‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’ took a shocking turn after Bhola (Imran Ashraf) raped his wife Noori (Iqra Aziz) in a distressing and unexpected plot development. It raised many red flags with audiences, with many questioning the manner in which the scene unfolded. Bhola’s condition had still not been disclosed, and his on-screen mother, played by the venerated Asma Abbas tried to dismiss what he did to his wife (blaming it on his mental health), saying that his actions were acceptable because he was married.
— AHI (@aamnaisani) March 24, 2019
#RanjhaRanjhaKardi is a brilliant drama, great OST, great acting.
However, the normalizing of Marital Rape in the previous episode of the show was just not okay. This is not how you deal with such a serious and important topic.
— Chana-Chaat (@ChanaChaat01) March 26, 2019
Showing that it's ok to marry a sound but poor girl to a mentally disabled man because she has skeletons in her closet and then using martial rape to advance the story is @Humtvnetwork's idea of entertainment #RanjhaRanjhaKardi
— Sarah Zaman (@SarahzTV) March 23, 2019
In the harrowing scene, we notice Bhola’s deteriorating mental status as he unleashes his wrath on his wife Noori. His violent nature unfolds as he refuses to let Noori go, and as the characters’ verbal altercation becomes more profound, the scene cuts to a severely bruised and ravaged Noori whose quivering at the end of the bed.
Honestly, Bhola's mother normalizing the marital rape seemed downright disgusting to me. Like how can one even?! I felt all the more bad for Noori! 😭 #RanjhaRanjhaKardi
— sagacious (@sane_tiago) March 28, 2019
In the next episode, Bhola’s mother tries to justify Bhola’s actions to Noori by implying that it’s completely acceptable what he did simply because he was Noori’s shohar. She pointed out his faults, calling him a little deewana but said that he was only beginning to understand his relationship with Noori – thereby unwaveringly and rather shockingly normalizing marital rape.
What we need to understand that EVEN if you’re married, if you have not consented to sex, then it is rape. Period. In this particular case, Bhola’s mental health is served as a premise for blame; and it is this very aspect of the show that has become very problematic – because the writers have yet to disclose what exactly Bhola is suffering from and thus they think it’s okay to owe it to the fact that he was just understanding his intimate relationship with his wife in that moment of weakness. They’re precariously riding on this narrative hindrance and loophole to peddle a very risky story, without really divulging the importance of mental health in Pakistani society. Bhola’s condition is so warped, and the show is yet to really dive into its roots and try and address mental health head-on. Other archaic and deeply rooted mindsets come into play here, with Bhola’s mother thinking that marriage is the solution to Bhola’s mental instability. While these thoughts are very prevalent, isn’t it also important that an entertainment platform like ‘Hum TV’ also weave in more progressive solutions into the serial to perhaps alter that mindset?
My second, and maybe bigger, issue with #RanjhaRanjhaKardi is how for the first 15 odd episodes, we are not given any medical condition for Bhola’s behaviour. Does he have bipolar? Is he autistic? Does he have Schizophrenia? I find that disrespectful. 2/2
— Haroon Rashid (@iHaroonRashid) March 27, 2019
Writer Faiza Iftikhar spoke to ‘Hip Pakistan’ about the criticism received, and said “I welcome it as it shows that the audiences are now watching the plays with great interest and are talking about what is right and wrong and are not afraid to express it, but talking about ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi, in particular, the drama was not penned with the thought of revolving around marital rape.” She said how she kept the topic at a distance on purpose and said that Fahmida’s response was the poster for how most Pakistani women thought.
I watched it and I was disgusted how it was shown as nothing big had happened. It’s even more disturbing seeing people saying it’s not rape because they are married. Even women are justifying it with smile or laughing emojis. Shame
— Natasha (@Enfermita94) March 26, 2019
Our entertainment industry has barely scratched the surface of mental health, and while our dramas have progressed with highlighting grave matters such as marital abuse, rape, and other taboos, we are yet to witness a profoundly intricate mapping out of these topics. Bhola’s mental health is not an excuse to let him off the hook – how the writers handle this repercussion to the rape scene has been scrutinized by viewers who have condemned such a casual dismissing of it all.
So in #RanjhaRanjhaKardi my worst fears came true. Bhola’s mother trying to school Noorie how she is married to Bhola & Bhola forcing himself on Noorie is actually awareness of his relation with her? Are we trying to say that marital rape is ok & not problematic? What BS!
— Misha (@Fallen_Fiend) March 24, 2019
We reached out to Imran Ashraf for his thoughts surrounding the controversy, who admitted to it being a very difficult scene to act out. He said that Bhola was triggered by the same two friends who relished his stagnation, along with the medications his uncle was slipping him. Imran firmly said that rape will always be wrong – no matter who it is or what status a character’s mental health is. He stated that what the drama is trying to show is the exact mentality that is an unfortunate norm here, where women like Bhola’s mother (Fahmida) think the way they do. At the end of the day, Bhola’s mother is trying to deal with a son who is not well, and it’s fair to say that her state of mind has also declined as a result. Imran expressed how the drama tries to portray what goes on in pockets across the country and attempts to show a very sensible reaction in that accord. He did admit to the fact that it is very difficult trying to tackle such a unique situation in this regard, where a boy is not in his senses.
Have you seen the latest episode of ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi?’ What are your thoughts on how Bhola’s actions were laid out after he raped Noori?