The latest prime-time television drama serial that has gripped the Pakistani audience is (thankfully) not another attempt at the “star-crossed forbidden lovers’” troupe. Instead, Fahad Mustafa’s Big Bang Entertainment brings to us, a heart-wrenching tale of the abduction, rape and subsequent murder of a little girl. “Meri Guriya” shines a light on the taboo subject of child sexual abuse and does so by uncovering the hypocritical nature of society.
The show follows the life of Shehnaz (Sania Saeed), a determined mother of three young girls, who continuously fights for her daughters’ right to education. Opposed by her mother-in-law and her husband Shahmir (Sajid Hassan), she is undeterred by her mother-in-law’s constant jabs. Her husband is egged-on by his mother to remarry in order to be blessed with a son. Once again in a Pakistani drama, the son complies without giving a second’s thought to his wife. This is important to note because the shows the stark reality of the modern world: no matter how much a woman may try to empower herself, others will always try to bring her down.
On the other hand, their neighbor Dabeer (Mohsin Abbas Haider) has recently gotten married to a headstrong badminton player (Sonya Hussyn) against his wishes. Throughout the series we get to see glimpses of Safina and Dabeer’s tumultuous relationship as a newly married couple. Safina is uncompromising in her wish to continue her badminton career, much to the dismay of her in-laws. Dabeer is a non-confrontational, reserved man who decides not to intrude in his wife’s life choices. The couple lead separate lives while being indifferent to each other.
However, over the course of the show the audience is shown a different, more sinister side to Dabeer’s personality: his obsession with Shehnaz’s youngest daughter, Abida. This is where the show takes a dark turn we see his interest in Abida increasing day-by-day. This reaches the point where he kidnaps the girl and makes her his next victim. Mohsin Abbas delivers a stellar performance as a pedophile. His subtle glances and well-directed changes in expression make him all the more convincing in this role. Dabeer is by no means a criminal mastermind, as we see later on, he is haunted by his past and is shown as jittery and nervous. He believes he’ll be caught any day, especially because Abida was not the first girl to suffer this fate in their locality.
What makes this a successful show so far, is the fact that the taboo subject of pedophilia has been treated very sensitively by the show’s creators. They have been successful in showcasing that a pedophile may not necessarily be an abusive, drunkard. Instead, it stresses the importance of never judging a book by its cover. Moreover, it is not only strangers who are dangerous, but friends and family as well. “Meri Guriya” carries a very important lesson for parents. It is incumbent upon every parent to educate their child on sex and consent. In addition to that, we, as a society, should all have Safina’s empathy instead of the apathy that the neighbors and police expressed after Abida’s body was found in a garbage pile.
Sania Saeed’s performance as a distraught mother is commendable. Left disappointed by the police’s lack of interest in pursuing the case, she teams up with her neighbor Safina and uses the power of social media to her advantage to seek justice for Abida’s murder. “Meri Guriya” is a TV drama for everyone: parents, children, friends and neighbors the police, and the media. Instead of trying to profit from the misfortune of people-such as sensationalized media coverage we must demand that the criminal justice system do more in order to ensure that the perpetrators and rightfully punished for their heinous crimes.
The show airs on ARY Digital every Wednesday night at 8 p.m.