By Zara Maqbool
Humsafar, Mann Mayal and the currently running Yaqeen Ka Safar and a few more popular Pakistani dramas have one thing in common; a ‘naik parveen’. The female protagonist is a traditional innocent looking girl who come hell or high water will keep her head covered with a dupatta. She is a shy quiet girl who does have a lot of potential and she is ready to be assertive but still defers to the male. She doesn’t wear too much make up and dresses in a simple way. An avid watcher of Pakistani dramas it made me wonder why seeing a typical eastern girl on screen makes so many hearts let me correct male heart skip a beat. Why this ‘naik parveen’ look defines her character and a good girl image.
Whether it was the ‘Manoo’ of Man Mayal whose rebellion was portrayed in the form of her getting a haircut and modern clothes. Or Zubia from Yaqeen ka Safar who after making one small mistake denies her feelings for Azfi the male protagonist as it might compromise her piety. Females of highly rated dramas are depicted in a way, which might make feminist get nightmares.
What surprises me is that even at this day and age a woman‘s way of dressing, talking, her choices in life have to be a certain way for her to be considered attractive for a man and worth having her in his life for good. She still has to prove her high moral character on screen or off screen.
Many years ago when I was working on my thesis for my Masters it was on the portrayal of women in the media. I remember dramas and films around that time all painted women in a certain way like ‘Uroosa’ of 90s with her innocent and gullible presenting self. And yet two decades later it still stands true that a girl like ‘Khirad’ with her simple clothes and dupatta clad head will make many heart sigh whereas the modern empowered girl will be looked at differently.
Considering that we have such an educated class of writers and directors it comes as a surprise to me why such a ‘naik parveen ‘look has to be reinforced again and again. And then it’s not male writers only but female writers reinforce that image too. Any other image is a grey area and can border into being a vixen or so on.
If I compare earlier dramas like Ankahi, Tanhaiyan or Dhoop Kinaare to today’s dramas, one sees the lead actresses are shown as empowered and smart. Simple yet attractive. They didn’t need the crutches of a dupatta to prove their innocence. These days the modern women are shown as being up to no good. They are either having affairs with married men or running from homes and choosing wrong turns in lives. The ‘good girl’ on the other hand through her patience wins the boy’s heart and lives happily ever after.
What are we teaching our future generation of women? I am not saying go ahead and wear modern clothes just to show that you are aware and educated but then you don’t have to cover your head and look down and not meet the boy’s eyes to be proven pure and angelic. They can both co-exist together. A modern woman dressed in western wear can still be pious and assert herself, sustain boundaries and yet love and respect the male figures in her life. It doesn’t have to be a choice as our dramas are constantly trying to show. Maybe it’s time we assimilate these two images of good and bad together and accept them as a whole.
Story first published: 27th October 2017