KARACHI : It starts with a wedding to be: Guy meets girl and serenades her with both a saxophone and guitar. So far so good, if somewhat clichéd. They dance their hearts out (back up dancers in tow) at a mehndi.
The guy – our ‘dashing hero’ – is quite obviously smitten but the girl, not so much. Guy confesses his ‘love’, girl lets him down easy. That should be the end of it right? Nope. Not so fast.
Against all odds and despite all her protests, the guy is convinced that the girl (who is already engaged) and he are meant to be. He pesters their mutual friends – to their obvious discomfort – for her number and follows her to her city, to her home and then, to her very bedroom. At each point, she repeats “NOT INTERESTED” first amicably, then sternly and finally with wrath. The guy’s sole response each time is, “Tum meri ho (You are mine)”.
Driven to a breaking point, the girl finally lashes out and slaps him – twice. Better late than never, I suppose. But then things take a turn for the really grotesque. The guy slaps her back thrice – because who’s keeping count – and threatens to “knock her down of her high perch.” Because “tum meri ho.”
Such is the plot of Syed Noor’s latest big screen offering Chain Aye Na. But is this love? Noor certainly seems to think so. None of the characters ever even chastise his protagonist for this deranged obsession with the female lead. The latter, on the other hand, is repeatedly told that the hero truly loves her and that she is being too harsh. Victim-blaming at its finest.
As a general rule, a critic should avoid commenting on and criticising an idea behind a story, movie or any art form. Everyone reserves the right to express their self freely, without any thought-policing.
Sometimes though, an idea can be so toxic that it can have troubling, even morbid consequences. Not pointing that out would make the critic complicit in that sin.
South Asian cinema has long equated love to deranged, often one-sided, obsession. More often than not, it has been male protagonists who harbour it for the female lead. Heroes, in many of these films, behave like jealous stalkers, resorting to what is today understood to be clear sexual harassment to win over the target of their infatuation. What’s even more disturbing is the fact that they are rewarded for this every time.
It’s little wonder then, that South Asia as a whole is rife with incidents of women being sexually assaulted or even killed by men whose advances they spurned. Stories like that of Chain Aye Na have conditioned a generation of men in Pakistan, India and wherever else to not take no as an answer in their romantic pursuits. By conflating stalking, harassment and obsession with love, such films send a message that this behaviour is not just acceptable, but even admirable.
Let’s get one thing clear: These stories of derangement masquerading as romance are not okay. They weren’t okay 30 years ago and are certainly not okay today. Film-makers and storytellers need to think twice before they glamourise such sinister emotions and when they fail to do so, like Noor has done in Chain Aye Na, they need to be called out.
It was a sad, in fact distressing, experience to witness the comeback of the once-famed lone warrior of Pakistani cinema, Syed Noor. Having only watched a few of his popular works, namely Majajan and Choorian, one cannot help but wonder if something happened to the director recently or were the aforementioned films mere flukes?
The concentrated effort towards misogyny and a misguided value system that Chain Aye Na has proven to be makes us believe the latter: Noor is just a guy with a very flawed understanding of cinema, both as a medium of entertainment and influence. Perhaps Sheikh Saadi was apt to point out, “Har boorha shakhs buzurg nahi hota (Not every old man is wise).”
Verdict: Chain Aye Na’s journey from being ridiculous to cringe-worthy and grossly offensive is better off left alone.
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