Mera Naam Yousuf Hai ~ Episodes 15-16 Review

MHYH

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~

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16 replies

  1. I have been reading your reviews for some time now, but this is my first post. I came across this site while looking for reviews of our dramas, and you have consistently the most incisive critiques of what is displayed on the screen. The site is enriched by the insightful comments from your readers.

    Well, now it is time to talk about Mera Naam Hai Yousuf. Hina Bayat, as always, is in a league of her own, but I have been most impressed by Mansha Pasha. Of course, no perfomance can save a bad story, and Khalil ur Rehman Qamar has delivered perhaps his most relevant story so far. Consistent characterization, natural character development, and, last but not least, powerful dialogue with nary a superfluous word, make this one of the standout dramas this season.

    The theme of the hypocrisy that is the hallmark of patriarchies obsessed with honour has been explored in both the usual and unexpected ways. The unexpected happens when Zulekha rejects a court marriage, because it would besmirch her father’s waqar. Even someone trying to escape the confines of her expected role can not escape convention completely.

  2. Hello SZ!! I was anxiously waiting for ur review & as usual it started with thought provoking statements of Why not this? Why not that? Why, Why…. “Bahoot kamal ki hey hamari patriarchy society… I am loving this serial as the episode are un folding, the 14,15,16 were the high lights so far…. Mahreen is at her best she has juiced out all the talent that actor probably were not aware of they had it…. We have all talked about how each actor is doing but alas what about Waeem Abbas, he is playing a villainous👺 Maulvi Noor Muhammad?? I think he has superbly played his part… His character is the real main one, his getup, his makeup with kajal in his eyes 👳🏾knotted eyebrows😫 almost “kuff(spitting) uratey hoont😤chal dhal” typical face of a patriarchy society member😡….
    Lot can be written & can be said about women’s place in desi society but ” na un auratoon ko farak perne wala he jo zulam sehti hein aur na un mardoon ko jo zulam kertey hein” because the reality has another face too, if we can open our eyes & get behind the scenes we will spot a woman who is urging the man to be abusive towards another woman, be it “nand, sas, dusri biwi, sotali maa, dadi, phuphpi you name it” yes sure the instigating factor is man but women really don’t realize they are being puppets in the hands of the instigator … Every woman in all relationships should realize & question herself “Are they being unkind to another women just because a man wants her to do so”??? Acting wise Hina Bayat is leading, following closely is Maya Ali and Imran Abbas….. But waoo Mansha Pasha is there too in the competition she is polishing herself with each episode playing s very complicated character. The sibling’s loving talk was heart melting, at least there is a brother who understands her sister, Taji has his neat way of playing his part as a loyal friend, I am enjoying Taqi’s acting sometimes he is hilarious.. Can’t wait for the next episode…. Take care ….

    • @Shamim: Yes, you raise an excellent point about women’s role in perpetuating and preserving patriarchy You are absolutely correct in saying its not just the men but women too are all equal and willing participants in this system .. I had raied this point in my previous review where I had said:

      “An important question raised is whether it is still valid to call our social set up a patriarchal one when we see how easily women like Kausar, Bushra, Tehmina make men do their bidding. Khalil sahab’s answer, as I read it, is as simple as it is complicated: Patriarchy exists and thrives because men and women participate equally in this process of preserving perpetuating outdated ideas and ideals. At its very basic, patriarchy is nothing more than a set of traditional social structures, ghar, khandan, biradari to illustrate the case here. Hence, khandan ko jorey rakhna, khandan ki beti, khandan ki izzat, ghar i bahu, all become equated with a shared sense of honor; to preserve this honor and ensure its unsullied reputation is an implicitly stated responsibility incumbent not only upon the men but women as well.

      Hence we see Zulekha always conscious of her abba ki izzat, Afia constantly mindful of her husband’s honor, and Wajih telling off his son for dishonoring Zulekha. At the same time we also have the likes of Kausar who deriver power from their position as the khandan ki bari and manipulate the notion of khandan ki izzat to settle their own personal rivalries – in this case to neecha dikhana to Afia by whatever means possible.”

