So, fun fact about me, I have completely lost the patience for Pakistani dramas that constantly focus on saas-bahu rivalry and husbands cheating on their wives. I’d rather bang my head against the wall, yet see another mindless, just for TRP depiction of women as the most evil living creatures on the planet who joyously celebrate in torturing each other. Unfortunately, that is also what sells massively in Pakistan and a crying woman is bound to garner more audience attention and praise than a happy one.
Hence, when Sinf-e-Ahan came around it was refreshing to see women in tough situations, being each other’s unwavering support, working through their problems and most importantly, demonstrating tolerance and acceptance for each other. One particular female bond that stood out to me throughout the drama was between Syeda Sidra Batool, played by Dananeer Mobeen, famously known as the “pawri ho rahi hai!” girl and Arzoo Daniel played by the versatile Syra Yousuf.
The main reason for much of the attention these two characters receive is a) brilliant acting by the debutante, Mobeen and of course the veteran Yousuf. However, a more important reason is that they play characters that come from vastly different religious backgrounds. Where Syeda Sidra Batool comes from a very religious and conservative Muslim family, Arzoo Daniel belongs to the Pakistani Christian community. As the play progresses, starting from their first interaction, we see there is an effort being made to depict a natural tolerance and acceptance for each other, regardless of their religious background, a quality Pakistanis severely lack in.
There are instances where Syeda Sidra is praying for her own success in the cadet training and doesnt hesitate even for a moment to make the same wazeefa, as she calls it, for Arzoo. Another is where Arzoo is praying, with her hands woven in supplication, clearly in contrast to how Sidra does. Sidra very politely questions her about it and not with the intention to ridicule, but just out of curiosity. When Arzoo tells her that she’s praying Sidra says something along the lines of we have the same God, and not in a manner that falls under serious religious discourse, as one can tell it is two freinds conversing. This respect and tolerance shown towards the Christian community is admirable and a beautiful message to take away from the drama.
Moreover, the bond between the two slowly grows over the course of the play, resulting in a very natural and genuine relationship that does not seem forced or fake at all. While Sidra provides comic relief throughout, with her bubbly, happy go-lucky character and silly missteps, one learns to love her for cutting the tension. On the other hand, Arzoo is focused on achieving her goals, being the best in everything she does, and is a reliable shoulder to lean on for other characters, including Sidra. Overall, the female dynamic where women are helping each other and working past their differences is a welcome and long awaited breath of fresh air for the Pakistani audience as well as the drama industry.
Lastly, towards the end of the drama, when the lady cadets are graduating from PMA, we see the pleasant interaction between both girls’ families. There is laughter at making it through one of the most tough phases of their training, and sadness at leaving each other, and yet again we see a beautiful depiction of female comraderie that we crave for in Pakisani media.
In conclusion, I think choosing these characters in a play like Sinf-e-Ahan was a conscious and much needed decision. To demonstrate such friendships on TV for the masses means to be able to influence millions of minds. From young girls to older women and even males who watched the drama it serves as a lesson, that women are really as strong as steel and can do anything they set their mind to while maintaining healthy friendships. And very skillfully, using the characters of Sidra and Arzoo the message for tolerance and acceptance is imparted without making it sound like a religious sermon that most people would turn heads from. Media has the power to influence opinions and inculcate values within us, and having shown these themes on screen is an excellent effort at changing people’s perspectives regarding religious differences and how they shoud not hinder friendships or add to the us vs. them narrative that has overtime strengthened its roots in Pakistan.