By Muhammad Asad Ullah
Pakistani drama serials often highlight the issues we face in our culture – the ones that we all recognise at least subconsciously but which we ignore or repress. The harassment people feel in the workplace is one of the challenges television effectively explores. Talking about sexism and harassment in the workplace can be grim. Not because we’re reluctant to speak about it, but because it’s still so prevalent even after the outburst of #Metoo movement that spread across the world like a fire. However, things are changing now and people are realising the strength of coming forward and getting heard rather than suppressing themselves or getting silent in the dark. As #Metoo intended to give a voice to the silenced, one of the most literal ways it is now attempting to do so is through the stage, television and screen. It’s a much needed topic we need to see and explore on television to create an awareness. Because for a woman being intimidated into silence, harassed or passed over in a male-dominated working culture is all too easy. It doesn’t happen everywhere but we hear about the bad, much more than the good.
The television industry in Pakistan dares to be more realistic than ever, exploring the grim issues of society today. Consider, for example, how Rehaai (2013), on HUM TV, dealt with child brides, which is a norm in several backward parts of the country; or Kankar (2013) that touched the base of domestic abuse or Udaari (2016) that touched incest and paedophilia; or Cheekh (2019), which tackles misogyny. And now, a new play is ready to take on the issue of women’s harassment at workplace.
Titled Darr Khuda Se, the drama serial is a Geo TV presentation. The play has Imran Abbas and Sana Javed in the lead, and is directed by Anjum Shahzad.
There have been drama serials shedding some light on workplace harassment, but how is Darr Khuda Se different? Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi, producers of the drama tell us. “Indeed there are a few projects that shed light upon the workplace harassment – but nothing since the #MeToo movement worldwide. We have been working on the projects and points towards the issues that are deeply rooted in our society. Darr Khuda Se follows that ideology. It highlights the brutal reality of our society and portrays how an employer destroys an employee’s life when she takes a stand for herself which is usually not practised in our patriarchal society. The fact that keeps a fine line between this project and others is the karma that follows, how he will pay for his wrongdoings, and how his life turns upside down.” They added, “The drama has been planned in a way that a lot of women (who are the primary television audience) and can relate to this content and the issue it highlights. We just want to try and take away the fear and hesitation they have with regards to coming forward if they are in such a situation, or even understand what is appropriate and inappropriate workplace behaviour and draw lines.”
Ever since Anjum Shahzad’s Khaani (2017) went on air, on entertainment channel Geo, Khaani shaped a new paradigm and a path to success for Sana Javed, who played the titular role alongside Feroze Khan in the serial. Sana, who essayed the role of Khaani in the play, made her debut with drama serial Pyare Afzal in 2013, on premier entertainment channel ARY Digital. She ventured into cinema as well in 2017 film, Mehrunisa V Lub U. Although Sana did rise to prominence with Khaani, but when I saw her as Mahnoor in Zara Yaad Kar (2016), on premier entertainment channel HUM TV, I knew this girl would go places. Zara Yaad Kar had an emotionally invested-intense script, and the way Sana handled it all together as the protagonist proved her acting prowess.
Sana is now all set to hit the television screens with this multi-layered message serial for the #Metoo era. Sana plays the victim of harassment at work place. Talking about her character, Sana says, “My character’s name is Afreen who goes through harassment by her boss every time they come across. When she decides to even the score, she faces a lot of hurdles and eventually loses her respect and dignity. But the drama then shows how she continues to struggle for her right and ultimately the ball comes in her court. My key reason to choose this script is to create awareness and boost the morale of our women to fight for their right.”
Putting herself in a reel time situation of going through harassment at work place. What does Sana take out of the character of a victim as a person herself. She tells, “I believe every character teaches me something and this strong role has encouraged me to speak for myself and to motivate people to do the same. Now, I can actually feel for the girls who go through this evil on daily basis and don’t have the power to retaliate.”
Sana believes Darr Khuda Se can change the game for women who face harassment at work or in life. “The drama will definitely create an awareness. This project is like an aid for an hour of need and it is designed beautifully to deliver the sense of legitimacy that one deserves in all circumstances. The worst reality we see is that a girl has to face a lot if she takes a stand for herself but Darr Khuda Se also shows how the harasser’s life turns upside down when the law of nature does justice – conversely and miraculously,” she adds, “This drama has been planned in a way that it would make a difference in lives of girls in Pakistan and boost the confidence of victims to speak for themselves instead of ignoring an extremely important issue.”
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