Flashback to the early 90s, a time when Pakistanis avidly watched Bollywood films (as many still do). Think about the content we found ourselves consuming, content which also trickled into 90s Pakistani films. Men stalking women and women ultimately succumbing to their advances and falling “in love,” a man slapping a woman after hearing her say something he didn’t like and many other such scenarios. These films normalized this behavior in our minds, making it seem almost like an “ideal” for a man to chase us, thinking “she deserved that” after a man slapped a woman on-screen and so forth – behaviors that now, looking back, we can identify as harmful and concepts that slowly brainwashed us into believing it was normal.
Why are we discussing these past forms of entertainment? Watching “Dil E Momin,” it reminds one of these films for exactly the same reason – “Dil E Momin” is slowly brainwashing us into believing certain behaviors are acceptable. When social media picks up on a clip from say an “Aangan” where a husband is slapping a woman, social media immediately lashes out, calling such scenarios as harmful towards society. But isn’t abuse a part of society? Is there really anything harmful about showing abuse as abuse – and depicting it in a way where viewers can recognize it’s wrong? Context matters and in the matter of “Aangan,” the context is clear – a man has been emotionally abused and manipulated by his mother, creating an unhealthy environment where he has become abusive. As viewers, we can see this plainly within the story, as it’s a transparent concept….one that isn’t actually problematic.
However, social media does not band together to call out truly harmful shows, shows that mask themselves behind religious concepts without thinking how these stories will affect the audience – shows like “Dil E Momin.” “Dil E Momin” stars Faysal Qureshi and Madiha Imam in lead roles, written by Jahanzeb Qamar and directed by Shehrazade Sheikh. In “Dil E Momin,” we have been introduced to Maya (Madiha Imam), a young girl who falls for her engaged professor, Momin (Faysal Qureshi). Despite his repeated rejections and warnings to keep her distance, Maya continues to pursue Momin against his wishes. On the day of Momin’s wedding, Maya accuses Momin of harassment in order to prevent his marriage from taking place. In the process, Momin’s wedding to Aashi (Momal Sheikh) is called off, Aashi turning against him for being unfaithful. His own father passes away from a heart-attack, disgraced by his son’s actions. His family turns against him. His sister’s wedding is called off. Aashi is forced to marry an abusive man. This is all because of a young woman unable to take “no” for an answer. In the end, her guilt eats away at her and she confesses that she lied – and loses her mother in the same way Momin lost his father. Is this supposed to create sympathy for Maya? Well, it does and in a strange twist of fate, Maya winds up married to Momin and discovers Allah. She chooses a righteous path, changes her ways and fits in perfectly with Momin’s family.
At present, now she has decided to be “good” and sacrifice her happiness for Momin’s, allowing Momin to marry a now-abandoned Aashi. However, due to circumstances, the tides turn against Maya and Aashi and Momin believe Maya is conspiring against them. Now, suddenly the audience believes Maya doesn’t deserve this “abuse” and can do better. But wait – why has sympathy suddenly turned away from Momin? In this entire scenario, what has Momin done wrong exactly, other than not protect himself well enough from Maya? This is the problem with those “slowly building” shows. The show is now 40 plus episodes in and viewers are having a hard time remembering Maya’s toxic behaviors clearly. They are forgetting how these characters got into their present situation.
Couldn’t the same story have been told without Maya marrying Momin? Couldn’t Maya have discovered God without re-entering Momin’s life? Can’t Maya turn into a good person without destroying Momin and Aashi’s image in the process? What have these two characters ever done to be depicted as “bad”? This is a slow show, which allows viewers to overlook the mental manipulation that is occurring. “Dil E Momin,” at this point, is now whitewashing a female harasser – something which has far more harmful implications than showing a slap on-screen. Unfortunately, after “Muqaddar,” it seems like telling these regressive, mentally manipulative stories is becoming more commonplace……and isn’t this more dangerous than showing realistic stories?