The 16th episode of O Rang Reza , written by Saji Gul and directed by Kashif Nisar, starts with Qasim (Bilal Abbas) crying over his pigeons shot dead by Tipu (Hamza Firdous). The crying of a man, and that over birds might turn out to be something indigestible for us, for we being the inhabitants of Pakistan, have patriarchy rooted in the depths of our minds to such an extent that it is not only the gender roles which we have specified, but even material things are classified as belonging to males and females in our society.

A few days back, an instructor of ours was giving an example of her nephew who is rebuked for having a predilection for red colour, and is told that the colour is for girls. This is not the only case. From our very childhoods, we are taught that boys are to play with bikes, cars and guns, while girls are to spend time with dolls, their houses and bangles.

The character of Qasim belongs to such a category of men who become the target of these absurd beliefs associated with genders in the society. I do not know what thought patterns exist regarding gender roles through-out the world, but being a Pakistani, I have grown up being told that I will have to participate in some sport, be it only one, so that I may be considered a man. On the other hand, my liking for literature and my inclination towards painting has hardly ever earned me the favour of Pakistani men. It is when we have experienced how patriarchy and highly illogical ideas related to manliness effect men that we can easily relate to Qasim, whose innocence, whose liking for birds, whose life revolving around colours, and whose simplicity makes him unbearable for many people. It is good to see how modern Pakistani dramatists and poets are putting an equal effort in challenging the conventions, the grounds for which when are probed into, one finds nothing of worth at all. Tabassum Zia, a modern Pakistani poet of Urdu language, says in his poem Alaamat:

Charind Parind ki zubaan samajhna

Mera funn hai                                                                                                                                           

Aur mujhe apne funn par naaz hai

Tabassum Zia outrightly rejects the idea that only women are to keep the company of birds and talk to them, and expresses pride in talking to the other creations of God, thus treating every creature equally, be it men, women or animals. Alaamat, the Urdu word for symptom, for me, is a symptom of social change, of revolution, and of modernity in Pakistan. It can also be considered as a symptom of sensitivity, which again ascertains that men can be sensitive too, if we keep our focus on the assertive tone of the poet.

Qasim is then symbolically related to an encaged parrot which Sassi buys for him to cheer him up. How many literary pieces do we find in which men are related to seized birds whose right to fly high is snatched from them? Even if we bring the hot topic of sexual harassment under consideration, we see that the idea that men are supposed to be physically strong does not allow the abused boys or men to open up about what they suffer from. The fear of ridicule, the blame of having female traits responsible for attracting other males keeps them quiet and eats them from inside. This is how patriarchy effects not only women, but men as well, and Saji Gul has tried to elucidate the point in a very subtle manner by making his male character cry and that over pigeons. It is an attempt at refuting the idea that crying is for females only, and that men must spend time loading pistols instead of talking to birds.

The questions regarding the manliness of men are for the viewers, who need to reconsider their standards and criterion for men. Is it only brutality, a pistol or some other weapon in hand that makes a man a man? Is it ruthlessness towards birds and animals that makes a man a man? Do we have to shoot pigeons and other birds to tell the world that we possess manly traits? These are the questions which this episode gives us to ponder upon instead of rebuking another man once again for crying over dead birds. It is a pleading to stop giving sensitivity a gender too.

What makes O Rang Reza a naturalistic work is the fact that despite having spent years abroad, Tipu still has the characteristics of a patriarch and does not stand as someone separate from the place where he belongs to and where he has been brought up. The ideas related to women, their dressing and their lifestyle are still the same in his mind as in every other Pakistani man, and his dominance over Meena (Sonia Mishal) makes him a second version of his father Khayyam (Noman Ejaz). He inherits the hypocrisy of his father, for their manners of treating women vary from woman to woman. However, the only difference that lies between the father and son is that where Khayyam exercises control over an already submissive and eastern, traditional woman, Tipu dominates a western woman, and bringing his patriarchal self on the surface, has tricked an apparently independent woman into obedience. He beats her. He tells her what to wear and what not to wear. And he decides what his girlfriend has to wear and what his sister has to wear.

