Zehan's Promise: Paradise Foundby Helmy Sa'at
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“Zehan, you cannot control life. Trust is love.”
Marriage. Not just a lifetime commitment between two individuals in a silo, as any marriage is also a melding of two families, lifestyles, aspirations and dreams. There are added layers to this equation when any two individuals from different cultures shaped by influences of languages, traditions and specific societal practices choose to commit to each other. It is, at times seems to be, the colliding of two worlds that would predictably produce frictions.
Yet, such unions anchored in love would be akin to paradise found. The richness of two individuals’ backgrounds in a marriage only serve to elevate the relationship in every facet encompassing emotional maturity, social developments and even economic growth. That is the strength of love rooted in trust and respect. As long as it remains the guiding principle in life full of inevitable uncertainties and human’s infallible nature that causes mistakes and feelings to be bruised, marriage is a wonderful endeavour that could potentially be savoured for life.
Are we to let our inherent flaws get in the way of the promise of a lifetime of happiness?
Trust Is Love And Marriage Is Work
Zehan’s Promise (Janji Zehan) follows the much anticipated phase of any couple’s relationship trajectory after marriage – honeymoon period. The newlywed couple, Zehan, a successful Malaysian television producer, and Arman, an Iranian in the process of working towards his business goal of opening a restaurant in Malaysia is confronted by the realities of married life. They are discovering that marriage is full of highs and lows while on their honeymoon in Shiraz, Iran. More so low points.
Understandably, without compromise, accommodation and willing sacrifices of each other’s needs and wants, it could quickly spiral into chaos and hopelessness wrapped in disappointment with the peril of ending marital bliss. Simply, it is one never-ending emotional rollercoaster for both the characters and audience.
Still, there are plenty of humorous instances whereby these relatable incidents would usually plague any couple. The very mundane could snowball into major upset when left unchecked. Zehan learns to constantly readjust her expectations of Arman and by extension assessment of her immediate situation:
“Phone I hilang, bateri kamera I dia tak bawa. Phone dia, kamera rosak. Nampaknya honeymoon ni tak akan ada gambar langsunglah. Sabar, Zehan. Sabar,” [My phone is missing yet he has not brought batteries for the camera. His camera phone is faulty. It seems that there would not be any honeymoon photos at all. Have patience, Zehan. Patience.] Zehan grumbled internally at the start of their journey to Persepolis on a camel.
One key facet of any relationship, especially a happy one, would require a mature and impartial outlook of one’s expectations of his or her partner. The need to be on the same page emotionally is just as important of being present in the moment and truly listening and not just hearing one’s partner talk. This is best captured on the first night during an unfolding argument when they were about to head out for a dinner reservation. A mismatch of expectations.
“I just want to be perfect for you.”
“Baby, you are perfect. Trust me. I didn’t marry you because of your hair. I didn’t marry you because of your make up. I didn’t marry because of number of likes you got on Instagram. I married you because you are different. Because you don’t try too hard.”
“And, I married you because you said you are not a typical man. But, as soon as we come back to your country, you just turned into a different person … .”
Upon reflection, both learn that love and marriage is not about seeking perfections, it seems. An openness to be more accommodating is key as love after marriage demands effort to stay on the same wavelength and to have the mental bandwidth to be emotionally available to one’s partner.
“Walaupun aku berada di negara orang tapi aku kena ingat aku dah kahwin dengan orang Iranian sekarang, so kenalah ada effort sikit nak belajar tentang budaya mereka. Aku kena cuba perkara-perkara baru.” [Though I am in a foreign country, I have to remember that now I have married an Iranian, so there must be a little effort to learn about their culture. I have to try new things.]
With continual disagreements and clash of opinions throughout their honeymoon, would Zehan succumb to her ego and allow her marriage to end in divorce, again? For this, you would have to watch it for yourself, particularly the frank conversation between them during their car journey to Yazd. Here’s a snippet of the heartbreaking confession:
“I grew up, wanted different things. And, he, he stayed the same.”
Earthly Paradise Found
As one would be deeply invested in Arman and Zehan’s relationship, one could not help but to be in constant awe of another primary character immensely captivating throughout the movie. Here, paradise is not just an intangible state of bliss; what we as the audience perceive to be traits of a successful and blissful marriage. Being in paradise is a matter of perspective. Paradise too could be found on Earth.
Soak in the majestic views of Iran through the lens of Zehan who is visiting Iran for the very first time. From Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Eram Garden, Vakil Historical Bath, the ruins of Persepolis, Tomb of Hafez Shirazi to Taft in Yazd. As the first Iran-Malaysian co-production, there were pressures to balance fair representation of Iran’s physical beauty with management of realistic filming expectations for the core Malaysian crew. It was a monumental challenge to have shot at 43 locations in 12 days!
Enriching Our Souls
Here’s a challenge for you. Iran is more than just the beauty of its tangible cultural artefacts such as handwoven carpets, which have been imprinted on the collective minds of tourists and seeped into the global mainstream consciousness.
A couple of things to be gleaned from the movie encompass Iran’s rich literary heritage, such as the poetry legacy of Hafez Shirazi, a 14th century Persian poet, and its food. Since (poetic) language could pose as a barrier to fully immerse oneself in Iranian culture, start with food. Like Zehan, kickoff with the mouth-watering ghormeh sabzi. An Iranian herb stew, it is deemed as the national dish of Iran.
And, just like any endeavour in life, it is not about a copy-and-paste mentality that guarantees happiness and success. Be it in relationships or our culinary explorations; Arman’s wise words serve as a simple yet profound statement worthy of reflection:
“Everyone makes ghormeh sabzi differently. My mother used to make it differently. Naneh [his grandmother] makes it differently. Yeah, I think you have to find your own style.”
Zehan chooses to add potatoes to her ghormeh sabzi. How about you?