All The Bright Places is one of the most celebrated novels of Jennifer Niven. It focuses on issues of mental health and depression through the story of Finch & Violet, from Indiana. But how would the story be different if it was a mainstream Pakistani drama serial?
It would start off a little differently where our female protagonist, Vardah meets our male protagonist, Faraz at work, during one of her depressive episodes. In All The Bright Places (ATBP), we had Finch suffering from bipolar disorder (manic depression) but how dare we show a man as a weaker, more vulnerable gender in ‘our’ drama.
Vardah is an innocent and naïve girl, coming from a humble background and Faraz, her new ‘rich’ boss falls in love with her instantly. The setting here must be changed from high school to an office because we simply cannot promote teen romance!
Our female lead is simply beautiful; long hair, big eyes, slim, moderate height and gora rang. And Faraz is…wait, who cares what he looks like? He’s a wealthy businessman who will be her savior & his ‘love’ will cure all her ‘sadness’ (because depression is just a myth, after all). That should be sufficient.
Faraz comes up with a way to save her from all her troubles (and be her hero). He offers her to work on a big project (did someone say favoritism at work?), involving ‘site visits’ with him (reference to the school project to explore Indiana, which Finch & Violet had). What business he has, shall never be disclosed. All we know is that he attends lots of meetings, wears bespoke three-piece suits & makes constant references to random files and reports. That’s what big businessmen do, don’t they?
The site visits turn out to be just an excuse to spend some time with Vardah and they go everywhere but sites. Unlike Finch from ATBP who came up with a rule to leave something (physical) behind to show they were at a place, our Faraz wants to create memories, which the audience will repeatedly see in their flashback, supported by sad, emotional OST playing in the background. They visit Sea View, and draw hearts in sand, mall because how is he rich if he doesn’t spend bucks on buying designer clothes for his lady, and finally, dinner at his regular fancy café.
One day spent together is all it takes Vardah to open up about her ‘sadness’. And it is nothing other than her financial situation (because that’s the most creative we can get) that’s ‘worrying’ her. He consoles her by saying ‘sab theek hojayega’ and confesses about his feelings, only to realize it is mutual.
The climax & end:
Just like Ryan (Violets’ ex), we have Rizwan, whose sole purpose is to separate the two. He was no ex of Vardah (she is a morally white character) but sent by Faraz’s father because he didn’t want his son to marry a poor girl like Vardah. Didn’t see that coming, did you?
Faraz starts to doubt Vardah’s character and feels betrayed. Neither does he answer her calls nor reply to her messages (but he is still our hero). He stops coming to work & the only option left for Vardah is to confront him face-to-face. She goes to his house, they meet and all the misunderstandings are magically cleared.
Father sees his plans failing & now conspires to get her killed. They are rich people so we will assume, getting arrested is not their concern. Since every Pakistani drama is incomplete without someone dying, instead of Vardah, Faraz mistakenly gets shot and that will also be considered as a punishment for the father.
In the book, Finch took his life away as his mental health worsened but we do not show someone’s death out of depression in our shows. Our mentality doesn’t allow us to think along those lines where someone dies due to a mental illness.
As per statistics, more than 14 million people in Pakistan suffer from some form of mental illness, majority being women. Many have also committed suicide due to the same, yet it is overlooked & shunned in our society. People cannot openly talk about their mental health in the fear of being mocked.
Our media avoids this issue too. We don’t see news about mental health in mainstream media and the issue has only been raised on social media platforms, that too very recently. Apart from a few dramas, we do not see characters, especially male characters, which aren’t mentally strong and need help. It’s time this changes. We need to see such issues being highlighted in our dramas that do not seem to move past stories involving sister rivalries, caste conflicts & saas-bahu clashes.