
Perhaps she forgot to tell the audience that Tara was a manic-depressive! In the running episodes, Tara is finally going through her depressive phase – weeping and lamenting all the time as to why she left an angel (her husband) and married a rogue!
Tara is portrayed as a wild, impulsive, stupid, immoral woman who breaks the norms of marital life for no rhyme or reason and then walks out on her husband. What would you expect her to turn out to be? A loser, of course.
And that character Roshna! Every time she calls her husband coyly “Sahib Ji”, I feel like giving a slap on her face. How could her husband, who is painted as a sophisticated, cultured man, tolerate that sickening “Sahib Ji” from his wife? It sounds so unnatural. Traditional women do address their husbands as “Ji” or “A-Ji”, but never with a prefix of “Sahib”.
And the way she acts! It makes you want to tear at your hair. The rumour: she (Ghazala Kafi) staged a comeback because her husband (Nawab Kaifi) went back to Roohi Bano. I wish he hadn’t done that and spared us her horrible acting!
But let’s not get bogged down by the atrocious aspects of “Ana”, i.e. an unnatural mother-daughter relationship (between Ana and Roshna) or a pathological father-daughter relationship (Ana and her idiot of a father). Let’s enumerate its plus points. Unfortunately, it has only one: Lady Hameed-ud-din.
The most amazing thing about her is that she always talks sense. It’s seldom in PTV’s plays that women talk sense: they either weep or utter sentimentalities.
Another surprising element: despite the fact that she left her four-year-old son, went away and married another person, she is not portrayed as a woman who took such a crucial decision on mere impulse. Somehow she gives the audience this feeling: she must have had sound reasons for leaving her child.
This is indeed daring to suggest. Because it is a blasphemy in our society to even hint that her own individual self could be more important than motherhood.
What I like most about this Lady is that she is strong without being a superwoman. She has her weaknesses and she has her strengths. She is clearheaded. Hers is a wholesome personality, very humane, real.
I don’t know what color Bajiya gives to this character is the remaining episodes and how would Lady Hameed-ud-din emerge in the end, but so far she has thoroughly delighted me.
There is another very daring thought suggested by Bajiya. In one of its earlier episodes, Shakeel goes to his woman-friend (played by Yasmin Ismail) who has remained single, and tells her she was a coward becayse she didn’t let him know her true feelings towards him. If he was uncertain about the nature of their friendship, why didn’t she take the courage to declare love, he asks.
Must I say that I was absolutely floored! Suggesting that a woman can also take the initiative? That the woman also has the right to make the first move?