Hafsah Janjua, BA International Relations
“Regret, Loyalty and Forgiveness are the three words that come to mind when I think of Mere Paas Tum Ho”
Mere Paas Tum Ho (2019), a Pakistani romance drama aired on ARY TV, presents an addition to Khalil-Ur-Rehman Qamar’s portfolio of unconventional and ground-breaking screenwriting in Pakistani popular culture. The series, consisting of 23 episodes, has proved extremely popular and gained viewers across Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora.
The drama entails a story about sweethearts, Daanish and Mehwish, who defied the cultural norms of Pakistani society and had a love marriage after meeting at university. The story takes a turn when Mehwish’s gaze turns to company director, Shehwaar Ahmed as she realises the limits of Daanish’s wealth and feels that she deserves more. Following developments in their relationship, Shehwaar tries to win over Mehwish and gives her a taste of a luxurious life that she supposedly deserves. The drama unfolds and reveals how Mehwish falls into the hands of Shehwaar and proves unfaithful to her first love, Daanish.
Qamar’s script has done a great job at breaking the silence by addressing the taboos surrounding infidelity and has been received positively amongst creatives in the Pakistani media. Often, Pakistani dramas have represented stories of infidelity as accompanied with male violence or revenge, however Mere Paas Tum Ho presents a different angle on healing and shows how patience prevails in truly letting go of someone you love. The unconventional plot of a husband dealing with the grief of losing his wife to a richer man is reframed through Daanish’s capacity to maintain humility in accepting his fate. ‘Regret, Loyalty and Forgiveness are the three words that come to mind when I think of Mere Paas Tum Ho’ says Mariam, a Pakistani student from London. Such terms often do not come to mind when thinking about unfaithfulness, particularly within South Asia. It is clear that the drama has opened up the discussion to how one would avenge the loss of a loved one.
Despite the script having been written five years ago, the themes remain relevant today and capture some of the most pressing social issues and taboos in Pakistan. The drama was particularly captivating in its inclusion of unscripted scenes which genuinely reflected the emotions surrounding bewafai (unfaithfulness). The lead character, Daanish, played by actor Humayun Saeed, won over the audience for his ability to portray a vulnerable and modest persona, very different from the Alpha male roles that Saeed often plays. An avid viewer of the series, Sabrina, a Pakistani student in London, has said that ‘the choice of wardrobe, script and unfiltered emotions, including crying, for Daanish truly captured his vulnerability and represented a very different image of a suffering and humiliated Pakistani male’.
Interestingly, Qamar’s objective for the series was to show how dependent a man is on a woman. However, it problematically overemphasised the sin of a cheating woman, whom Qamar considered as a ‘non-woman’, yet glosses over the reputation of a cheating man, normalising infidelity for males. Thus, it comes as no surprise that feminist critiques emerged over the skewed negative persona of Mehwish. Nonetheless, it is important to remain sensitive to Pakistan’s social context and the gradual liberalisation of the popular culture realm in which conventionally taboo topics, including but not limited to sexuality and defiance to cultural norms, have been slowly normalised. Additionally, the series also traces a broader set of issues beyond infidelity and injects the experience of class and social currency in Pakistan into the journey of forgiveness, creating an opening for discussion.
Overall, the drama has been one of the most-watched in Pakistan and the diaspora and has been trending on social media for its unconventional plot, (Twitter is full of spoilers so stay away until you have finished all the episodes!). ‘I usually watch Indian dramas and I am glued to Star Plus, but this series got me hooked for the sophistication of the plot development and how it really put me in the shoes of the characters’ said Mohammed, a Bangladeshi student from London. So, if you are looking for a different style of series and are a sucker for domestic altercations, venture into the world of this Pakistani drama series to see how the poetic plots can challenge or change your perception on the social issues in Pakistan.
Image from ARY TV – 14th January 2020 – https://arynews.tv/en/ary-digital-mere-paas-tum-ho/
Mere Paas Tum Ho Finale to be screened across Pakistan (Credit: ARY TV)