By Nadeem F. Paracha
December 12, 2014
The Crying Woman is a famous Pakistani TV actress. She has appeared in over a hundred TV plays in almost exactly the same role with different names and different getups.
Nobody knows her real name but she seems quite happy with the moniker, The Crying Woman, given to her by many of her fans over a decade ago.
One of the most interesting facts about The Crying Woman is that even in real life she is quite like the roles (or role, rather) that she plays in TV plays – a submissive, pious, romantic, good-natured, perpetually heartbroken woman who cries, a lot. Like, all the time.
The Crying Woman was born in 1985 in Lahore to a submissive, pious, romantic, good-natured, perpetually heartbroken mother who cried, a lot. Like, all the time. The Crying Woman’s father was an introverted and kind of spaced-out man who was given to sudden bursts of anger, mainly towards women who knew how to drive.
The Crying Woman’s mother was an aspiring TV actress but she was ousted from the house by her mother-in-law just for the heck of it. The father took the mother-in-law’s side, whom he saw as a father figure after the mother-in-law had earlier ousted her husband from the house because he had refused to conspire with her to oust the mother-in-law of the mother-in-law who was conspiring to oust the mother-in-law of the Crying Woman’s mother who finally managed to oust her mother-in-law and then husband and then daughter-in-law.
The Crying Woman’s mother left her husband and took their daughter with her.
She settled in Gujranwala in her parents’ house where tensions between her introverted and kind of spaced-out brother (who was given to sudden bursts of anger) and his wife, his mother and father were already high.
So The Crying Woman grew up in an emotionally charged environment and cried her way through school and college before leaving her home and returning to her father in Lahore.
The father had remarried (but was now conspiring with his mother to oust the second wife from the house as well). He had found solace in faith and extravagant exhibitions of piety. He had also set up a chain of driving schools for women where women drivers were taught to unlearn how to drive. The famous chain of driving schools is called Genghis Dot, where troubled upper and middle-class women who once learned to drive are taught (for a fee) to unlearn how to drive and instead become submissive, pious, romantic, good-natured, busy kitchen kittens who cry a lot. Like, nonstop.
The Crying Woman became an un-instructor at her father’s un-driving school and it was here where she was first spotted by a female TV drama producer.
The producer was Khanam Baji, a famous TV and film actress of the 1970s who was once known for her colourful lifestyle involving raunchy parties, romantic scandals, nightclubbing and controversial weight-loss regimes. However, once Baji hit middle-age in the late 1980s, she began to mellow down, got married to a pious rich man who helped her see the folly of her ways and advised her to quit driving.
Khanam, who had by then set up her own production house, found it hard to quit driving until she joined Genghis Dot in 1999. Here she fell in love with the owner (The Crying Woman’s father), left her husband, got the owner to divorce his second wife, married him but was ousted by her new mother-in-law.
Incidentally, when she was unlearning how to drive at the un-school, she was also looking for a fresh face for the kind of plays she now wanted to make for TV.
Recently, while talking to a devout morning show host, scholar, wise man and human rights activist, Dr. Aamir Liaquat, Khanam Baji revealed:
"When I was young lady, I used to always enjoyings lifes … it was always enjeeoyyzz, enjeeoeyzz, enjoyeeoyzz … but one days I notice wrinkle on my cheek and small paunch comings out of my tummy … when I sees paunch, that is when I sees light and realise that woman is not supposed to enjoyings but only cryings … then I marry my first husband who was blessed with lot of wisdom, piety and money and he say to me, ‘Khanam, stop driving car, drive my kitchen ...’ So I joins Genghis Dot and as I unlearning driving, I started to learning crying. Like, all the time."
Khanam told Liaquat that it was during her time at the un-driving un-school that she decided to make plays with lots of crying women so the women could be taught their rightful place in the house, their correct conduct, and the dangers of enjoyings for women.
Khanam’s first two plays, Khushi Kay Ansoo (2004) and Kambakhti (2005) were written by Nasreen Aapa, a woman with the uncanny ability to think like a wise, stoic, misogynic man. She is also sometimes endearingly addressed as Nasir Bhai by her cohorts.
The Crying Woman appeared in the leading role of both the plays. They were huge hits.
In Khushi Kay Ansoo, The Crying Woman played the role of Hamida who spends the better part of the play in trying to get her husband to take her back (after he throws her out for not being able to boil eggs). In Kambakhti she plays the role of a highly emotional woman called Kambakhti who spends the better half of the play trying to get her husband to take her back (after he throws her out for not knowing how to prepare a cheese omelette).
The Crying Woman has now appeared in almost a hundred TV plays and serials playing the same role but with different names and make-up. She is praised for being a natural.
Though she has won millions of (wailing) fans and gathered a number of awards, she lost to another actress at the 2013 Lux Style Awards that were held in Dubai. Soon after the awards ceremony, she told Ramiz Raja:
"Jab Nominate Kar Saktey Ho, Toh Award Kyoon Nahi Dey Sakteeyyyyy ….!!"
This moved Ramiz to tears.
However, in 2014, she finally managed to win the Lux award for her role in Nasreen Baji’s latest drama serial Saawan ki Siskiyaan. The Crying Woman wept through her acceptance speech and thanked her future husband for his future support. She said she was really looking forward to being ousted from the future house of her future husband by her future mother-in-law.
Her co-star in Saawan Ki Siskiyaan, Fawad Khan, handed her the award and told the audience that he was dedicating his recent nose-job to women like The Crying Woman who make him look more girly and thus opening up new opportunities for actors like him to play the role of submissive, pious, romantic, good-natured, perpetually heartbroken women who are always crying. ‘Like, always,’ he added.
Sawan Ki Siskiyaan was also aired by India’s Zee TV and is said to have moved the wife of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to audition for a role in Nasreen Baji’s next play. Talking to Times of India, Mrs Modi said:
"If you see my life, it is similar to the one portrayed by The Crying Woman in the play. I think I am a natural too and Modi jee has been very supportive of my natural talents by behaving as if I don’t even exist! I mean, what else can an Eastern wife ask for from her husband, no?"
She also added that the Taj Mahal was actually built by a Hindu Raja 19 million years ago.
Though The Crying Woman has become perhaps the most popular and ratings-grabbing TV actress in Pakistan, she says that fame and fortune hasn’t changed her in any significant way:
"I am still blissfully miserable," she recently announced after bagging a 87-play-deal with HumTV, Urdu1, Geo, ARY and ESPN.
She was talking to famous Indian historian and possible future Prime Minister of India, Shobha De, during an interview on Star TV. When Ms De asked her whether all the fame and fortune that she had earned made her want to stop crying so much, The Crying Woman responded, "But Shobha Jee, crying is all the enjoyings a decent woman needs."
But when De confessed that she couldn’t cry as much as she did even if she tried, The Crying Woman said: "That’s because you’re not decent enough, you vamp!" She then asked De to look at the flab developing around her arms and neck so she (De) could finally see the light. Saying this, she stormed out of the studio, weeping.
Ms De was last seen measuring her arms and neck. And crying.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com