Pakistani author, screenwriter Umera Ahmed says she’s aware that her popular drama Zindagi Gulzar Hai didn’t go all the way in breaking stereotypes around gender roles but it was a conscious decision to reflect realities of the society.
With its two central characters, Kashaf and Zaroon, played to acclaim by Sanam Saeed and Fawad Khan, “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” navigated the highs and lows of a romance through the prism of class divide and gender dynamics. Though lauded for its strong female characters and questioning gender norms, the show has also been called out for succumbing to gender stereotypes.
In an interview with PTI from Lahore, Ahmed said she started writing the show to improve her Urdu handwriting more than 20 years ago and despite it being a “fun activity”, the story touched upon conversations dominant back in the day. “Kashaf and Zaroon were saying things that I was hearing from boys and girls of my age. They were reflective of all the prejudices and the problems that young adults face.
“During those times, in 1998, patriarchy was stronger than what it is today. Twenty years ago, you couldn’t question why can’t a girl do something which a boy can. When I adapted it for the screen in 2012, I never tried to challenge patriarchy as a feminist or a woman.” Ahmed, who was 21 when she penned the story, said the show accurately tried to capture what women in the sub-continent go through, without painting a rosy picture.
“Kashaf is a good wife. Now you can say, we didn’t break free from a lot of things, let some stereotypes remain. But these stereotypes will always remain in our society, whether you believe it or not. “‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’ wouldn’t have become this huge a hit if it was as revolutionary as some wished. Maybe then it wouldn’t have been enjoyed by everyone,” she added. Ahmed is back with the latest ZEE5 web series “Ek Jhoothi Love Story”, directed by Mehreen Jabbar.
Starring Bilal Abbas Khan and Madiha Imam, the romantic-comedy revolves around relationships in the modern world and the clash with traditions and expectations of parents to find the right match for their children. The show is a departure for Ahmed, known for penning dramas with strong female characters from Mahira Khan’s “Shehr e Zaat” to Sanam Baloch starrer “Kankar”, which revolved around domestic abuse. The writer said the show retains her signature commentary on societal flaws while keeping the mood funny and light.
“Just because it’s comedy, it doesn’t mean that the show doesn’t have a strong social commentary. Every trouble has a comic side for someone else, that’s what we wanted to tap into. “I was just trying to be natural and focusing on the lighter side of the issue without turning a blind eye to its seriousness. I have tried a new genre without losing my identity as a writer.” In her career of over two decades, Ahmed has more than 30 books and 20 screenwriting credits to her name. Still, Ahmed said, she never feels trapped in an image.
“I always had and have the freedom to experiment. It has been my call to decide what kind of story I want to write. Zee didn’t want me to come up with a lighthearted story, it was my choice. “They didn’t force to get another ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai.’ You feel trapped when makers force you to write a particular story,” she added.
The show is part of the re-launched Zindagi channel under Zee Entertainment. It is the second Zindagi Original after the acclaimed web series “Churails”, directed by Asim Abbasi.