      I also discuss this at length in my reviews of Pehchan, where Bee Gul is brilliant in illustrating how the female victims of yesterday are today’s victimizers … So not blaming just the men … women too enjoy the power that comes with their graduation into the ranks of those charged with influencing the khandani setup . Hence when the bahu becomes the saas, rather than having empathy with the bahu, remembering her own times, more often than not we hear sentences like magar hum bhi apne zamaney main yeh sab sehtey the ….we see Mansoor’s mom excusing her son’s philandering and rough around the edges behavior as sab mard aise hi hotey hain …

      Here in this case, we see the sister using her position, as the oldest in the family, to make Afia suffer, presumably because she’s always felt inferior to her younger bhabhi;s beauty and education and good looks etc ..

      • P.S. Thank you for giving this one a second go on my recommendation. I was scared that you would come back all mad at me for wasting your time! 😔

        • I told you I watch only those dramas which you have recommended….. So I am glad that I gave it another try as per ur recommendation…….I Watched all telefilms that you suggested and O Lord I was like why I have been wasting my time watching IQAAR, SADKEY TUMHARE etc etc etc, the real life was breathing in those telefilms….. Thanks for your all suggestions waiting for more…..

  3. Enjoyed the review SZ…totally on the Yousuf bandwagon even though our hero gets beaten up in every episode. Just hoping KuRQ doesn’t kill off anyone.

  4. SZ, I have a question. The points you raise about victims of domestic violence in traditional societies is so true. Do women in countries that are liberal/have social policies and governmental/NGO set up to support them come out to talk about this problem? I remember you mentioning in the JH thread that you work with such women in the US, why do Salmas still put up with Sikanders? Also, are non-desi women more forthcoming about reporting violence or is this reticence the same across cultures?

    This is such an important issue and clearly MJ feels moved enough by it to tackle it again and again and in various set-ups. I remember in Doraha too she showed some quietly impactful problems of domestic violence and the way this issue seems to cut across the literate/illiterate or class barriers…

    • @VZ: Yes, DV (Domestic Violence) does seem to be an issue very close to Mehreen’s heart, and I have a ton of respect for the way she’s continued to battle for women’s rights, using her position as a story teller to highlight an issue that more often then not tends to be swept under the rug because of the social stigma and the feared marginalization..

      You ask a fabulous question…let me see if I can give you a coherent reply without getting into long winded details …

      I do indeed work very closely with such cases and infact spent all day in court yesterday helping somebody get a restraining order against her abusive husband .. so yes, see this all the time.
      In terms of S. Asian women living in the West, I can tell you that it is excruciatingly hard on a woman to take a stand against an abusive partner or a family member. Just because she’s living in the West does not necessarily mean that her life gets to be dictated by Western norms; her social circle is still made up of desis, who I might add are exceedingly cruel and insesitive in their behavior towards a woman marked with the stigma of being a victim ..and this cuts across socio-economic lines. I know of a pediatrician with her own practice being abused by her husband (who earned less than her) who took it upon himself to use his fists to remind her of the fact that no matter how much she earned or what her social standing was, she was still his wife and hence it was her duty to cook fresh rotis for him at every meal … no matter what …

      Most women continue to stay in abusive marriages because of their children, the fear of how it would financially, socially, and emotionally impact their psyches, others do it on account of their families, khandani izzat etc, there is also the very real social stigma attached to “ratting out on your spouse” … this might seem hard to believe but there are instances where we’ve worked with a particular client for 5-6 years, held their hands through various court visits, police reports, hospital stays.. but they keep going back to give it their “one last shot” … “he’s promised me its all going to change” …

      Also we only tend to ask why dont they walk out .. but we never consider where will they go after walking out. 911 seems to be an easy be-all, but in actuality it is not so. 911 is only the begining of a very long process that nobody takes into account. The victim is faced with the very real possibility of homelessness (husband not coughing up the rent), the hard and cold fact that shelters having long waiting lists and it might take over two months to get into one and the question of expenses for logistical issues like legal fees, food/ health insurance etc. There might be immigration issues and even if there are friends/families around they to get tired after a month or so, and this all without even figuring in a child .. there are also very real fears of physical harm caused by the accused abuser, threats of their children being kidnapped to different countries or across state lines by the accused himself or his family ..