The idea thus established is that when you are told from a very young age that you have to dominate a woman, or if you have lived in a society that normally exercises such a discrimination, you feel it your right to have the upper hand over a woman, be it an eastern woman or a western woman. Honour still has the same idea for Tipu, for he is not ready to take Meena into Nikah, for if he does so, he will have to keep his wife covered which the society demands, and thus will not be able to flaunt in front of his desi friends that he has a girlfriend who wears modern, sleeveless clothes. If he treats a wife or a sister in this way, it would become a matter of honour. Thus, Meena is more of a decoration piece who wishes to marry Tipu because she is fed up of showing her body in front of other males. Her independence has been made a way of making her dependent. Mammo (Irsa Ghazal) if is not a decoration piece, she has the value of discarded furniture. In either case, a woman is a commodity of a Pakistani man and he treats a mother, a sister and a wife in three different ways. This is what we do not learn, but realize after watching this episode. We are inclined to reflect if our attitudes are same towards our mothers, sisters, female friends and wives or wives to be.

Mammo, no doubt, is too submissive. But she is absolutely not a woman out of the world. Mammo is what every Pakistani woman is. The wave of feminism is equally high in this part of the world, but when it comes to the application of the theory, women still come up as injured beings lying under the unbearable burden of the notions that a woman has to hold the family together and that a mother has to stay with her children no matter what happens. The idea of sacredness that clings with a wife when she becomes a mother never allows her to abandon her children. We do speak for women rights in Pakistan. We do tell them not to tolerate brutality. But before that, what is needed is to nip the ideas which we have planted in their minds from their childhoods, those of their roles as wives and mothers.

There have been Pakistani dramas in which women have abandoned their husbands such as Umera Ahmed’s Kankar and Azra Baber’s Zaibunnisa but both the female characters in these plays leave their husbands after their miscarriages, hence the element of motherhood is eliminated when it comes to self-actualisation of these women. Mammo has two children to look after. She has a family to hold together. To further aggravate the situation, Tipu has openly told her that if Sassi gets into bad hands, her mother’s 20 years of training will be blamed, thus inculcating another fear in Mammo and making her realise another duty of hers. When women are reminded of such duties again and again, we cannot expect them to abandon their brutal family members. We do not let them know where they stand as separate entities. We do not give them time to reflect if they are someone else besides being mothers and wives. The problem is that women are impregnated way before the misunderstandings of a husband and a wife are sorted out, and this issue is seldom brought in the limelight.

Coming towards the actions of Sassi in this episode, my subjective opinion regarding is that she is doing what anyone does to win the favour of a loved one. That is what the title song of the drama serial has been trying to hint since the very start; that the characters will be painting themselves according to the desired colours of the person they love. We know that Wajeeh has been humiliating her for her simple, eastern clothes. If she has undergone this change, it is only because she wishes to win the love of Wajeen (Omair Rana) at any cost. Neither it is to be considered an obscene scene, or an objectionable act on the part of Sassi, for every human being commits such follies in love. Even when it comes to divine love, we adhere to a lifestyle that God loves and admires, and comments of other people, both negative and positive, are not brought under consideration. Same is the fire of love in which her father is burning. Even after being cheated by Sonia Jahan (Sana Fakhar) once, he is not ready to let go of her. We do hate him for being irresponsible towards his family, but there is a helplessness that has taken over both the father and daughter as lovers of two people outside the family.

Yeh kaisa shauq-e-bismil hai

Keh jab bhi chot lagti hai

Tamanna aur barhti hai

Junoon phir sar uthaata hai

Nayi ik chot khaane ki

Tamanna jaag uth’ti hai

However, there is a Sufi colour to the poetry of the title song, and the extent to which the father and daughter have gone in their pursuit of worldly love makes us think if this will turn them towards divine love, for when the bruises received from worldly pursuits come to their end, the journey of an altogether different pursuit commences.