Recently, I was shocked to learn that Umera Ahmed in an interview claimed to be inventor of the ‘love triangle.’ Umera Ahmed is undoubtedly among the most widely read contemporary writers in Pakistan and has written some of the most popular dramas aired on TV. But I find it hard to believe that before her, no one thought about love triangles.
This seems rather odd because triangles are so easy to make; we already have sandwiches, samosas, patties and all kinds of other food existing in the shape of a triangle. Perhaps, it would have been more believable if she had claimed to be founder of love squares, or even better a love trapezium.
Following the discussion on Umera Ahmed’s claim as founding mother of the school of love triangles, some well-intentioned people pointed out that like everything else, this has been a “sazish” (conspiracy) of liberals, and what the writer of Zindagi Gulzar hai, actually meant was that she was the first one to write about a love triangle among cousins.
Now, this is a statement I can believe without even a second of doubt. I feel no one in their right mind would like to share credit of this feat with Umera, and this should be hers and hers alone. If you consider dramas produced on mainstream channels such as Hum, Geo or Ary, then almost every second drama is based on a love triangle or a romantic entanglement between cousins.
Some people believe that there is nothing wrong with portraying romantic relationships between cousins, when a vast majority of people in Pakistan still marry within their families. According to a study in 2019 in Pakistan, half of the population marry a first or second cousin, and in rural areas this can be 80 percent.
But the real question is that whether dramas only exist as a reflection of reality, or do they have the power to inspire change in values and ideas? I believe dramas, as the most followed form of art in Pakistan, have great potential to challenge orthodox beliefs and practices. Moreover, the dramas are not only portraying reality but also romanticizing it. I can say with hand over my heart that not everyone marries their cousin out of love and most of them are forced into it for lack of choice and agency.
Hum Kahan Kay Sachay Thay is currently on air on Hum TV and features some of the biggest names in the television industry. It is written by Umera Ahmed and the cast includes Mahira Khan, Kubra Khan, Usman Mukhtar and Haroon Shahid among others.
In the drama, two cousins – played by Mahira and Kubra – who belong to an educated, rich family living in Karachi, and studying in university, are in love with their cousin played by Usman Mukhtar.
Kubra’s character is reduced to a girl who can’t see anything beyond being obsessed with her cousin, who is visiting from the United States. Similarly, another drama, Lapata, currently on air on Hum Tv featuring Ayeza Khan, Sara Khan and Ali Rehman among others, includes a love triangle between cousins.
The character played by Sara, is an ace badminton player and a high achiever in university, whereas, Ayeza is playing the character of a Tiktok star, and they both are in love with their good-for-nothing cousin. He has barely completed matriculation, has no job and hangs out with thugs or gambles money. Similarly, Ishq Hai, currently on air on Ary, includes a character, Nimra, being played by Mahenur Haider, who is madly in love with Shahzaib, despite him being married to someone else.
Shahzaib is Nimra’s maternal cousin and her sister is also married to Shahzaib’s younger brother. Even the dramas which were based on topics of harassment and assault like Phans and Dunk, all had sub plots of cousins romancing and eventually marrying each other.
What message are we giving to young girls; that their lives have no purpose or ambition and the only thing they should think about is which cousin to love next? The way women are generally portrayed in Pakistani dramas is a topic for another discussion, but the young girls who are watching these dramas, what kind of world are they going to imagine?
What message are we giving to young girls; that their lives have no purpose or ambition and the only thing they should think about is which cousin to love next?
The obsession with cousin marriages in dramas can be seen from the track record of Mahira Khan, who is definitely one of the biggest stars in the industry. Throughout her career, except for Neeyat and Sheher e Zaat, in all dramas, Mahira has been in love with one cousin or another. Humsafar, Sadqay Tumharay, Bin Roye and now Hum Kahan Kay Sachay Thay are all followers of Umera Ahmed’s School of Love Triangle in the family. Following Umera’s and Mahira’s admiration for cousin love triangles, the drama should have been titled, “Hum Aapki Phuphoo kay bachay thay.”