As parents we teach our children to be wary of strangers. Our verbal and non-verbal cues teach children where they are safe – in the safety of the home – and where they should be alert – on the outside. But predators do not always lurk in dark corners with horns growing out of their heads and stand in alleys with danger signs painted across their chests. Most importantly, children are not the only ones to suffer sexual abuse, adults are just as likely to be victimized.
Bee Gul’s Dar Si Jati Hai Sila has alerted us to exactly this danger. Predators do not fit a specific mold nor do their victims. There are those, like Sila’s mama Joi, who though not related by blood are welcomed and accepted as members of the household, who are granted open access to all parts of the household, and because of their age are deemed safe to be around female members of the family.
Try as she might Sadia is unable to protect Sila from Joi’s wandering eye and hands. An unwelcome touch here a decidedly non-paternalistic gaze there, it’s all happening under everybody’s noses, but such is the power dynamic in this joint family that Sadia is unable to say a word. And how can she. She has a dirty secret of her own. She was Joi’s first victim in Noor Manzil.
And here Sila is brilliant in its opening up of another can of worms – the joint family system. As Sadia’s case amply demonstrates there is a lot to be valued in this kind of a living arrangement. Given that she is alone, her husband works abroad, living with extended family ostensibly provides Sadia with a support system. She is freed from the day to day responsibilities of running a household and is thus free to focus on raising her children. Fabulous.
An important issue highlighted is that of a married woman who is single for all practical purposes. The minute a girl is born parents start worrying about her marriage. The moment she is married, however, it is as if they are suddenly freed off a burden. She is now her husband’s ‘problem’. But what if the husband is not capable? To whom is this woman to turn to now? Her in-laws? What if they do not see her as their responsibility – she was married to the man not to his entire khandan?
We hear so much talk of beti ka bojh aur shohar ki zimmedari, but in all this conversation about the woman where is the woman’s own voice? Where in all this does she exist as an individual entity? What about her needs, desires, dreams, ambitions?
So obsessed is desi culture with shaadi that a young girl’s life is almost entirely geared towards the impending marriage – kab hogi, kis se hogi, kahan hogi, etc. Where in all this is time to think of an education, not just for the sake of a career, but to invest in and secure the girl’s future.
Would Sadia have reacted differently to her circumstances if she’d had the means to provide for herself and her children? Would access to resources, variously defined, have enabled Sadia to reach out for help? In all these years why hasn’t Sadia managed to cultivate even one relationship worthy of trust within the family? Tullo, perhaps? She is a single woman, wouldn’t she have been empathetic and receptive to Sadia’s problems? If not helping her solve them, at least she could’ve lent emotional support?
15 episodes in I am very disappointed with how a strong script is being translated on-screen. We are about the halfway mark and so far all we have seen is a constant underscoring of victimhood. Every single episode the camera has lingered lovingly on Joi’s lascivious leer and wandering hands and then panned over to the victims’ – Sadia and Sila’s – quivering lips, shaking bodies and their struggle to free themselves. Why are we watching the story from the perv’s point of view? I understand the need to establish power dynamics initially, but now?
My question simply put: Is this serial meant to highlight solutions or to drive home the point that there is no escape from an essentially hopeless situation? Were I a viewer who identified with Sadia’s situation, what is my take home message? That my life is not worth living? Where is my ray of hope? Why is this drama so obsessed with its villain that it is not turning the spotlight on solutions offered by the script?
Her cousin Raheel stands up for Sila and Zaini is pushing Sila to speak up – why not focus more on the younger generation, making more obvious the comparison between the younger and older generations’ attitudes. Why not explore the lack of support for Sadia from other family members. Why is she so unwanted and un-liked? Had she ever sought a way out?
There is so much more to be mined here other than simply showing repetitive scenes with Bari Apa and her love for her brother. We get Bari Apa by now – why do we need so much of her? Every episode dedicates at least half of its time to scenes featuring Nauman Ijaz. The rest of the characters get squeezed into the remaining other half.
The way the story has played out it seems to me that there is a real confusion in Kashif Nisar, the director’s mind as to the real hero -Perverted Joi or Sadia and Sila? Or simply put the big name star vs the story. There is no denying the fact the Nauman Ijaz is the best we have, but no actor or character can be above the story, which is what is happening here. A fabulous script has been turned on its head and transformed into a star vehicle. Rather than Sila offering a workable solution or a kernel of hope, all it is doing is showcasing Nauman Ijaz as a bad boy. And this is a huge problem.
Fifteen weeks of scene after scene of a woman’s humiliation, degradation, victimization, her ‘willing’ walk up to her abuser’s bedroom, all this juxtaposed against the abuser’s sadistic joy and the self-satisfied smile – makes me question the producers’ and channel’s priorities? Is this about offering solutions or about repackaging misery and selling it in recycled bottles?
It was bad enough a few years ago when woman were being beaten and abused and crying 24/7 but then channels, particularly women oriented channels like HUM, claimed to have moved towards intelligent programming. After having sat through a slew of recent offerings I am sorry to report that evidence points to the contrary. Even as the number of abused women continues to rise in our country, TV narratives are turning even more regressive and problematic. Dragging serials, particularly these issue-based ones, by adding in more miseries to ‘spice up’ the story line is adding even more fuel to the fire. Where is the education angle here?
If anybody is truly interested in intelligent issue-based programming then there has to systemic change in how the industry thinks. Mindsets have to be altered and TV channels have to realize and understand the importance of presenting an issue-based story. Whose gaze is being privileged and whose point of views is the story being narrated from?
Abusers should not be allowed to take over the story. The camera’s eye cannot become the voyeur’s gaze. We should not be shown the story through the perverts’ eyes. Why do they get that privilege. Victims, however, are typically silenced in such stories. If the camera has to take sides, then why not choose the side of the weak and the helpless? Surely they have earned that right? If they are silenced in the text why can’t they be allowed a voice through the visual medium? Let the subtext do the talking for them.
And this is the other point. Why is there so much talking? Bari Apa alone talks more than everybody else in the entire serial, and most of it is repeated ad nauseam throughout. Apart from plumping up episodes and helping stretch the serial what other purpose is this reiteration serving?
Story lines in these kinds of dramas need to be direct, to the point and should not be dragged out with unnecessary repetitive talking scenes (Bari Apa and Joi scenes) and those that humiliate victims (Joi’s constant manhandling of Sila and Sadia). Once the victim is disrespected then where is the meaning left in these issue-based serials?
All this to say that while I continue to think Dar Si Jat Hai Sila is a serial worth watching- it is well written, well acted and touches on an important subject deserving of serious debate, I am disappointed with the producers’ and director’s callous, heavy-handed commercial drama treatment meted out to a very sensitive subject. I wish they had thought this through and treaded lightly and carefully.
Written by SZ~