Why are people still obsessed with Humsafar? Oh, Humsafar, the drama that keeps us hooked with its peculiar charm! But why was there so much abuse and why did Khirad choose to stay silent? If Khirad’s father taught her such strong values, why was her only path to financial security an arranged marriage into an affluent family? Despite her sharp intellect, which could have led her to a Ph.D. stipend or a junior analyst position, she finds herself trapped in an abusive marriage, with an oppressive mother-in-law and a passive-aggressive, unpredictable husband. It’s perplexing to think that her moral values would restrict her choices to such an extent.
It’s troubling to observe how women, regardless of their age, motherhood, or homemaking abilities, are always on the brink of losing everything, dependent on apologetic yet unapologetic men. Even the mother-in-law, with a potentially fulfilling career in an NGO, finds greater joy in tormenting her child than in her worldly accomplishments. What if Khirad had asserted her sexual autonomy or indifference and explored multiple conflicting emotions? What if she had raised her child as a single mother and found love on her own terms? Unfortunately, the script relies on simplistic archetypes and doesn’t allow for such complexities. Khirad’s chance of a reunion with Ashar depends on her remaining faithful to him for four and a half years as a single woman.
Ashar, too, remains pure and celibate, reinforcing his unattainability. Sara, the monosyllabic evil character, fails to seduce him despite being in close proximity, adding a twist and moral dilemma to the story. The drama keeps us yearning for Ashar to resist temptation, playing on our desire to see the mother-in-law shamed and Khirad’s moral purity triumph in their reunion.
Furthermore, It is partly the responsibility of actors to object when they are asked to star in a problematic script. When Humsafarcame out some 10 years ago, it was touted to be the show that brought Fawad and Mahira into the spotlight – and rightfully so. The actors’ careers took off with that drama. But was it a good narrative? I do not agree. Humsafar was a very regressive show, where a woman went through hardships just because another woman plotted against her.
When a regular, middle-class woman sees Mahira being slapped around, she would feel good about herself, that if someone like Mahira can be abused, then who am I to object? If Mahira’s character would have stopped the abuse and stood up for herself at the right time, then the middle-class woman who idealizes Khirad would understand that she also has the option to do the same.
Humsafar’s terrible appeal lies in its reinforcement of deeply patriarchal frameworks and sexist justice that appeases patriarchal vigilantes. It presents a modern-day fairy tale, better than Cinderella but not quite as nuanced as Shrek, captivating us in the revival of TV drama in the age of social media.