‘Meray Paas Tum Ho’ bellows an unprecedented look into female-driven infidelity in Pakistan. Here’s why the drama has done so well.

Infidelity has, at most been long associated with male virility. However, heightened economic drifts and, well a shift in societal structures across the world have peeled open passage for a rise in female-driven adultery; and herein lies the knotty cliché by most — that when men cheat, it’s for the wrong reasons but if a woman cheats, then she’s reclaiming her identity and reaching her full potential (as an independent woman). Turning a much-needed blind eye to this hackneyed stereotype, there has been a nippy change of what it means to be unfaithful in film and television, where an increasing number of female characters are cheating on their partners. This has been at most, unchartered territory in mainstream Pakistani dramas until Nadeem Baig’s ‘Meray Paas Tum Ho’ — a serial that deserves righteous recognition for its unprecedented dive into female infidelity. Starring Humayun Saeed (also producer of the show), Adnan Siddiqui and Ayeza Khan, ‘Meray Paas Tum Ho’ had everyone’s tongues wagging right from its dawn to its recent finale.

The drama took off to a decent start, and soon fished in latecomers after the famous dialogue, “do takkay ki aurat ke liye aap mujhe 50 million de rahe the” shook the country to their very core; it was a powerful, blithering line delivered by Humayun’s love-stricken character Danish to his wife’s newfound partner for offering money in payment for, well her cheating on him. The binge-able melodrama quickly stole the top spot in Twitter’s trends and became the conversation starter at the dinner table. It filled a void deepened by the dearth of ‘deliciously good television’ at a local level, and with hilariously brilliant plot twists at every moment, ‘Meray Paas Tum Ho’ became the show we all escaped to from our hectic, mediocre lives. It peaked in soap-opera-ness quite a few times but always remained relatively true to Pakistan’s blaring classism.

Beyond the plot lay the raw, gritty adulteress Mehwish (Ayeza) who’s unapologetic demeanor was villainous, with a stroke of ingenuity. Ayeza warned her fans beforehand to be prepared for the worst, and rightly so — her character sparked a venomous hatred for all who watched; her character was ruthless. While I’m not one to ever question someone’s reason for infidelity, Mehwish’s reasons were at most, unsettling and frankly one couldn’t help gravitate towards the victim, Danish — a newly single father who beckoned the most beautiful and heart-achingly honest way about him. His struggles to singlehandedly raise his son and make an earnest living in a country plagued with hair-raising corruption hit home for viewers. Side note: kudos to Humayun Saeed for having such a mystifying presence onscreen. He is a wonder with a striking ability to charm and consume a viewer in his/her entirety. As truly despicable as Mehwish was, Danish was just as adorable, if not more. Here stood two polarised individuals, lost in a moment or two when they made the mistake of holy matrimony.

So, why else was this drama so magnetic? ‘Meray Paas Tum Ho’ was a bucket full of shock factors, leaving its audience gaping at the unpleasantries of a marriage falling apart, along with a brimming uncouthness of Mehwish and her loaded lover Shahwar (who, too was committing adultery). While critiques of the drama questioned why Shahwar wasn’t scrutinized to the severity Mehwish was, it’s only because his side of the story wasn’t really deemed ‘relevant’ for director Nadeem Baig or writer Khalil ur Rehman Qamar. Honestly, it was rather irrelevant — the kernel of the show’s success was the Danish-Mehwish collapse. Long story short, the plot was unlike anything we’d seen on Pakistani television, and with a powerhouse dynamic of Ayeza-Humayun-Adnan, you know this ain’t no joke!

I recall Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’ evoking similar sentiments; the show was moreish, with a remarkable love story between a beggar and a specially-abled man. Very few dramas ignite such appeal, and it’s such a shame; most are, unfortunately, recycled tropes drilled together with textbook-manual screws firmly in place (sorry, too harsh)? Nadeem Baig, however, understands the market — masala, leave-your-brain-at-home movies for the big screen, and more precious, detailed- speckled dramas for cable; ‘Jawaani Phir Nahi Ani’ and ‘Dil Lagi’ respectively. The latter was Humayun and Nadeem’s last telly-venture together, and that drama too was *French kisses.* Hence it’s no surprise to see their latest project set the bar tremendously high for following dramas to come, and it won’t be a walk in the park anymore — our new, ‘woke’ world has pushed Pakistanis to question everything, and that includes our own television (that is known for silly, Neanderthal plots that don’t help in getting most of our fellow citizens out the regressive misogyny mindset). ‘Meray Paas Tum Ho’ recently closed its curtains in a satisfying, wholesome finale, and I personally found myself fumbling over what to do next; Danish was the only thought I had as the credits rolled in; a man who never swayed from didactic compass, in a world constantly seducing us to lose all sense of morale.