As they say, art transcends boundaries, and there have been countless instances where Bollywood artists have sought inspiration from Pakistani content and vice versa. Last year, Alia Bhatt said in an interview that she drew references from Sanam Saeed’s Kashaf in Zindagi Gulzar Hai for her role in the movie Kalank, whereas many celebs from across the border were all gaga over Pakistani serials before shock bans imposed by the Indian government in late 2016.
With tit-for-tat restriction coming from the Pakistani side as well, movies from Bollywood are all the more under the microscope given the predilection of that industry for drawing ‘inspiration’ from random uncredited sources. And as goes the popular aphorism that imitation is the best form of flattery, we couldn’t help but notice some parallels with Fahad Mustafa-Sanam Baloch starrer Kankar when a preview of the upcoming film Thappad was released. Although we have to admit, our mouths were not exactly agape given how this famous Bollywood diva too had tweeted being completely smitten by the television show. Seems like it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened.
Taking a peek at Thappad, its trailer reveals its female protagonist Amrita (played by Taapsee Pannu) leading a happy life with her husband until one day, he slaps her in front of everyone. After Amrita’s decision to file a legal complaint, she is met with the usual criticism in typical society. Amrita’s mother is afraid that her daughter will be divorced while her mother in law asks her to be more tolerant. Depicting the prevalent social norms that treat abuse of women casually, the trailer also has a disturbing clip where a male character says ‘When you are truly in love, a little bit slapping is an expression of love.’
Now, coming to Kankar, the show was aired in late 2013 with direction by Aabis Raza and a powerful script penned by celebrated writer Umera Ahmad. The serial was noted for its realistic treatment of the issue of domestic violence against women and its strong female protagonist who refuses to be intimidated despite strong social pressures. The story revolves around Sikandar (Fahad Mustafa) who falls in love with Kiran (Sanam Baloch), and the two get married. However, soon after their marriage, Sikandar is shown to be a person with anger issues as he keeps insulting Kiran’s parents and eventually starts to physically manhandle her, even slapping her blue at one instance. All this while, Kiran’s mother in law also criticizes her for being outspoken. Naturally, the relationship breaks down but Kiran’s parents blame her for ruining her marriage and do their best to convince her to go back to Sikandar, but she remains adamant about seeking a divorce.
Not just a slap
The strong-willed female lead in Thappad bears strong undertones of Sanam Baloch’s Kiran and even the punch-line of its trailer ‘Just a slap? But he can’t hit me’ is strongly reminiscent of Kankar’s many memorable dialogues. As in the show, the film too revolves around an upper middle-class set-up, whereas the female protagonist is also shown hailing from a relatively less privileged household. When faced with domestic abuse courtesy her husband, both leads are shown to be adamant about not caving in to domestic pressures and seeking justice.
Coming to Pakistani entertainment industry, the theme of domestic abuse of women is certainly not a novelty. The social issue has been extensively covered in dramas such as Zun Mureed, Yahan Pyaar Nahi Hai, Diya Jalay and Khaas as well as films such as Khilona, Khuda Ke Liye and Bol.
The question remains, will the film treat the issue with the same level of realism and sensitivity as Kankar? The verdict will be out in late February when the movie hits theaters.