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A Bride's Prayer

Shoaib Mansoor collaborated with superstar, Mahira Khan, to release a new take on one of Alama Iqbal’s iconic poems, “Lab pe aati hai dua ban ke.” Named as Dua-e-Reem, a bride’s prayer, was released on the eve of Women’s Day last year. The director aims to highlight a shifting female narrative in a patriarchal society.

According to the preface, a group of women transformed this poem into a bride’s prayer which was recited on the last sangeet (mehndi occassion as it is commonly known as) before she got married. In the video, Mahira Khan is the bride and the singers are reciting this prayer for her with all her female family members present beside her including her mother.

The old woman prays to God to give the bride patience and strength to endure all the pain inflicted by the husband after marriage. Some lyrics are so powerfully disturbing, that I felt myself rooted to the chair, even though this was at least the tenth time that I was listening to it. Most problematic is the realization that the patriarchal mindset is so well ingrained in the minds of those suffering (women) that they pray to be a part of it even when they might have the slightest chance at making it better for themselves and their future generations to come (after marriage).

The preamble of the old lady's prayer starts by asking God to give the bride a married life that is a mirror reflection of her mother’s. The mother breaks down and is unable to make eye contact with her daughter, the bride, who herself is not sure if she wants a life similar to what her mother has spent as a wife. The bride is shown confused, surprised, and angry as the prayer proceeds. Questions like why did the bride not just say Ameen? What was her father like? Was her mother in an abusive relationship? Maybe most of us here know the answers but constantly try to look for a way to make it easy for our ears, heart, and mind. Khan’s expressions made it clear that she did not want to have a life like the one that her mother had spent. There could be various reasons for that. Our media has revealed many such reasons through dramas such as Beti, Kaisa hai Naseeban, and Bhool. These are still not all.

The music video showcases pre-partition India when Iqbal’s poem became famous nationwide. The setting is important to understand the context of the message being portrayed. The video depicts a period when women of the house had to abide by all the rules set in place by the husband - no matter what. Why does this sound familiar to everyone reading this? You must have also seen or heard or experienced it at least once in your life. I have. Pakistani society is a pure patriarchal web we all find ourselves trapped in despite actively t rying to untangle and let ourselves free.

Mansoor has made a stark comparison of two eras through one video. First, the main theme and setting of a patriarchal society and the mindset of the people who are exposed to it all their lives and bred within. The old lady and the grandmothers of the bride play characters from this time period. Second, the bride. Her character plays a woman who understands shifting gender roles and slight changes in mindset that have come around with awareness about women’s rights and equality to men.

An interesting angle in the music video is the depiction of three generations and their reactions to the prayer recited by the old lady and afterwards to the one Khan makes on her own for herself. When the bride prays to build a house with love, affection, respect, and honor, the grandmothers’ expressions show how they disapprove of it. However, when the old lady was praying and encouraging the bride to learn how to stay silent when the husband beats her or throws a shoe at her, the grandmothers were constantly nodding their heads in approval.

Khan’s prayer ends with:

If he likes Roti and I prefer Chaawal,

Let our love be such that we eat,

Roti with Chaawal!

Throughout the prayer she recited, I very much agreed with most of the things she said. Expect for when she read the last lyric. Not every individual is the same. Does marriage mold the two individuals in a manner such that they have to adopt preferences out of expectations for a happily married life? Is it the marriage that expects too much of us or is it the society?

The lyrics made me think that the director wanted to smoothly inject his outlook on women’s rights and how the newer generations are understanding the way gender roles should be changing already. However, the end says otherwise. Maybe the director wanted to educate and spread awareness to a strongly rooted patriarchal society, but he also wanted to implicitly keep the superiority of men over women tone intact. Simply put, why can’t each of them have what they like better?

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