The hue and cry over a soap serial is quite unheard of but ‘Mayi Ri’ has attracted a lot of it. The tagline ‘child marriage’ was tempting enough to be explored. It also piqued the viewers’ curiosity. The viewers have diverse opinions about this drama due to its content.
The Characters and Story
One cannot help but think of Dua Zehra who quite ignorantly could have become a victim of this. There, the parents played their role and saved the girl from ruining her life. In Mayi Ri it is unfortunately the other way around. Parents forcefully married the two teenage warring cousins and put them in a room to live together.
The leading young man Fakhir can easily be termed as a spoilt brat, who is a mediocre student, has a girlfriend, and is a little intimidated by his nerdy cousin whereas the only passion of the girl is her education. The plot seems to be divided into three phases. The first twenty episodes are about them getting married and eventually accepting their relationship out the train to an ultimate wreck. Annie comes from the background of an almost failed marriage of her parents and the father (literally giving a competition to the ‘abba’ of Zindagi Gulzar Hai) left the family to the care of his elder brother who is the father of Fakhir. His father is a typical patriarch-stern and concerned at the same time.
For the second leg of the serial they showed them getting closer. He seems to be winning over the girl with the least effort by supporting her education and protecting her from the wrath of her father. It sheds light on how men get more credit for the little or even basic they do in our society. Makers should be lauded for not sensationalizing the romance, yet a nuanced portrayal might have redeemed the ‘disconnect’ between the events as rightfully felt by the audience. However, it is communicated how the entitlement that comes as a married man at such young age, a little bit of trauma bonding with her former cousin cum friend, a savior complex with his now wife, and being isolated after his girlfriend dumped him, brings in that instinctual side of accepting and forwarding the relationship. After all, it is not a Tere Bin.
Does Mayi Ri Glorify Child Marriage?
Now for the ones alleging the drama of the glorification of child marriage or showing a young girl being knocked up is nothing but a kneejerk reaction. Have we all not seen a fully bloated girl sitting next to us in a matriculation or intermediate exam gasping for air? Don’t we all feel sympathy for her? As for the glorification, isn’t it done in the teenage romances on Netflix making youngsters yearn for some sneaky moments? A huge chunk of the audience started fawning over the two leads bickering and caring for each other as if this is a ‘Suno Chanda’. This cannot be. It’s a show having a haunting image of a bewildered child bride on the poster and child marriage is the ugly reality of our society where 18.9 million girls are married off before they turn 18. More than anything, it raises a question mark over the sensibility of the audience. Are they just going to give in to two pretty faces on screen? It cannot be denied that the chemistry was more fueled by the pictures of leads showing off their warm friendship in the BTS. That could have been managed well by the production house so the narrative does not lose its impact. Choosing age-appropriate actors really did the part and added authenticity to the portrayal.
His reverting to his original careless self and escaping the situations after knowing the ‘good news’ is the most realistic reaction predicted to be shown in the last leg. Having a friend, a fellow victim by your side is a bonus in the toughest of circumstances but the boy was neither educated about the practical side of marriage nor about the whole process of raising a child. It is his conditioning and so in the character of him to find an escape from responsibility as huge as this. Annie on the other hand is already mature and childbearing will make her more practical and lonely like most girls and women in our society. This is the reality that hits home with this drama. This is not just a classic case of a forced early marriage where out of the two victims, the woman suffers more but also a depiction of a despicable union made in a male-dominated, orthodox, and illiterate household. Here the elders think that if they had done it, so will the next of kin without giving a thought to the lifelong impacts.
A soap is a longer format of story-telling and to fulfill its requirements there is endless family politics which at some points is tiring and exhausts the subject in Mayi Ri too. It’s not a ‘Rehaai’ of Kashf Foundation which got too dark to bear. It’s a journey of some characters that are palatable at some points in spite of being painful, giving insights into what we turn our gaze away from and into what could have been the best alternative. In short, it is real. While Fakhir, insists on staying in his boy mood, running away from his responsibilities and realities of life, it is in Annie one sees a silver lining. Her grit to break this vicious cycle of backwardness and the passion to burn midnight’s oil to achieve what she wants, against all odds, is palpable even through the screen. Posing a mirror to the masses and still grabbing their attention is the biggest win for the drama and the team should be appreciated for that.
Written by: Urwa Khurshid