To call “Ehraam E Junoon” a success would be an understatement. It’s not simply a success, it’s a leading show in terms of both TRPs and YouTube views. Of course, its success is earned in the sense that it’s a genuinely enjoyable watch. Is “Ehraam E Junoon” intelligently written with pearls of wisdom at every turn? Absolutely not. This is a show that’s somewhat mindless and full of flaws, yet somehow, it still manages to take hold of the audience and force us to come back week after week. And yet, as time progresses, there’s something about the narrative that’s deeply troubling. Starring Imran Abbas, Neelam Muneer, Nimra Khan, Mahmood Aslam, Ismat Zaidi, Maira Khan, Zainab Qayyum, Saqib Sameer and other well-known names, the story has been written by Jahanzeb Qamar and directed by Syed Ramish Rizvi.
At present in the show, Shani (Imran Abbas) is attempting to break away from Shanzay (Neelam Muneer) and find a job in a different company with the support of Sajila (Nimra Khan). However, not only is his family conspiring against him, but Shanzay herself refuses to allow Shani to “destroy his life,” that too for his greedy fiancée. All this sounds fine and well in theory – a rich young woman who is hopelessly in love with a man, so offers him all the riches in the world in exchange for his friendship, constantly plotting with his family against his fiancée (who wants Shani to have a high-earning job before they get married), hoping to win Shani over despite his repeated statements of refusal…….oh wait a minute, no, no it does not sound fine in theory at all, does it?
The problem here seems to be difficulty understanding that harassment does not have a gender. Let’s flash back to another Geo drama from 2021, “Dil E Momin.” In this drama, a young woman (played by Madiha Imam) falls in love (read: obsession) with her professor and leaves no stone unturned to stalk and harass him, ultimately accusing him of sexual harassment when she realizes he’s getting married. In the end, after much suffering on his end, she “repents” and the purity of her love is witnessed by all, his family encouraging him to accept her as his wife. “Dil E Momin” essentially excused harassment and tried to portray a character’s obsession as true love. The writer of “Dil E Momin” and “Ehraam E Junoon” is the same – Jahanzeb Qamar. Surprise!
In “Ehraam E Junoon,” Shanzay has been rejected by Shani at every turn. Shanzay has offered Shani a job just to be close to him. Shanzay has offered Shani a house, a car, a promotion, you name it, all in the name of “love.” This love, by the way, is “selfless,” Shanzay not expecting a thing in return….except she is. Shajila (Nimra Khan), Shani’s fiancée, has always been money minded and did not want to marry Shani at a time when he was a pizza delivery boy. It’s not necessarily a crime to want a life of comfort, but sure, Shajila acted poorly, pushing Shani towards Shanzay. However, at present, Shajila now feels discomfort at the thought of Shani spending time with Shanzay and asks him to leave his job and find an equivalent one – but one that’s away from Shanzay. Meanwhile, Shani’s sister and mother are ready to break of Shani’s engagement to Shajila and even discuss this with Shanzay, making it clear that they’re making space for her in Shani’s life.
It’s easy to make a character a villain in order to paint the other as a saint – but is Shanzay a saint? Or is she simply allowing herself to be a doormat, used for money, all while stalking a man who does not want her and destroying his personal relationships? How does this qualify as love? All the characters on this show are feeding off of Shanzay’s money, but she’s allowing them to do it – and her reasons are not selfless.
Characters like Shanzay would be labeled differently if genders were swapped. If Shanzay were a man and Shani were a woman, we would see the indignity in this situation. If a man were paying a woman ludicrous amounts of money to work with him just so he could be close to her day in and day out, as an audience, we would have some choice words. So why then do we paint Shanzay’s emotions as “love”? This is not love, it’s infatuation and quite honestly worrisome that the general audience is lapping this “love story” up, a love story where, most likely, Shanzay will end up winning her love due to her sacrifice. Neelam Muneer and Imran Abbas are doing a great job in their roles, no doubt, and this is why the show is so engaging and interesting to watch. However, logically speaking, the show is sending out a terrible message that harassment is absolutely acceptable if it’s a woman doing the harassing/stalking – and what sort of long term impact will such a message have on audiences and the sort of content created in the future?