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Zindagi Gulzar Hai: Navigating Feminism and Patriarchy in Pakistani Television


For the longest time "Zindagi Gulzar Hai" has held a special place as a must-watch for Pakistani audiences. However, beneath its popularity lies a complex narrative that raises questions about its true stance on women's empowerment. While initially the drama was celebrated for its representation of feminism, the show's portrayal of gender roles and power dynamics suggests a more nuanced examination is needed. Moreover, it ultimately questions that does the show fits women into society’s cast of preconceived notions.


At the core of the narrative are the lead characters, Kashaf and Zaroon, who have visible differences in class, values, and ideologies drive the story. On one end, the drama emphasizes the importance of educating girls and challenging gender biases, while on the other end, it falls short in acknowledging women's roles in a male-dominated society. Kashaf does emerge as a strong-willed, ambitious character challenging societal norms and her decision to prioritize education over traditional expectations showcases a fierce self-reliance uncommon in a conservative, patriarchal setting. However, the narrative takes an unexpected turn when she is paired with Zaroon, an entitled man-child who embodies double standards and reinforces patriarchal values. While he has lived a luxurious life, and his entire social circle comprises of ‘modern women’ he still despises them for being opinionated and independent. He perceives feminism as a tool employed by women to subordinate men, interpreting women's liberation as a rivalry of egos between the two genders.


For me, it was unsettling how on the surface, ZGH appears to champion women's empowerment, yet its underlying message subtly reinforces patriarchal norms. Kashaf, a self-made woman dedicated to her education, ultimately gains societal approval through her marriage to Zaroon, underscoring the societal notion that remaining unmarried is not a viable choice for women. The show perpetuates the stereotype that modern and liberal women, who embrace Western clothing and liberties, are simply not capable of being good wives or mothers. Characters like Asmara, Zaroon's sister, and his mother, all portrayed in such a manner, experience relationship failures or struggles in their roles as wives, mothers, or fiancées.

Similarly, Zaroon's character exemplifies double standards, where his ideal woman must balance ambition with adherence to tradition. The narrative explicitly states the man as the "head of the family," maintaining traditional power dynamics. Kashaf is consistently urged to compromise, reinforcing the societal expectation that women must endure mistreatment for the sake of family honor. Phrases like "apne ghar ki hona" further add to the discrimination women face, highlighting how even female characters even someone as educated as Kashaf shown in the drama enable such discrimination through years of conditioning.


Zindagi Gulzar Hai has garnered immense popularity, particularly among women, for its attempt to portray independent women and advocate for their education and employment. However, the complex interplay of feminism and patriarchal values within the narrative prompts a critical examination of whether the title truly aligns with the experiences of the women characters. As the characters navigate societal expectations, the show leaves audiences pondering whether life in this 'gulzar' is truly a bed of roses for its female protagonists or a complex terrain where they reluctantly accept their circumstances.


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Zindagi gulzar hai was one of my favourite dramas, just because of how it started and how intriguing the character of Kashaf was, the depiction of how having a female chid influences your society position and further attributes. There is one scene where she decides to marry Fawad Khan, which is the tea spilling incident, though her argument is that he places her needs before him and tries to capture the cup before it spills on her hand and this how she knows he will "protect" her. The drama was quite good but subtle hints of societal norms, damsel in distress, conversion of women to house makers and the female child dilemma reduce the nature of this drama. Your post…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Dec 01, 2023
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I wholeheartedly agree. In my perspective, even when considering the scene you brought up and Kasha's rationale for agreeing, her justification appeared somewhat weak. Despite being a strong and independent individual, she ultimately believed that a simple tea spill could predict his willingness to protect her.

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Your blog reminded me of another drama that is being aired, “Jaise appki marzi.” The story follows the same pattern where a strong-headed girl changes herself completely and reduces her entire life to her husband in order to make her marriage work. A drama which started off with a promising start ended reinforcing the same stereotypes. Zindagi gulzar hai like you said is also an example of such dramas.

