Zindagi Gulzar Hai – Entrenching Patriarchy

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It has been a few years since my last television soap opera fix. I have been hearing of Zindagi Gulzar Hai (#ZGH #ZindagiGulzarHai) on my social media handles for years. I had it on my watchlist for a while before I got to it this past week. The show started slow and promisingly enough for me to binge watch it.

I finished the last episode yesterday and sat there scratching my head wondering why it was so hyped. Yes, Fawad Khan as eye candy is definitely one reason to watch but beyond that everything that was promising about it at the beginning fizzles into nothingburger.

Kashaf, the relentless pessimist manages to find reasons to complain, even when it is hard to. She has principles. She is battered by life’s constant crises and manages to finally hold her head above water. She is deep. She muses in her diary every night in lyrical Urdu. Yet, when her life manages to turn itself around, she is petulant and childish, holding on to grudges, refusing to share her problems and holding off happiness as if it will taint her and rob her of her personality.

Zaroon is a man child. His looks are about the only thing redeeming about him. He makes up rules in his marriage that he doesn’t adhere to. He waxes eloquently about being the “man” in the relationship yet there is nothing remotely mature about him. His conservatism is all about maintaining hierarchy in relationships. He claims to be shareef yet he thinks nothing about pursuing women and dumping them because they seem to be a challenge to his notions about women and his ilk. He is hypocritical to the extent you wonder what you are doing watching this damned show.

Kashaf’s mom Rabia is this all suffering epitome of a wronged woman. You admire her for her grit, the usool with which she raises her daughters. You can suffer through her persistently annoying advice on how to keep husbands and in-laws happy but when she turns smug and almost villainous towards her husband Murtaza, you wonder which is the real her. In the history of character evolution in stories, this is probably the one I have the most trouble understanding.

Murtaza and family are probably the only set of people whose complexities make sense. They are constantly evil and take the turn to marginally better toward the end. I love how real this family is. Hammad doesn’t suddenly turn into an intelligent specimen, Nigar doesn’t magically turn into a nice person. Their daughters never make an appearance. Murtaza’s character is probably the only good thing about the show.

Junaid, Zaroon’s dad had potential yet is squandered like much of the other characters. When his wife Ghazala who is the stand-in for “bra-burning feminist” is scolded by their children, he watches mute, switching sides to pile on. Hello! it takes two to tango.

Ghazala and Sara start out with so much promise and cave in like all other women characters in the show, agreeing that women should compromise for the good of the family. What if the men are hypocritical, they are like that only!

Asmara, another cardboard cutout of the evil other, a girl who makes decisions when our man child is confused. Other than appearing for no reason in Zaroon’s life and convincing she is there for nefarious reasons, she disappears.

Sidra, sister of our protagonist and the only redeeming thing about the show. She is practical, sorted and actually behaves as women in real life do. Thank God for her! Shaneela, the other sister and her interactions with Hammad managed to keep my interest for much longer than I would have otherwise.

For a show that is all about feminism and how successful marriages work, it seems to have it all skewed. In fact, it is a primer about how not to be in relationships.

1. Make financial decisions and not share with the spouse, no matter how silly the reason is.

2. Throw a hissy fit when your fiancee goes out with men friends and turn around and do the same to your wife (that too with your ex-fiancee) and expect her not to react.

3. Never ever actually talk to your spouse to iron out issues. Instead, storm out of the house, stew in front of the TV and yell at servants.

4. Stalk, woo someone because they are a challenge to your sensibilities and turn around and decide they will be your wife because who cares about character evolution and nonsense of that sort.

5. Communication? What is that? We won’t ever talk or fool around but before the year is out, we will expect twins.

In any case, if anything came out of the show for me, I will be brewing tea all the time and drinking them out of fancy cups, and drooling over Fawad Khan gifs on Twitter.

Yeah! I am jobless like that.

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