Mann Mayal -Jamil Nama
In desperate times.. a new hero emerges: step forward Jamil and claim your title. If anyone was under the impression that Salahuddin is the hero of MannMayal, they are wrong. The last four episodes have seen the rise of a new man, one who can live and love to the fullest. Salahuddin has been relegated to the role of ineffectual witness, one who sits and listens as the women of MannMayal, “ bad girl” Jeena and the bholiest of them all Mannu, slug it out for the crown of Pakistan’s greatest victim .
In 23 episodes Salahuddin has not been able to make a solid commitment to anything, be it his work schedule or one of the two women that hover obsessively around him. His purported true love for Mannu lasted as long as Jeena could wheedle a ring out of him and the ring on Jeena’s finger is about as permanent as the froth on his early morning coffee. Jamil on the other hand has a strong bond with his Mannu Baji and is always there to save her from her latest idiotic decision.
While Mannu maybe Jamil’s Baji, Jeena surely isn’t. In a brave attempt to challenge the rigid rules of a zalim samaj the makers of MannMayal present to us: ”Jamil the servant’s epic story of unrequited love for Jeena”. A very wise man called Ed Sheeran once said “people fall in love in mysterious ways” and all it took for Jamil was putting Silvadene on Jeena’s completely unburned hand. With the kind of manly daring Salahuddin has yet to muster, Jamil stakes his claim: putting aside his wife and two children, and boldly declaring that he will love Jeena “jee bhar kay” even if she is marrying his boss.
This is just another absurd twist to a story which now looks like a car that ran out of petrol but is being pushed forcibly along the road by its desperate occupants trying to get to some out of reach destination. It is now abundantly clear that the director did not take the time visualize this story from beginning to end , so what might even be legitimate plot turns seem like ad hoc additions to cash in on this dramas popularity. Meanwhile the cynical are wearily guessing this just a game Jamil is playing to get an extra episode oops I mean to catch the villainous Jeena. This is not the first or the last time a bad drama has gained popularity or been stretched beyond its limits (who remembers Shukk?), there is a deep underlying pathology to this whole situation. The cult of the Bholi larki: which tells us that a woman must be naïve and helpless to the point of stupidity to be good, she can have no agency, no will for self-preservation or practical decision making skills as these would immediately mark her as a Chalaq or cunning woman.
A bholi larki like Mannu must walk the streets with her children despite the fact that her in laws put an entire inheritance in her name, she must stay at a non mehram’s house during her iddat because she doesn’t have the self-control not to blurt out her divorce details in front of her sick father, she cannot even buy a bus ticket by herself because men tease her and she thinks the best way to patch up with her volatile husband is by taking her ex-boyfriend with her.
So to convince us of Mannu’s complete innocence, and all round angelic nature the writer has had to turn somersaults and demonize the other woman, forcing outlandish situations and motivations on the other characters. The director has even helpfully provided us with sinister sound tracks for Jeena to keep the contrast going. As if to reinforce the power of this bholi larki trope even more , bad girl Jeena is also constantly trying to catch everyone’s sympathy by mentioning her dead parents at the end of every second sentence. Audiences lap this stuff up and though we complain about absurd Nagin type dramas ruining our culture, what message are bholi larkiyan like Mannu sending the masses? How much have we internalized these sad, disempowering and disabling images? Drama makers often complain that they have to make money and if viewers love such stories, they are only fulfilling a need. A glance at the top rated dramas will often prove them at least superficially right. However the system used to gauge ratings is notoriously flawed but till it is more reliable such dramas will continue to gain traction .
A version of this also appears in Dawn images