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Dec 01, 2023
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It's truly disheartening to observe that, even 11 years later, we are still witnessing the same narratives and stories. Despite today's media landscape and increased awareness of issues like this, with actors and producers being more socially conscious, there hasn't been a substantial shift in the portrayal of such themes in drama serials. It's high time we embrace progressive narratives that challenge stereotypes rather than reinforce them.

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I appreciate your analysis of how you have negated the popular conception according to which 'Zindagi Gulzaar Hai' was solely aimed at the portrayal of egalitarianism within the gender roles; rather, you argue that the show had a complex interplay of traditional gender roles with a tint of feminism. I do agree with your point that despite showing Kashaf as an independent woman from the start, the show later shifts the narrative by giving in to the conventional idea existent in our society that Kashaf "ko apnay ghar ka hona tha". However, I believe that a part of your analysis might be an overestimation of the extent to which feminist representations can be portrayed in the media. This means that…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Dec 01, 2023
Replying to

I really liked your critique and I do agree with your point of view. While it's crucial to portray narratives that resonate with us, it's equally important to focus on accurate representations of male figures. While ZGH was progressive in many aspects, as you rightly pointed out, I find that Zaroon's character development fell short. Despite his affinity for hanging out with girls and rejecting societal norms, he imposed limitations on his sister. Zaroon's character seems to embody double standards, where his ideal woman must balance ambition with adherence to tradition. I feel the drama had so much to offer but it contradicted somehow with its own plot. I feel like that this aspect could have been better addressed, especiall…

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Your take on "Zindagi Gulzar Hai" has totally changed how I see the show. When I first watched it, I never thought about all these deeper meanings you've pointed out..Your keen observations about the contrast between Kashaf's resilience and the dynamics of her relationship with Zaroon highlight the nuanced layers of societal expectations and individual agency. However, it raises vital questions about its portrayal of women's empowerment. While initially highlighting Kashaf's strength and education, the show's shift towards her marriage to Zaroon prompts reflection. How does this pivot impact Kashaf's independence and character depth? The series grapples with the tension between modernity and tradition, showcasing challenges faced by educated women in a traditional setting. How effectively do you think i…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Dec 01, 2023
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I believe Kashaf's character development has been portrayed in a nuanced manner. Her character shows depth, shaped by her challenging experiences and witnessing her mother's resilience in the face of adversity. Even after marriage, her independence remains intact, and she continues pursuing her passions and overall there is an authentic portrayal of women's agency in navigating the social norms. The narrative shows modernity and tradition, depicting women confronting challenges in the realms of work and education with resilience. However, Zaroon's character lacks depth, especially in his insistence on traditional gender roles post-marriage. Nevertheless, there is a glaring inconsistency in how Zaroon's actions are portrayed. What may be deemed acceptable for him is unfairly depicted as inappropriate for women, creating a…

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Sara Masood
Sara Masood
Nov 29, 2023

Crafting media content requires understanding the audience. If it's too distant from them, the empowerment message might miss the mark. Showing both patriarchal and feminist values in characters like Kashaf is key, especially for conservative viewers. This mix reflects change possibilities in households like hers, resonating better with stay-at-home wives and traditional mindsets. Starting Kashaf as a traditional girl in a dupatta might have aimed to hook this audience. Then, revealing her rebellion shows even "good girls" can challenge norms. It's about bridging traditional ideals with empowerment.


Creating a perfect feminist story or a feminist man might feel unreal in Pakistan's reality. It might seem too dreamy and not match real experiences. Instead, showing relatable struggles and slow empowerment within…

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Dec 01, 2023
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I completely agree with your point of view and its very important that the audience is taken into consideration while contracting such narratives in order to make it more relatable. However, despite the recognition of Zaroon's character exhibiting double standards, it doesn't justify making it more relatable. The problematic aspect lies in his failure to perceive the independence of women as inappropriate, even though he himself enjoyed such independence. While depicting such attitudes accurately reflects societal norms, it is crucial to emphasize that these perspectives are flawed rather than implicitly supporting them.


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