Friday, April 17, 2015

On Akshaya Tritiya, A look At Child Brides and "Rehaai"!

"Rajasthan gears up to prevent child marriages on Akshaya Tritiya*", screams a headline in one of the papers I was reading the other day. The accompanying report goes on: The Annual Health Survey for 2012-2013 says that over 14 per cent of the girls in the state were married when they were below the legal age of 18. According to Health Minister Rajendra Rathore, Accredited Social Health Activists and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, paramedical staff, health workers and NGOs have been asked to prevent child marriages in their areas. A massive campaign in the state is making people aware of the fact that not only parents and guests, but all those involved in child marriages like priests, tent-house owners, caterers and band-owners could be booked under the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2006.

With these measures, hope the figures for child marriages are much lower in the current Annual Health Survey. No doubt, the issue of child marriages is a serious one; but what made me realize its gravity is a Pakistani drama "Rehaai" that I watched recently. Just 15 episodes of intense drama drive home a social message so effectively that no other medium could possibly have. A child bride is not merely a statistic here, but a living breathing adolescent who undergoes the trials and tribulations of this social evil. And we, as viewers are left red-faced looking in the mirror it holds to the after-effects of this custom that thrives in parts of India and Pakistan alike.

Photo: UNFPA/Stephanie Sinclair
The story of "Rehaai" deals primarily with child marriage, but several other issues are woven beautifully into it. Like the desire for male offspring, pregnancy at a young age, polygyny and the insecurity it brings with it for women, confining women to home and hearth under the notion that it is against a man's pride to send his woman out for earning money, and domestic violence. But in spite of all this, it is not a weepy, depressing tale. It is a superb portrayal of grit and resilience shown by a bunch of women who are ill-prepared to handle situations that they find themselves in. If seeing them as targets of atrocities makes your blood boil,  looking at the way they face and fight the difficulties warms the cockles of your heart.

Kudos to the team of this wonderful drama. This is meaningful television at its best. The more I see of Samina Peerzada, the more I like her. She is brilliant as the troubled matriarch of this family, struggling to deal with the ways of her wayward son. Her talent is matched in equal measure by Noman Ijaz, who plays her headstrong son. Another significant feature of this drama is that it is played out in a lower/lower-middle class neighbourhood. The language, the dress sense of the characters and the whole ambience reflects their class with a blunt honesty. No opulent mansions, no flowery language, no fancy cars and definitely no designer clothes or jewellery. There is a certain "rawness" about the way it is presented, lending it its authenticity and credibility. Farhat Ishtiaq's story is accentuated by Mehreen Jabbar's nuanced direction. Watch out for her attention to detail. It brings the location alive on your screen.

Tailpiece: I watched this drama when Deepika Padukone's "My Choice" was doing the rounds on social and news media. The glossy women appearing in that video and the lines they were mouthing sounded inane, and paled in comparison with what the women did and said in "Rehaai" in terms of women empowerment. And no, being in that situation was not their choice!

*Akshaya Tritiya falls on April 21 this year.


  1. Very well written, I will watch this drama on very soon.

  2. Narayan Joshi.20 April, 2015 17:18

    Excellent writing, now I look forward to see the full drama 'Rehai'