As if it wasn’t enough to have love troubles between a husband and his two wives or a husband and his friend’s wife or his cousin or cousin’s wife or wife’s sister or his ravishing colleague or his ex that he tossed out in a fit of rage and now wants back or something just as unappetizing, we are now romanticizing marital rape?
I admit I haven’t watched our plays with undying dedication for the past decade or so, hence, I can be wrong in gawking and saying oh, my word since when?! But bear with me. The last serial I remember bearing this issue was Nijaat. Yep. The 1993 wala awesome Nijaat - Marina Khan, Atiqa Odho, Noman Ajaz, Sajid Hassan, Huma Nawab, and a host of other gems including Yusuf Ali who played the bad guy that forcibly marries a minor, then, locks her up every time he leaves the house because he is afraid she might otherwise escape. In that play, the issue wasn’t romanticized. It was creepy. And they showed it creepy. Although, the core idea was to protest against child marriage, it did subtly touch on the issue I’m discussing here and did it justice.
But now, 21 years later, in the 21st century, we have the daring and dashing Bashar Momin.
I won’t deny I had hots for the character for the first 13 episodes. And then, he blew it. It would’ve been charming if he’d left her alone; been super hunky and swoon-worthy if he hadn't crossed that line - along with the line of physical abuse as well as aborting her pregnancy without her consent via poisonous juice. But the cherry on top wasn’t Bashar. Oh no! That honor went to his abused wife who fell in love with him. I mean - Stockholm syndrome? No brains? Bad taste? All of the above?
Okay, fine, granted, he was the bad guy to begin with. The devil incarnate; the villain; the emotionally unstable fiend who subjected all around him to his uncontrollable fury/blackmail/manipulation/bad drunk-boy acting, so, of course, it was only natural to spice it up by throwing sexual and physical abuse in the mix, too. Only, I think that’s a crime more heinous than money laundering. Also, I think the play set a tone for us to like him as it started out.
Big fail. Stone him.
The trend, however, seems to have caught on because in another play on another channel, an apparently good guy is found passionately doing the same to his witch of a wife.
Yes, I had to get a lifetime supply of anti-nausea meds after that.
It did teach me a valuable lesson with regards to eastern marital culture, though, or a culture that at least thrives in the heads of the drama makers if nowhere else. If the wife wants to save her marriage, she must be patient, submissive, stupid, and utterly sweet to the point that it poisons her. There are more plays than I can bear to watch on the plot where a husband conveniently forgets he has a wife - Aap ki Kaneez, Arranged Marriage, Rukhsar, Mere Mehrban, Mausam, Ghar ek Jannat, Malika Aaliya, and the list goes on.
On the contrary, if a man wants to save his marriage, he just needs to bully his wife and - you know - lock her up, up, up! Such a no brainer and so wrong to say he isn't making someone happy. The lock and key industry must be so thrilled over this newfound niche.
So, this is it. This is our new dimension in relationships. After the media success of the Husband who emotionally and often physically abandons his wife, we now present to you the Husband who kidnaps and rapes his wife. Honestly, if we’re going to go with this sort of badness, then can we please have an over the top drop-dead chikna for the job? At least, it’ll be worth my while to ogle him if nothing else.
However, the question remains: Where are the gentlemen? Will they seriously not make interesting heroes? Is it not sexy to be good anymore?
I shall wait to be amazed…
PS: This post also appeared in The Nation