The question most often asked of victims of domestic violence is WHY?
Why did you put up with abuse for so long? Why did you not try to get away? Why did you not seek help? Where were your friends and family while all this was happening? How could they have been so oblivious to what was going on?
Why this? Why that? Why not? Why? Why?
The questions are endless and whys keep piling on …
The answer, as most survivors will tell you, with a hint of a tired smile, is that they did try some or all of the handy dandy suggestions offered above.
So deeply rooted is patriarchy in our desi society that ultimately every issue boils down to ghar ki izzat, baap/bhai/shohar ka waqar, and khandani sharafat. And when such weighty matters are at stake who cares if a girl is being married off against her will to a patently unsuitable man, or that she is being married into a family where she is certain to be abused. If, on a rare occasion, she does try to seek help from friends, she is conveniently labeled a ghar se bhaagi hui larki or a yaar ke ghar baithi hui larki.
More often than not those she seeks help from are themselves afraid of social backlash. Living as they do in the same society they too are apprehensive about jeopardizing the status quo; lofty phrases like hamarey khandan ki izzat and larki ke baap ki izzat offer an easy out and its back to square one. The girl is summarily handed back to her family and put back in the very same situation she was trying to escape from in the first place.
The rare few, those brave enough to stand up to social censure and help are deemed equally guilty. They are subjected to threats, name calling, and more often than not physical abuse. All this and then we, as a society, have the temerity to turn around and question the victim as to why she put up with abuse for so long and/or why did she not seek help?!?
It is the skillful unveiling of these societal hypocrisies that has me hooked to Khalil ur Rehman and Mehreen Jabbar’s Mera Naam Yousuf Hai. Yousuf and Zulekha might be the main leads, but in many ways this is a story of Afia’s life. Her run for freedom nipped in the bud by the very man she trusted, Wajih Ahmed.
So many years later Wajih is a man who has gone through life depending on sleeping pills to help ease the burden of his conscience, but what of Afia? What kinds of pills would he suggest for her to take to wish away the evil specter of Maulvi Noor Muhammad, her abusive, unfaithful husband. Why does the burden of khandani izzat rest only upon the woman, the victim in this case? Why are the men not held equally accountable?
It is the story of her mother’s life that makes Zulekha not succumb to Yousuf’s charms. This is a girl who has seen her mother suffer day in day out, but then what are her options now? We may be in 2015 but for Zulekha and Afia this may as well be 1989, the patriarchal mindset remains unchanged.
Where men and their medieval mindsets haven’t changed, the women are no longer the same. Afia is no longer the naive and trusting girl she was back in the day, when she’d sought Wajeeh’s help. Today’s Afia has empowered herself. She might not have succeeded in saving herself but for her daughters she is determined to take a stand against the men in her family. The preview promises quite an action packed seventeenth episode.
Not to be forgotten in all this are Taji and Madiha, Yousuf’s trusted friends. But how long could they remain supportive? Madiha silently sacrificed her love for Yousuf but watching her brother getting beaten up by Noor Muhammad’s goons she couldn’t remain silent anymore. Yes, she loved Yousuf and would always wish the best for him, but not at the expense of her only brother’s well-being. As for the brother in question, he is/was Madiha’s brother long before he became Yousuf’s friend – there’s only so much pain he could bear to see in his sister’s eyes.
Another interesting character is that of Yousuf’s step mother, her glossy lipstick and perfect hair no matter what time of day notwithstanding. She understands her husband’s weaknesses well enough and is not afraid to call him out on his faults. I am looking forward to seeing what role if any does she play in helping Wajih develop a spine, and how that it turn impacts how Wajih influences his son’s relationship with Zulekha.
So yes plenty to look forward to in this superbly narrated story. From the sharp editing to the fabulous music in the background – Ibn-e Insha and Bulleh Shah – to the humdrum routine calls of street vendors, to the performances she’s extracted from her actors, every frame of Mera Naam Yousuf Hai bears Mehreen’s stamp. Qasim Ali’s stunning visuals added that much more depth to the happenings onscreen, also I don’t think I have ever seen Maya Ali look quite as lovely before.
In terms of performances, this is hands down Hina Bayat’s show and she is simply stunning as Afia. Behroze Sabzwari is very good as the guilt ridden Wajih Ahmed. Seema Seher is very good as Yousuf’s step mother. Maya Ali continues to impress. Mansha Pasha is another one who has really managed to get into Madiha’s very conflicted character and made it her own; her voice modulation in particular is excellent. Her scenes with Maya Ali, in this latest episode, were fabulously done. Ali Sheikh and Muhammad Taqi are both very good.
All in all still very much on the Yousuf bandwagon….
Written by SZ~