Hadsa: An accident that should have never happened

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: Over the years, if there is one thing that we have learnt, it is that Pakistani dramas cannot be expected to do justice to stories involving rape. And that has been cemented with the ongoing Geo drama Hadsa. When the show first aired, there was quite the bit of controversy because of how eerily similar it was to the 2020 motorway case. The survivor of the attack had revealed how traumatic watching the drama was because it was memorializing an incident she wished she never had to live through. After a brief ban, Hadsa is back on air. Even if we are to believe that the drama has no link to the incident, Hadsa is still so inherently problematic. Here is why the serial should never have made it to the screen.

The irresponsible narrative and victim blaming

By now, there are no two ways when it comes to the fact that rape is never the victim’s fault. And rape has no bearing on a woman’s respect. However, it seems as though creators of the current drama didn’t get the memo.

Right after the rape, Taskeen’s (Hadiqa Kiani) only concern is the fact that she has lost her izzat (respect). If a drama has taken on the task of telling a rape survivor’s story, the last thing they should be doing is perpetuating this regressive mindset. 

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the drama decided to play a heavy hand when it comes to victim blaming. Taskeen is shown to be a very independent woman prior to the assault and that is used against her to question why she was allowed to go out as much and do things that are considered a “man’s job” such as driving her car. While Taskeen is recovering from her injuries in the hospital, naturally, her kids are disturbed with what happened to their mother. So much so that the youngest Taurab’s (Ali Dayan) mental health is impacted. And the blame is put squarely on Taskeen’s shoulders, that because she was recovering from her trauma, she neglected her house and her family. To add insult to injury, is the blame that her husband Gazanfar (Aly Khan) has to bear the brunt of her attack.

The misogynistic mindset

The victim blaming in drama serial Hadsa is bad enough and then it gets worse. Taskeen’s rape, her need for justice and her recovery all become less about her and more about her “poor” husband. He pressurizes her to drop the case and investigation because of the shame it will bring to his reputation. So much so, he begins to place restrictions on her and goes as far as to order her to not leave the house or talk to anyone and even taking away her phone (like a child being punished).

As the drama goes on, Gazanfar becomes an increasingly frustrating character who echoes the misogyny that is so deeply embedded in desi society. For a progressive man, he is unable to understand the trauma his wife has gone through and the minute she focuses on getting better, he suddenly replaces her because he needs a woman to take care of him and his very menial tasks like organizing his closet.

Gazanfar’s mother only cares about her poor adult son and his loneliness and not her daughter-in-law, who is trying to get better or her grandchildren who are reeling from the trauma themselves (including Kumail, who witnessed his mother’s rape). She writes them off for the sake of her son.

As if one terrible man wasn’t bad enough, we also have Waleed. A feudal lord of sorts, he is engaged to Bakhtain (Romaisa Khan) and he wastes no opportunity putting both mother and daughter down. He berates Taskeen after the rape under the guise of concern and then uses her assault as a reason for her to mellow down. It takes over 20 episodes of hearing Waleed be a jerk for Bakhtain to finally grow a backbone and break off the engagement.

The stigma around mental health

Mental health is all but a joke in Hadsa. It’s as if the concept doesn’t exist. Kumail (Khaqan Shahnawaz) witnessed his mother’s rape and yet no one acknowledges his trauma. Not only do they force him to get married, they expect him not to be triggered by the sheherwani that he was wearing at the scene of the crime. And when he has a mental breakdown, everyone wonders why.

As far as Taskeen’s mental health is concerned, she has breakdown after breakdown and no one thinks that she needs help. And when she finally does get help, her children try to fight against it. They don’t understand the difference between a rehabilitation center and a mental hospital and their outrage suggests there is something wrong with getting someone the psychological and emotional support they need.

Women as the real villains

In Hadsa, the real villains are the women. They are each other's worst enemies, they scream and shout, connive and plot against each other and constantly berate those around them. Gazanfar’s mother is constantly screaming at the kids, forcing them to make decisions that they don’t want to and then goes and plans an entire secret wedding. More so, she begins shouting at the kids when they get angry!

On the other hand is Ammara’s mother. Ammara (Juggan Kazim) was meant to marry Gazanfar in a watta satta arrangement and she was never able to forgive Taskeen for “stealing” Gazanfar away from her daughter (who eventually got married). And when Ammara’s husband dies and Taskeen is recovering, she wastes no time to trying to steal Gazanfar back.

We also have Karamdad’s wife. Karamdad (Saleem Mairaj) is the one officer who is able to find some insight into the criminals who attacked Taskeen and vows to get her justice. Rather than supporting her husband and his cause, his wife wastes no opportunity to mock him for not being able to succeed and for getting suspended (for doing his job).

Too little too late

While the team behind the drama claims that Hadsa isn’t meant to be against women and survivors, they spent way too long focusing on the wrong things and by the time Taskeen’s story of getting justice and showing her strength came, the drama was already ending. It became a story about all that is wrong in society, which are things we already know, and did very little to tell a survivor’s story.

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