For those of you who have watched this Drama, do read this article. For those who have not and don’t want to, you may read; for those who do want to watch it, watch it first.
The purpose of this post is to talk about some themes in this classic Drama. This Drama was aired on PTV at a time when people from rural areas were moving into the cities, more importantly, it was a time when the world view of Pakistanis was going through a paradigmatic change: from a traditional to a modern.
The story revolves around a few central characters, all men, each one symbolizing a different kind of masculinity. The title of the drama Waris (heir) reveals many of the themes that appear in the Drama, each of the central characters is a heir of sorts:
Chaudry Hashmat Ali and his grandson Anwar: heirs to the age old feudal tradition;
Abid Ali: heir to both the old tradition and modern education and most importantly to revenge;
Maula Dad/Fateh Sher: fear;
Chaudary Yaqub: to tradition and the dark side of city life;
Chaudary Niaz: to the feudal tradition and education;
What I find very interesting is that this Drama was able to articulate all these complex themes and as the story unfolded it also dished out moral judgments, valorising one sort of masculinity and condemning others. Abid Ali is undoubtedly the Hero of the story, he is the ideal mix of the age old tradition and the city education; he is able to overcome his hatred for Maula Daad and also in the process he is able to reform individuals he comes in contact with.
Other characters, who were committed to the age old tradition, and the lust for power, were destroyed by their own hands. Chaudhary Hashmat, who was completely humiliated, but in his arrogance never admitted it; Anwar, blinded by his lust for power; and Yaqub, blinded by greed. Here I would like to say that Hashmat’s character is cloaked in ambivalence; I found it very hard to dislike his character. He stood for strength, loyalty etc, but his moral compass was a somewhat messed up.
This Drama poignantly tackled the identity crisis the country was facing at the time, and it is able to provide a myth that people could turn to for comfort. The feudal system was painted as oppressive (At the same time some elements of traditional masculinity were lauded.), but the fears of the city life were also foregrounded. Abid Ali and Niaz are presented as the ideal synthesizers, and this was necessary because prosperity hinged on rejecting the tradition (the theme of the Dam is interesting).
So, for that era the ideal masculinity was a creative blending of the traditional masculine values, of courage, initiative, honesty, independence and those culled from modern education.