The year is 2023. The Pakistani entertainment industry is as terrified of a woman who exercises her own free will and independence, as it was in 1973. After encouraging the bitch and bechari trope, the gold digger, the women fighting over a man trope, here comes another interesting plot device to keep viewers entertained: humiliation nikkahs.
What is this term and why do we bring this up? Humiliation nikkahs is a trope that are apparently suppose to make the enmity to lovers story even more spicier, simply by pressurizing the girl to marry the man for the sake of keeping her izzat intact. Bring up an excuse like the man the woman was suppose to marry bailed, and what could be more precious for a woman than diamonds, jewelry or a worthwhile lifestyle? Her honor! Because dear children, if a woman has no honor, punish her by marrying her off instantly to a stranger, popping out a ready made husband good to go!
Recently, the drama Mujhe Pyar Hua Tha has been gaining a lot of attention on social media because of Wahaj Ali’s brilliant performance, but his smolder and Nice Boy™️ vibes isn’t enough to divert us from the regressive story line. A love affair is stopped because women do not appreciate caring and nice boys apparently. From the start, the drama keeps us invested in the love story between two cousins (not enough coffee on this planet to get in to how messed up this is). The male lead, Saad (excellent name choice, five points for the writer) is the good boy next door. He’s the one who has always listened to your problems, is only a call away when you need to go out, but not the one you want to fall in love with. . He’s Devdas without the dimples or the long hair strand in front of the face, but the slouch who moans about no one liking him.
Then there’s the girl, Meerab, who is vain, self-centered, and consistently ignoring Nice Boy’s™️ kindness. She also taunts him for not doing enough when in the first episode, she chastises Saad for not owning a nice enough car and making her late to her cousin’s wedding. Meerab falls in love with a rich man Areeb, for which she is repeatedly condemned by her family, because she begs them not to force her to marry Saad, the man she had literally grown up next to. She and her mother are painted as villains in the drama because of their aspirations to marry above their station.
But what possible flaw could Saad have, aside from the fact that he is literally her blood relative? He’s the Nice Boy™️! Could it be perhaps that she doesn’t owe to him that she gives up her independence simply because he loves her? Or perhaps she has different desires than what Saad is offering her, and would like to have a wealthy and luxurious lifestyle? But by the end of the day, Meerub is a selfish, manipulating bitch for wanting more than just a mere home, and Saad is the Sad Boy who got played with because for once, a woman reminded him that she doesn’t owe him anything.
And then we come to the part that has inspired this rant: the shotgun wedding that is apparently the genius twist used to put two enemies together. Apparently the writer thought they were one-upping the great minds of writers like Agatha Christie or Emily Henry, who couldn’t write a better love triangle than forcing a woman to quickly marry her cousin because log baatien kar rahay hain? One would have to question why do television shows still presume that a woman’s honor and respect is completely destroyed when they are raped or assualted, but there is never a question about the man’s sense of respect. Especially in a country where more women are beaten or murdered by family relatives because they made videos on Tik Tok or even rejected a man’s proposal, this kind of message actively perpetuates the ever present misogyny women in Pakistan still deal with.
‘Log Kya Kahengee’ is a mantra women have been sacrificing their dreams and existence to, and it’s shameful that to this day, drama creators cannot recognize how damaging their depictions can be for women trying to survive in Pakistan.
The humiliation nikkah isn’t brand new, but a beloved trope. Popular dramas like Chupke Chupke abruptly put the opposing lovers together without any proper chemistry because it was another great idea hatched by respectable elders. Dear children, marriage is the magic wand that magically evaporates any anonymity or prejudice two people who never have interacted before in their lives might have, and then suddenly they’re the new Majnu Laila in town. Chupke Chupke executed this trope in a brilliant manner. Faaz and Meenu, the opposites in the Hum Tv Ramzan drama, had never interacted before, and were also STUDENT and TEACHER before this happened. Meenu tragically happened to have been engaged to a con-man, who was quickly caught by the brilliance of family members who were pushing her to get married in the first place. In a stroke of brilliance, they quickly decide that Meenu must marry her cousin, and teacher, Faaz Ibrahim, to save her respect. Before Faaz can even interject with some logic, Meenu’s brother quickly shushes him by reminding him ‘Meenu ki izzat ka sawal hai.’
Because worse than marrying the wrong man or even being abused and humiliated in a toxic relationship, is getting bailed on your wedding day.
What’s more worrying to witness is how the humiliation nikkah trope is supposed to be a way writers are trying to convince the audience that a toxic male lead, who repeatedly stalks, harasses and crosses boundaries with a woman, is actually truly in love with her. Taking an example of the ever green Ishq Hai where Danish Taimoor”s character is driven to madness when he realizes that the woman he loves (played by Minal Khan) is getting married to someone else. So he kidnaps her, drives her to an isolated home, where he holds a gun to his head and threatens this woman that she must marry him, or he will kill himself.
Swoon, right? Shah Rukh Khan should take notes. He only gently reminded his female lead that he wouldn’t force her to run away with him, because he loved her too much, and would never want her to live a life of shame and cut off from her loved ones.
But what’s going to change by shouting our frustrations in the air this way because by the end of the day, this is the same entertainment industry willing to demonize Aurat March as a Western agenda movement, designed to break apart the family system.
The family system, that is maintained because women have kept quiet for centuries about being abused, mistreated, cut off from their family members, forced to clean and cook for the entire household, will suddenly collapse overnight because one girl made the choice to marry according to her own free will.
We sincerely hope that Pakistani drama creators would maybe stop chasing their own tales and spinning out the same regressive storylines, and maybe for once, listen to the women living in Pakistan, who deserve much better than consistently being denied their humanity and self worth.