I finished Zindagi Gulzar Hai! Full review post(s) going up sometime this week, although less detailed than I did for Humsafar. But first, let’s talk about my favorite character whose storyline gets kind of forgotten! And see what would happen if she was the focus instead of her grumpy older sister.
So, Zindagi is loosely Pride and Prejudice sort of. Our heroine is the Lizzy character, sharp-tongued and bitter. She is very close to her sister, Sidra, who is sweeter and always tries to see the best in people. So, Jane.
But half way into the show, Sidra gets this wonderful proposal from a family friend, to marry a doctor in America. The family sacrifices to give her a wedding, her jerky estranged father (still Pride and Prejudice, because if he could have, Mr. Bennet definitely would have divorced Mrs. Bennet) doesn’t come to the wedding which causes a slight uproar. But she still gets married, and moves to America, and is only seen occasionally for the rest of the show. Although we do learn that her new husband and in-laws love her, and helped her adjust to life in America. And that her husband is a workaholic doctor.
But, what if Sidra was the heroine? What if the focus was on her marriage, not Kashaf’s? I have ideas!
Sidra is the sweet one in the family, not the smart or special one. She always tries to make everyone else happy and smooth over the problems. She got basic education, and now while her sisters go on to advanced studies, she stays home and helps her mother with tutoring students to raise money for the family.
(Like I said, Jane. Also, super disturbing that this same actress played the heartless wife in Gone Girl)
So, what was it about her that made the other family decide to propose for their Doctor son? Now, I am thinking this will follow the standard Pakistani soap formula of following both hero and heroine in parallel. While Sidra is always sweet and accommodating, her future husband is the opposite. He works long hours and then comes home and demands that the meal be served at his convenience, that breakfast be whenever he wakes up from the night shift, and so on. His family is concerned that he will never be able to adjust to family life again after living a free life as a medical student in student quarters. Meanwhile, he is increasingly tired at work, forgetting things and falling asleep, because he has no one to take care of him. While Sidra wonders if she will ever have a life of her own, beyond just living in the shadows of her family.
Finally, after seeing Sidra with her family, our hero’s aunt has an idea, and calls his mother back in America. She is not sure it is a good idea, because her son has no time to build a life with a wife right now. Plus, he is so hard to life with. And how would a simple girl from Pakistan do in America?
But, over the course of several episodes, the mother starts to see that her son needs someone to take care of him. And she learns more about Sidra that makes her seem like maybe the perfect woman to understand her son. Sidra, meanwhile, is still reluctant to marry, but is convinced that it is the best thing for her family, and that she will do her best, although she is still heartbroken at the thought of leaving home.
Finally, the wedding! Sidra gets her first glimpse of her husband at the ceremony. But it is over-shadowed by her father’s absence, which makes their family look bad. And that night, rather than spend time with her, her new husband excuses himself and says he must work. Sidra spends the night alone (end credits music of the episode, dun dun dun!).
(I’m thinking an end credits frame of something like this, and a song with lyrics like “you were a foreigner, I was a foreigner, we came together”)
The next day, Sidra’s new mother-in-law and aunt-in-law help her prepare to leave for America. There is awkwardness as they all realize how unprepared she is. Her mother-in-law tries to reassure her. But then her new husband appears and announces he must hurry back to America immediately. Dun dun dun! Sidra wonders if it is because of her father. Her new mother-in-law insists that she must leave with her husband, and Sidra hesitates because of her embarrassment over her father which she thinks is making her husband not love her and want to leave. Of course, her husband thinks it is because she doesn’t want to go to America at all because they will never be able to relate.
Because of family pressure, they end up going back to America together alone, while the rest of the family will be staying in Pakistan for another month. Sidra is delivered back to the house, and left alone while her husband goes into work. She investigates the house and tries to figure out the kitchen, but can’t. She has no food, and tries to stay awake until her husband comes back to great him. But, when he finally comes back 3 days later because he got caught up in his shift, she is already sick from lack of food and is passed out on the couch. He rushes her back to his hospital.
