Every time a Pakistani drama is about to go on air, we are more or less sure that it will revolve around the three usual time-tested themes. It could either be a love story, a saas-bahu saga or a revenge story. And when it comes to love stories, more often than not, the romantic saga is initiated with one-sided infatuation or just a simple, plain obsession.
Talking about obsession and romance, its roots lie far deeper in the pop-culture of the region. So often in desi cinema has the stalker syndrome been confused with love. Even if romantic feelings are rebuffed initially, the stalker keeps pursuing his interest until they magically transpire. Such behavior should be considered harassment in the current environment we live in, however, it seems this new reality is yet to dawn upon our contemporary drama writers.
Taking a look at the material which has gone on air in recent years, it would not be a stretch to say that genuine, heartfelt romance is difficult to come by. More worryingly, we can safely say that what any sane person would classify as obsession, bordering on harassment, is often wrapped in the deceptive packaging of romance. Such dramas where obsession has masqueraded as romance include Malaal-e-Yaar, Bashar Momin, Muqadar, etc. No prizes for guessing that all three revolved around an aggressive male from a feudal background who falls in love (read: gets obsessed) with a girl and vows to get married to her.
When drama writers do choose to venture beyond the ‘romantic’ genre, they turn to the trusty storyline of a richie-rich hero and a bechari middle-class heroine. The hero is typically shown as an affluent politician or a businessman, while the heroine may be a working woman who tries to make ends meet in her house doing odd jobs or either bound to her household not doing any work outside. Men in these plotlines so often fulfill the materialistic wishes of women in the garb of a romantic connection. Prince charming has to come with deep pockets.
Since we are dealing with the topic of obsession, recently, drama serial Ishqiya went on air which shows its main characters Hamza and Hamna in a four-year-long relationship. Hamna is shown to be timid and reluctant to open up about her significant other to her parents; while Hamza is quite open about his fascination and obsession for Hamna. Hamna, although in love with Hamza, is also shown to be scared of him as she mentions to her friend “jo baat baat pe choti si baat per maar peet par utar ae wo itni badi baat pe chup nae bethega” when disclosing her nikkah to another man.
As many would agree, being in a relationship with someone who is borderline obsessed with you would indeed make life much more difficult for the object of infatuation. Therefore romanticizing not so romantic characters is a huge flaw in itself. While some viewers might feel sympathetic towards Feroze’s character in Ishqiya, I believe his aggression towards Hamna depicts signs of obsession. So often does Hamna feel uncomfortable that one wonders why writers do not enlighten the audience that such behavior on part of men is quite plainly wrong.
Another drama currently on air is Deewangi which shows Danish Taimoor as Sultan; a rich political figure, completely smitten by Nageen, again a middle-class working woman (played by Hiba Bukhari). Nageen eventually does not reciprocate his love, rather she tries to stop his advances and slaps him in public too. Fast forward to a few episodes, it is shown that Sultan succeeds in winning her over. On the day of their wedding, Nageen gets kidnapped while it comes to light that this was planned by Sultan all along to avenge the public humiliation he received from her.
From obsession to winning her over and eventually getting her kidnapped for the sake of his izzat, the whole narrative blurs the line between obsession, revenge, and genuine romance.
As much as obsession-centric storylines might intrigue viewers, it would be pleasant to see actual love stories where both parties are shown as sane individuals who would actually wish to be together. One such example that comes to my mind is the track of Saad and Dua from Ehd-e-Wafa. It’s about time our writers started working on stories showing obsessive behavior for what it really is.