Can you re-call a Pakistani drama where the main couple weren’t cousins who grew up together? Twitter has been dumbfounded by this topic for the past few days since now two new drama’s have arrived on our screens where the main couple are revealed to be cousins. “Hum Kahan Kay Sachay Thay” and “Laapata” are two drama’s which were criticized by twitter users for once again following the same old pattern, and questioned that how is this type of tradition still being normalized in our society?
I can’t believe the new hit Hum TV drama revolves around a love triangle between 3 FIRST COUSINS. Lord.
— rameeza (@Rameezay) August 5, 2021
Mock cousin marriages in Pakistani drama all you want lekin agar tees episode mein se untees mein heroine ghar se baahir hi nai nikley gi tou aur kis se mohabbat hogi jaani?
— Aimun (@bluemagicboxes) August 5, 2021
Since Mahira Khan is romancing her cousin in a drama for fourth time. Instead of “hum kahan kay sachay thay”
They could have called it
“Hum apki phuphoo kay bachay thay”
— Jasir Shahbaz (@LahoreMarquez) August 4, 2021
So why are cousin marriages still relevant in our drama’s even though they aren’t medically approved and are widely unpopular among Pakistani audiences. Firstly, its a product of how consistently our entertainment industry keeps churning out the same content to keep our audiences hooked to the screen. Starting with Humsafar, Suno Chanda, Chupke Chupke: now it’s proven that a better common interest between two people is when they grew up calling each other “bhai” and “behan” and now are “bae”. Why can’t there be a solid relationship between two people who are not family members, and use that as a foundation to later lead to their marriage? Television shows need to start coming up with better ideas and encourage people to think about the society they live in, rather than keep promoting the sexist and regressive mindset that is still allowing cousin marriages to remain normalized. Sania Saeed in an interview with Something Haute pointed out that this was a growing problem in the entertainment industry that was preventing writers and directors from being creative and utilizing stories that might appeal to Pakistani audiences:
“In our industry there is a specific business formulae that every channel producer now worships because they think it is the key to keep producing good entertainment shows and keep our audiences hooked. But the problem is that by catering to only a specific type of content, you are alienating writers and actors who want to bring different stories to light, and in doing so you aren’t encouraging creativity but you’re squashing it.”
Also let’s come to the point of how our television shows love cousin marriages because of how much they align with the belief that family decisions matter above our own consent. Obviously our society would frown upon a boy and girl interacting in a co-ed space, be it college or a café, but they don’t seem to mind incest. Drama’s seem obsessed with the notion that we must keep showing arranged marriages in a positive light, because otherwise they would be promoting vulgarity and western values if the girl chooses not to remain in an incest relationship.
Let’s look at the example of another popular drama “Suno Chanda” where we see two cousins getting married. The girl Jiya starts by being an outspoken, independent woman who is against the marriage with her cousin Arsal since her dream is to go and study abroad. However, her parents refuse to support her, and her husband resorts to acting like a helpless man child, complaining that he needs her around to learn to take care of herself. By the end of season 2, we watch Jiya toss all of her dreams away and decide to spend her remaining life with her husband.
Science has also proven time and time again that cousin marriages cause harmful medical deformities like blindness, speech and hearing impediment as well as cerebral palsy. In 2018, a conference on genetic disorders at the Karachi Press Club urged the government to recognize the rise in genetic disorders which were being caused by cousin marriages. Moreover, in 2017 a panel of experts at the Children’s Hospital in Lahore called for the government to condemn cousin marriages, as they were the sole factor behind the rise of genetic diseases like Lysosomal Storage Disorder (LSD) among children.
So instead of worrying about the spread of western influence if your children would watch a woman wearing jeans on screen and marrying the man of her choice, our entertainment producers and writers should worry more about how many diseases they are encouraging if they keep encouraging parents to keep marrying in the family.
For a change, can our entertainment industry try to understand that there are a lot of stories out there which are a better choice than cousin marriages. How about a story about the dark side of cousin marriages? Or a story where instead of a girl abandoning all of her dreams to settle for someone selected for her by her parents, we watch her rebel and move away to pursue her passions?