      Also, till the divorce comes through, if thats what the victim wants, that too is a long involved process, where again emotional, financial, and social considerations come into play. The psychological impact on the victim is immense .. Kankar was so very misleading in how easily the character was able to get re-married and seemingly forgot everything .. and by the same token Sikander getting miraculously better in JH or Fahad M’s character, in Kankar, repenting and getting better, moreover simply blaming abusive tendencies on parents’ behavior is a seriously problematic message to put out ..

      And this is not just for the low income or the less educated ..the backlash faced by even well-know/rich/educated victim is immense ..

      Check out this story of Rati Agnihotri, a famous Indian actress of the ’80’s …

      http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/news/5849835/I-thought-there-was-dignity-in-silence—Rati-Agnihotri

      In the case of non-South Asians, there is comparatively less social stigma but here again we see the fact of logistical, economic issues that I briefly mentioned above .. also, though we see Western societies as being “liberal: etc, the fact is that Domestic violence is still not taken as seriously as it should be .. most often its excused as a man getting stressed out by a nagging wife or boys will be boys etc. This brings to mind a recent (Sept 2014) very famous cases in the US where a famous football player was caught on tape abusing his wife. After the video went viral he was fined etc.. in May 2015 another football player was fined for tampering with footballs .. and pretty much everybody noticed that NFL’s fine for DV was much lower than their fine for ball tampering … a perfect example of the weight given to a DV case vs a sports related issue …

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2015/05/11/a-lot-of-people-noticed-that-tom-brady-got-twice-as-long-a-suspension-as-ray-rices-initial-punishment/

      Typically women who complain are seen as weak, not being able to make a go of it … and if the spouse is famous or socially well-known then there is also the political pressure to keep a lid on it …

      I dont know if any of this makes sense, but bottom line the “why did she not leave/walk away” is a simple question with a very very difficult and complicated answers, with each case being a unique one .. and that’s one of the reason why I really like how they are unfolding Afia’s story .. look at how her seemingly supportive sister changes her attitude once she finds out the Afia helped Zulekha run away, or look at how easily Wajih Ahmed walks away from Afia after depositing her back in her abusive family’s home ..

      • SZ, your reply makes such a sombre reading. First of all, lots of respect for the work you do.

        Secondly, thanks for explaining this issue in detail, because as you say, many of us simply ask the questions and not realise how complicated the answers are. For example, when I watched Doraha, I just couldn’t understand why Sara wouldn’t ever speak out to her parents or to the doctors, I was exasperated by her inertia (sorry about the harsh term). More so when she came back to her parents’ place and found her lost self again – surely she could’ve done that much earlier and not put up with abuse? Now I am starting to understand what a difficult step it is for someone in that position.

        One instance I remember from when I was about 7 or 8 years old, was when the lady who helped out with chores in our house, used to get beaten up by her son – a son who had no job and was dependent on her! I remember asking her why she didn’t tell the police (the ultimate authority in my 7 yo mind), she would just smile and say/do nothing. I can try and see now why she was so reluctant and would just brush it off. Again, a friend’s friend here in the UK who appeared to be in a very happy marriage until she left her husband one day, just literally ran out of her home – turns out he was shaking her when she was still holding her 5 mo baby – so the social workers were called, etc and guess what, she went back to him…I could never understand why…now I am starting to realise how daunting it must have all been for her, especially with that baby.

        We learn in finance about two behavioural aspects that drive investors: regret aversion (people avoid making changes to minimise the possibility of regret in case something goes wrong) and status quo bias (people like keeping things as they are). Looks to me that even in the case of domestic violence, these biases are true about the victims.

