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Why I never miss any Ishq-e-Mamnoo episodes

December 12, 2012

Ishq-e-Mamnoo (Forbidden Love), is a Turkish drama translated and dubbed in Urdu  that has caught the attention of viewers as exactly as the advent of TV talk shows did a couple of years back. Because I am bored with talk shows, Ishq-e-Mamnoo is my priority if I ever happen to be watching TV at 8.05pm.

This is a story of forbidden love in which Bahlool, Mr Adnan’s nephew, an offshoot of Turkish nobility, falls in love with the newly wed wife of his uncle. Mrs Bihter is young and charming, shown as being part of a marriage of convenience with Adnan. Another manipulative female; Mrs Firdaus and Bihter’s mother, herself an unfaithful wife, aims at getting rid of her debts by the dint of her son-in-law’s riches. Mrs. Bihter is half her husbands age and naturally gets attracted toward Bahlool, a handsome flirtat and the promised husband of Adnan's daughter, Nihal. Her and Bahlool consummated their love in a beach house and are noticed by the servant, Basheer who is in love with Nihal.

Mrs. Bihter and Mrs. Firdous are bent upon manoeuvring a break up between Bahlool and Nihal. The story revolves around the impulsive nature of Bahlool, the innocence of Nihal, the jealousy, possessiveness and determination of Mrs. Bihter. All the clues leading to revealing the truth about the Bahlool/Bihter relation have been dumped. Urdu drama lovers are keen to watch what is in store for Mrs. Bihter, the most interesting character in the drama. It is for Bihter, in particular, that the love she falls in is especially forbidden for her.

The very title of the drama is highly suggestive as the sense of the forbidden has been a source of attraction for mankind since the dawn of time. Adam led by Eve ate the forbidden fruit, thus falling headlong from heaven into the abyss of earth.

It is not just in the history of mankind but deities have also been replete with the pursuit of the forbidden, which is not less than any sin. Greek myths bring very interesting stories in this regard. For example, Prometheus was chastised for bringing fire to mankind. Sisyphus was cyclically condemned to roll an immense boulder all his life because Sisyphus chose to blasphemously live on earth. Oedipus Rex was perhaps punished the most excruciatingly for pursuing the illicit. Truth revealed that he had married his own mother and fathered her children. Agamemnon's wife fell in forbidden love when Agamemnon embarked upon the Trojan War.

The myths whether Greek or Roman, and even Indian almost all follow the parallel code of ethics that human beings do, so the concept of the forbidden exists not just in fable but in fact.

There is no denying the fact that anything forbidden pulls you in. Poets from the East and West speak of its gravity as Mirza Ghalib says,

"Meri taa"meer mein muzmir hay ik soorat kharaabi ki"

(I have a manufacturing default to err)

And John Keats contributes with,

“Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter”

Ishq-e-Mamnoo takes unique twists and turns due to Mrs Bihter opalescent temperament and the ways she approaches Bahlool, her lover. Bahlool is flirtatious but not unpredictable. It is Mrs Bihter who brings the psychological intricacies attached with the desire to light.

Literature is full of Mrs Bihters. A careful study shows that the reaction to the pursuit of the forbidden underwent drastic changes, all depending upon social conditions.

In the novels and plays written in 19th and 20th centuries, there is almost a strange motivation towards forbidden love. Compare Mrs. Bihter with Hester of The Scarlet Letter and Emma Bovary of Madame Bovary. We find both the women pursuing their love, putting their already married life at stake. They want to break away with the long established social values and psychological bindings.

Mrs. Bihter reminds us particularly of Hester’s resilience, however, it is yet to be seen whether Mrs. Bihter is stalemated like Emma with the residue of the stigma or like Hester, transcends it by living in a self promoted state of otherness.

The character of Mrs. Bihter can also be compared with that of Connie (Lady Chatterley's lover by D.H. Lawrence) and Anna (Anna Karenina by Tolstoy). Like Connie she pursues physical love and is carried away with its trance. And like Anna, she is pursued by a handsome man though her own husband Mr. Adnan is a part of a noble family, characterised with high moral values as are found in Tolstoy's Mr. Karenina. Anna loves her husband and she gives immense respect to the large heartedness of Mr. Karenina but she can't control her unbridled desire for Vronsky. Some viewers are afraid lest Mrs. Bihter should meet the same end as Anna did.

If we closely watch the drama, it dawns upon us that there are some drawbacks in the narrative. That usually happens with long serials, particularly when the story revolves around a few characters. We find a badly woven chain of events that require eavesdropping to further the plot whenever a conflict emerges. Servants and family members listen to the shady conversations of different characters from behind the doors to let the truth take twists and turns. Boland, Nihal’s younger brother eavesdrops on a conversation between Mrs. Firdous and Mrs. Bihter which alienates him from his step mother, while paving the way for reconciliation between Bahlool and Nihal.

The transition of the dialogue from Turkish to Urdu becomes a little awkward at times. Verbal gestures starting off with, “I hope", “Welcome", etc are not in keeping with that of the culture it is being presented for.

The change in the motivation of the characters is larger than the provocation. For example, the sudden change in Nehaad against Ziagills is just because of a harsh phone call from Adnan Ziagill. Even the wrath of Hilmy O'nor against Adnan Ziagill is pointless. The commitment of a flirtatious Bahlool with a teasingly innocent Nihal is a bit illogical without any ostensible enthusiasm. If there is avarice for wealth, Bahlool should be shown pursuing it as well. Or at least he should be worried about what would happen if he left his uncle for Bihter.

We don't find Istanbul with all its colours and cruelties, cohesion and contradictions, crisis and kindness but it is a small world of elites mired into the pursuit of the forbidden.

If you’re still wondering why I never miss any of its episodes, I feel it has divulged a few realities. What’s more appreciable is that our society has at least started relating to and enjoying off tracked human issues; accepting mankind with all its weaknesses and foibles.


The author is a TV producer, with a special interest in politics, literature and philosophy.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.