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Romantic rapist ?

Bay-Khudi 2.jpg

As a corollary , just look at the images used to advertise this serial centered on such a strong topic .It defies logic !

To their credit Pakistani dramas have never been shy of addressing difficult or controversial subjects and over the past few viewing seasons there has been an uptick in stories touching on difficult social issues .Hum Tv’s recent hit Udaari is a prime example, garnering not only ratings and a fan following, but much critical acclaim for its sensitive handling of a potentially disturbing subject like child rape. ARY TV’s award winning drama Roag also managed to give the full impact of this most heinous of crimes in without lurid details. However not every drama has managed to meet these high standards and some like Ary ‘s Chup Raho,  and Hum Tv’s Sangat and Gul E Rana, have come in for strong criticism for their misleading depictions.

Just like murder, rape is a crime as old as the hills and its use as a plot devise is nothing new. However, unlike the old days when the hero’s sister conveniently commits suicide after being “defiled”, or the victim is married of to the repentant sinner rapist in order to restore “honour”; rape victims are now shown surviving and overcoming their ordeal, courageously demanding justice at all costs. With the highly competitive and commercial nature of today’s drama industry, it seems as if those few steps forward are being undermined by a lot of steps backwards.  The motif of the “romantic rapist “ has made a resurgence in serials like Sangat , Gul e Rana , Muqqadas and the most recent cause of outrage , Ary ‘s Bay Khudi. Episodes 3 and 4 of Bay Khudi show an angry man whose proposal has been rejected, sneaking into the family home and raping his unsuspecting cousin in a well-planned fit of jealous rage and then tearing himself up with remorse. In what looks like an attempt to beat Hum Tv’s incredibly crass use of the lyrics “ Mera jism mera gunnah hai “( which seemed to imply the victim somehow raped herself because her body was the focus of the sin) , viewers were treated to the lyrics “”nadaniyaan jo hamse huwee maaf kar dey Khuda “.Apparently a planned , violent rape  by a competent ,  fully conscious male is  a “nadaani” in Ary’s lexicon.

While no one can deny the sad truth that such things happen, the presentation of the rapist as an otherwise wonderful, in fact otherworldly wonderful guy in all other respects who just happens to make this one “bad decision” is completely inappropriate and untrue. Such a personality may be an incredibly manipulative liar who can deceive others at will but he should be shown as such, or his tendency to cruelty and violence must show in his other behaviour.   With so many dramas on air, it’s difficult for channels to keep up with every detail of their content but this disturbing trend definitely warrants close inspection.. What message is sent by such characterisations, what precedents are being set in the minds of those watching: that rape is ok, if you are ‘in love’, that it is just a sign of uncontrollable passion, that ‘good people’ can do this?

Research shows that rape is never about love or romance; rather it is about control, dominance and complete humiliation. While it may be too much to say that such soft portrayals are encouraging this behaviour, they certainly are making it more palatable by wrapping it up in dreamy, ambiguous glow that distances the viewer from the raw viciousness of the act. As a caveat its important to note that Pakistani dramas do not exist in isolation : as with all media in today’s highly connected society there is a strong cross pollination effect at work , where popular trends from all over the world effect and inspire the stories we see on our screens. While it’s easy to accuse a badly made Urdu drama of feeding into rape culture, perhaps we can also point out the way western serials like Game of Thrones and books like Fifty Shades of Gray also feed into the same narrative yet are swallowed wholesale as “entertainment”.The normalization of sexual violence is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. We asked several prominent drama makers their opinion and here is what they said:

 Noor Hassan – Actor (who plays the lead/rapist in Bay Khudi)

“The message of Bay khudi is that even if one successfully gets away with the crime, one never manages to be happy or content. And eventually has to pay for it”

Farhat Ishtiaq – Writer of Udaari, Udaari , Humsafar etc

As writers we have to be very serious & responsible while writing on such issues.. It’s never ok to force sex on someone. It is unforgivable. Period! I was very clear about Paa Imtiaz’s character. He was a child rapist… I even didn’t try to create some justifications for his wrong doings.. for example that he was Abused as a child or any other reason to justify his evil nature

Mustapha Afridi –writer of Sange Mar Mar and Aseerzadi

Rape ghalti nahi jurm hay orr mujram ko saza hoti hay shadi nahi. Agar aisay sick heros dikhanay hain orr oss ki hawas ko mazlomiat orr masoomiat ka libas dena hay tu society ka end .Her dosra larka Jo khud ko hero samjhta hay woh yahi kam start kar day tu khud sochain kia ho ga

Mohammad Ehtashamuddin Director of  Udaari and Sadqay Tumharay,

 Rape is real and its painful, a scar for a lifetime.. Bringing to screen such subjects like rape and child abuse is no joke, to me and my team….. “Udaari” was a sheer burden of responsibility, a narrative that is drenched in painful reality…it can’t be sensationalized because epidemics like rape and child abuse are killing our future and destroying all our communities. So by handling this subject very carefully, team Udaari brought to light the pain that accompanied Zebo as a victim, and against all odds also showed her the strength of a survivor. We all have to Stand up as a Nation, Speakout, Seek justice and Spread awareness.

This article appeared in an edited form In Dawn Images

Sadaf Haider

 

 

7 Comments »

  1. Thank you for writing this Sadaf. It’s scary how one drama after another is making the ‘hero’ do this kind of stuff. Just awful…To think after the criticism Sangat got, they’d get off this approach..par nahin.

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  2. Thank you so much for reading and commenting . Your point is exactly right , consent is a concept that has to be understood explicitly , it is not enough to assume anything .

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  3. It is important that everyone understands what consent is. I’m fed up with movies showing scenes where there is no consent. Its criminal. Its time for yareally changes to how the world looks at this. Thanks for your posting!

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  4. Most people are stuck with that concept ” what was she wearing , did she used to smile and talk to men, wo wahan ker Kya rahi thee , wahan gaie Kya laynay thee , akailay jaany ki zarooret kya thee ” , their thought process doesn’t go beyond these points or they just don’t bother to think about what you were actually saying. It’s like they are incapable of digesting the fact that ” just became a rapist is a handsome guy, who wears suits, speaks English, comes from a well off family and CLAIMES to be in love with the victim; ” it doesn’t change the fact that what he did was a crime and he is a criminal. Sigh.

    We will be needing a lot of very good written scripts to make the audiences realize that rape is a crime, not a crime committed out of love but like you said, to show power, dominance or to humiliate the victim.

    As always, it was a pleasure reading your take on this story.

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    • Thank You Kiran , you write with so much clarity ! I am sure the people writing and making are normal decent people . Unfortuneatly it looks as if the proper research and analysis was not done and this is what has lead to an over reliance on the imagination of director and writer . The way dramas are written in produced in Pakistan does not help . Its easy for anyone to make a mistake ( sometimes I read my own article and wonder who wrote it !) . There really needs to be a better review and consultation process that helps writers in particular to avoid such mistakes . Perhaps there should be some rough ethical guidelines issued by channels . In other countries there are teams of people working on an episode and there are regular meetings over the direction of the story and character arcs. I understand the tradition is different in Pakistan , but as our dramas gain a more and more visible international profile , the industry will have to meet the challenge .
      The most shocking thing about Noor Hassan’s character in this story and the rapist in Sangat were the the way they were portrayed as anear perfect apart from that one failing . Something not born out be research , while there is bound to be the 1 in 1 billion that might fit that profile the 99.9999 % of rapists are manipulative abusers . Just look at the headlines , it is a sport for these evil people .

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