Does art imitate life or can art be appreciated independently? That is the most important question that will arise once Jhooti, ARY’s upcoming outing goes on air. The first teasers of the drama serial are out and it appears that the female protagonist Nirma, portrayed by Iqra Aziz, is a compulsive liar; she’s also a hot headed girl who first aggressively objects to marrying a ‘parchoonwala’ meaning shop keeper, who’s in love with her. The parchoonwala being Ahmed Ali Butt (who returns to mainstream television with this role), they do get married but she begins lying about being domestically abused by him and his family and therein lies the dilemma.
The Twitterati has not taken kindly to the teasers, with many people complaining that the story looks like it’s more damaging than constructive; do we really want a story to perpetuate the fact that women – already blamed for most abuse they suffer – are liars too?
I actually belong to the school of thought that allows art complete creative freedom; I don’t agree with censorship of any kind and I do believe that a writer, for example, should be allowed to spin any story that excites him. How that story is written and executed then is subject to critique. The world complained but eventually accepted occurrences of incestual rape in Game of Thrones; the production was just so good that you forgave RR Martin his bizarre ways; it was fantasy, fiction. I really enjoyed Gone Girl and while not all women are like Amy Dunne but her character does exist. There is all kinds of programming being developed on Netflix, accessible by the world, and while critics did object to 13 Reasons Why, stating it encouraged suicides amongst teenagers, the series got renewed though the producers did remove the most controversial suicide scene from Season 1.
With regards to Jhooti, the question is: should women be concerned that the drama will perpetuate the common belief that women lie about being abused? Served to a society that is already hugely misogynist and where victim blaming is a norm, do we need a drama that perpetuates that unfortunate stereotype? It all depends on how well the story is told. But I am all for the story to be told. Religion, nationalism and sex are already off the table when it comes to story telling in Pakistan. Are we now going to say that only stories portraying women as saints are permissible? What about other stereotypes being peddled out day and night?
Back to Jhooti, the teasers could be completely misleading, of course.
Jhooti is scheduled to air soon, most probably on Saturdays, replacing Meray Paas Tum Ho, which concludes soon. Needless to say, one will be watching closely.
Here’s the first teaser of Jhooti: