When “Jaisay Aapki Marzi” first began almost three months ago, it appeared to be a stereotypical ARY drama with an innocent young girl taken for a ride by a headstrong, manipulative man and mistreated after marriage. Pakistani drama audiences were not aware of what was in store, which wound up being a cautionary tale, taking viewers through each and every step of being married to a controlling clinical narcissist. Starring Durr E Fishan Saleem, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Kiran Malik, Ali Safina, Javed Sheikh and Ali Tahir, the story has been written by Naila Jaffri and directed by Saba Hamid.
In episode 30, Ramza (Hira Umer) and Ahmer (Komail Anam) expose Sherry’s (Mikaal Zulfiqar) behavior to Alizeh (Durr E Fishan Saleem) and the entire family. However, Sherry goes on the defensive, claiming Hira is a liar, a woman he knew in the States who he rejected. At this point though, Shagufta (Huma Hameed) has finally snapped out of her trance, seeing Sherry’s manipulations for what they are now that she realizes he has not only been deceiving all of them, but could potentially harm her daughter. Unfortunately, Alizeh is as deeply brainwashed as ever, making every effort to create excuses for Sherry, blasting Ahmer without any respect. Fortunately, Sherry has started going off the deep end himself, realizing he’s backed into a corner. He beats Ahmer outside the house, begins digging up friends to vouch for Hira’s “bad character” and kicks Alizeh’s parents out of their home.
While on paper, one could believe that “Jaisay Aapki Marzi” is a typical ARY show, this is anything but that. The reason a show like “Jaisay Aapki Marzi” manages to not only rake in over 1 million views within 10 hours while still having an audience of intelligent, story-appreciating viewers is because the story being told here is one that’s realistic. This is a story where, if sitting in a room full of women discussing this show, several of those women will connect with this story on a personal level. South Asian society is one which nurtures narcissistic behavior in men, a patriarchal society which not only judges women harshly as opposed to men, but also repeatedly makes excuses for the behavior of those men. Women are often encouraged to stay in marriages with bad men because of societal opinions and norms – and the same is the case with Alizeh in “Jaisay Aapki Marzi.” This is a woman who started off as a strong, independent, successful woman who would give Ted Talks and this woman has, gradually over the course of time, been reduced to a woman without an opinion of her own who only serves as a mouthpiece for her husband. Watching Alizeh’s transition has been disheartening and upsetting, but at present, she has begun to induce anger. Women in abusive relationships tend to take it as long as their own don’t begin to turn against them because of it – and in this case, Alizeh is now facing the wrath of her own family, not for the divorce taboo, but rather for her decision to stay with her abusive husband. Her family wants what’s best for her – and wants her to leave Sherry. But what will it take for Alizeh to open her eyes?
Durr E Fishan Saleem is honestly giving her career best performance as Alizeh, a bubbly woman transforming into a shell of her former self. Of course, Mikaal Zulfiqar is detestable as Sherry, but is also doing an incredible job making the audience hate him. Ali Tahir also deserves praise as Tahir. This story has explored the love bombing stage, the post marriage control, the manipulations, the ugly accusations, the brainwashing and the emotional isolation stages so well. We can only hope this show winds up on as strong a note as it has been throughout its run and doesn’t take a cliched approach towards the ending (characters suddenly losing their sanity, for example).