        Unfortunately, as a society we end up forcing them to put purdah on the perpetrators, in the name of culture, honour and what not. Reminds me of Yamina (of MeJ) and the chill I felt when she was putting on make-up to cover the marks of Adam’s violence…

        Sorry for the longish comment, your reply put me in a very thoughtful mood…thanks for explaining that out to me, SZ…

        • @VZ: Thank you for plodding through my long-winded response, am glad you found it informative.
          I was typing as I was thinking last night and then had to rush to leave so did not even look it over before posting, and now that I am… girl, how did you make any sense out of my typo-ridden response?!? #SoEmbarrassed #NewYearResolutionFor2016 #NeedTypingLessons

          • Yaar SZ, I remember Mahira Khan’s reply in the SeZ thread about the high standards of spelling, grammar and punctuation that you maintain, so please don’t feel embarrassed.

            Your response was thought-provoking and reminded me of so many instances where I feel I’ve been too judgemental about those who have been in these unfortunate circumstances. It’s so easy to do that and harder, much harder to actually understand the many angles of this problem – as you say, social stigma, housing, job, the physical and mental healing process (or not being allowed to heal), there’s indeed a lot on the plate…also made me think how ungrateful I am sometimes over little things not going my way, when so many girls out there have so much at stake…very humbling…

            Also, I must admit MJ is really doing her bit here – and the best thing is how she avoids sensationalising these issues and merely showcases the situations in an impactful way for us to think about them…

            Thanks once again SZ…much appreciate you sharing your time and thoughts…

          • I had been very keenly reading your & VZ’s comments on the DV issues, you very rightly explained the issue about why women prefer to stay in abusive home rather than walk away at will, why they veil the perpetrator so on so forth……. I want to share an instance of the same kind…… One of my friend who was running a driving school found out one of her student was a victim of of DV. One day she called my friend asking for help when we went to her place she was living we found her on the road crying desperately, one of the neighbors were kind enough to let her use his phone to make a call….After that there were none ending issues of child custody, child support, health insurance you name it…….
            After 3 years of struggle & haggle she decide to go back to him. She swear not to ever have another child but exactly after 9 month she had another child & was again facing the same situation of DV but she did’t wanted to abandon him, and you know what she said to us” I don’t want to keep any contact with you & I am changing my phone # too”….. So those are the terms sometime they have to stick to. Here in US where we claim to be enjoying the most shakhsi aazadi ,no
            one knows at what cost?
            And yes dont be embarrassed about grammar, spelling, tenses etc etc….. We can understand each other very well…
            @VZ I think your financial idea of behavioural aspets is right which labels the victims as such….
            Waiting for the next time to meet each other…… Bye…… Stay blessed….

            • Hi Shamim, it’s nice to read your message 🙂

              I was reading your example – the bit where the victim didn’t want to keep in contact with you and your friend – well guess what, the lady I mentioned in my post above, with the 5 mo baby – she too cut off all links with us. I remember feeling outraged, foolish (for having supported her), even betrayed when she went back to her abusive husband, all this conversation is helping me make sense (at least starting to) of what she must have been going through…

              Also, I realised I was clearly not trained to give her help, but in South Asian cultures, we don’t really use social welfare/trained staff – possibly because “loag kya kahenge?” syndrome? There’s a lot of stigma we attach to even things like counselling (because we/people around us feel like we are making a fuss about nothing and things will sort out on its own) – but as with many issues, domestic violence doesn’t go away with a magic wand. I agree with SZ when she mentioned Kankar, also Mera Naseeb springs to mind as well – we keep getting these messages that such issues will just one fine day become alright – they usually don’t…

    • Just read this article, SZ. Thank you for sharing this. It explains what DV does to a woman’s mind and body. It is unbelievable how much someone can manipulate us in the name of ‘love’… May God keep all daughters safe…

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