Out of guilt, and after being yelled at by his mother over the phone for being so un-understanding, the husband feels guilty and starts visiting her often while she is in the hospital. She starts showing her niceness, by trying to find out if he is eating enough and all those good wifely things. When he has a headache, she offers to rub his forehead. They slowly get closer.
3 days later, she is ready to leave the hospital. His boss insists that he take two days off, he brings her home and gives her food that he bought himself for them and is generally super sweet. And then they have sweet bedroom conversation and, it is implied, finally have their first night together.
And then, just when everything seems good again, it goes bad! His mother arrives from Pakistan, but she brings with her his fellow doctor/best friend from back home who is going to be working with him at the hospital.
The mother is nice and helps Sidra get used to shopping in a supermarket and riding the bus and all those things. But meanwhile, at work, the husband is getting closer with his new doctor colleague (who is NOT evil, because I am sick of evil women in these shows!). And he talks about her all the time when he is home. Sidra starts to doubt herself, whether she “deserves” this husband, if maybe he would be happy with a woman who understands his challenges.
To improve herself, she decides to start taking an English class. But she wants to keep it a secret from her husband, although she tells her mother-in-law, who gives her approval. She starts going out to class regularly. She gets more confident in America, and happier, and more flirty and aggressive with her husband (but in her own quiet way), which of course he loves.
(Yes, this is just English/Vinglish re-imagined)
But then they get news from Pakistan! The Aunt’s daughter is getting married, the mother has to go back and help prepare. She wants to bring Sidra with her, but she says no because her husband needs her. He says yes, thinking he shouldn’t be selfish. Sidra still says no, but is hurt to think that he originally said yes.
The two of them are now alone in the house again. And the husband decides to go home early to surprise her. Only to find that she isn’t there, because of course she is in her class. He waits and waits. And waits and waits. And finally by the time she comes home, he is furious! He blows up at her about how she is selfish and doesn’t care and is keeping secrets and so on and so on. She is so hurt, she doesn’t know what to say in response, and just goes running into her room to cry. Before he can follow and apologize, he gets an emergency call from the hospital and has to leave.
She wakes up the next morning, alone. She wonders around the house, sad. Mother calls from Pakistan and sense something is wrong. She calls husband at work to find out what happened, and he doesn’t tell her either. Mother in Pakistan is worried!
Mother in Pakistan calls Sidra again, and through the series of misunderstandings, ends up with Sidra agreeing to come to Pakistan and help with the wedding, leaving husband alone in America to follow later. Sidra sadly leaves. In Pakistan, she keeps the marriage problems to herself, in order to protect the happiness of the wedding. And also discovers she is pregnant.
Meanwhile, in America, husband is missing her more and more. Finally, thank goodness, he finds a letter from the English class with her completion certificate and realizes his mistake. He arrives back in Pakistan to attend the wedding and sees his wife there and is all touched. Looks like a happy ending is on the way! But one final twist.
First, the husband happened to fly in on the same flight with the friend/doctor. Sidra assumes that they traveled together and starts to assume that maybe he has realized his mistake and is going to marry someone else. Then, at the wedding, the same relatives are there who were at their wedding. And remarks are passed about how Sidra’s father didn’t come. Sidra feels embarrassed and goes out. The husband doesn’t see what happens. He looks for her, but can’t leave the wedding to find her. Finally, the wedding is over and he and his mother go back to their house.
Sidra has left a note behind, saying that she knows he will be happy with his new doctor wife, she is better for him. He is heartbroken, and his mother encourages him to go find Sidra at her mother’s house. He goes there and finds her sadly cooking. He talks to her in the kitchen, gives a big long speech about how she is the best possible wife for him, and the best wife in general, and how her family has nothing to do with her, and so on. And she finally tells him she is expecting. And happy final 5 minutes epilogue! They are back in their home in America, with their son and daughter who comes a few years later, and Sidra has finally found a new home here and has everything she wants.
(End with some image kind of like this)