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Chupke Chupke: The Highs and The Lows

Airing Ramzan exclusive drama serials has become quite the norm now. Every year, the best of the best cast and directors set out to produce a hit Ramzan drama series that hooks the audiences to their television screens. One such serial is Chupke Chupke, aired on HUM TV in 2021. Starring Ayeza Khan and Osman Khalid Butt in leading roles, the drama traces the lives of two families belonging to the first and second wife of the patriarch respectively. There is no doubt that the spectacular casting, humour and appealing storyline made the drama a smashing hit yet it still has its shares of lows.

Anybody watching the series would agree that like any Pakistani household, tea is an integral part of the characters lives and is repeatedly brought up during the course of the drama. While asking for and making tea is completely acceptable, the problem occurs when it is only the women of the house that are asked to make it. For e.g, Meenu (Ayeza Khan) is constantly asked by her husband Faazi (Osman Khalid) and brother Hadi (Arslan Naseer) to make tea. Either it is her or one of the elder women in the house such as the aunts who are working in the kitchen. By marking the kitchen and more prominently making tea as an exclusive female space, the drama further emphasises the role of domesticity as being for women while the men go out to work and relax. It could have been helpful if the male characters in the drama were also shown to make tea themselves whenever they wanted it especially younger cousins and brothers rather than disturbing any female character in the drama a ridiculous number of times

The drama also sets in action the double standards exercised by our society when it comes to the question of dealing with the boys and girls in the house. In the initial episodes, when Faazi and Meenu are getting married to different people, the family stays cool when Faazi takes his bride to be out for shopping. Yet, when Meenu goes out to shop with her future husband, all the family members including her cousin brothers take offence at that. As the elders make Meenu's life a living hell by calling her again and again to come back, Waleed (another cousin brother of Meenu) confronts their double standards with being fine with Faazi doing the same thing while not allowing Meenu. At this bebe (grandmother) says "Ab bhaiyon ka muqabla karegi wo?" Why is it that Faazi was allowed to do the same thing when Meenu wasn't? Do girls have a lesser capability to go out with their potential partners and interact with them, shouldn't they have a right to do so as well? why is it okay that Faazi is able to take somebody else's daughter out but it is not digestible for another man to take their daughter out for shopping? This one sentence clearly grants the brothers more privilege over the sister.

Another stereotype that the drama enforces is that of the evil sister-in-laws, in this case Faazi's sisters especially the character of Gul Apa (Mira Sethi). Not only do the three sisters give Faazi any space but also constantly intervene in his married life to the point that his marriage takes an ugly turn. It is a typical portrayal of controlling the "only" brother that they have but it also questions the idea of how sister-in-laws should act and about giving the newlyweds some time and space. Isn't it important to show the sister-in-laws being supportive of the newlyweds and not infringing their privacy? Can the brother in this case not be given some agency over how he acts and the sister being portrayed as being his support? Airing characters such as Gul Apa only further enforce the negative "Nand" and "phoopho" images that exist in our society by making it clear that the sister-in-law will be evil always.

While Chupke Chupke has its share of problems, the drama also sets tones for more progressive perspectives. Meenu, by the end of the play makes it clear that as much as a woman needs to compromise for the marriage to settle, a man has to as well. She says, "Shaadi aurat se zyada mard ka imtehaan hai, unko balance maintain karna kyun nahi sikhata koi?" Often in our dramas and society, we hear people say "ghar basane ke liye aurat ko he compromise karna parta hai" but here Meenu clearly dispels this idea by also pointing to the fact that as much as a woman has to sacrifice and compromise coming into a new home, a man has to create a balance too. While his family is definitely important but so is his wife and there should be equal respect and importance given to both by him.

The drama also shows how the families live together in harmony despite the two co-wives being at odds with each other most of the times. It subverts the idea that step families will always be evil and poisoned towards one another but rather it shows that despite being related through blood or not, it is possible for family members to cherish their bonds and remain connected putting aside any differences that the two co-wives only share.

All in all, while Chupke Chupke would seem subtly regressive in some instances, it does push back against various stereotypes in society and emerges as a humorous easy to watch TV show.

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