THE WEEK THAT WAS
Hum Kahaan Kay Sachay Thay | Hum TV, Sundays 8.00pm
After the stunning visuals of the past that set up the first couple of episodes, this story settles into the present, showing us the painful web of emotional abuse that Mehreen (Mahira Khan) is trapped in. This is an intense drama that relies on sharply etched but nuanced protagonists, and Umera Ahmed’s well-written dialogues.
Like the best shows, the audience forms an immediate connection with each character and, once you start this show, despite some flaws, it’s hard to let go. Mahira Khan has a heartbreakingly perfect grip on every facet of her role, sometimes drowning, always struggling forward, determined to rise above those who would pull her down.
While Mehreen has found her self-worth in painting and academics, Mishal (Kubra Khan) has no personality, and spends her energy stealing her cousin’s achievements and identity. As the story unfolds, the hope remains that writer Umera Ahmed fulfills her promise to improve this early work, and place these troubled relationships in context, providing a critique of a culture that forces women to evaluate themselves on how “good” a marriage they can make.
Asjad (Usman Mukhtar) is a highly problematic character in the novel and seems an odd, judgmental, uncaring man, easily convinced by gossip he somehow finds time to listen to every day despite a high-profile job in New York. Despite Mukhtar’s best efforts, Asjad seems like the least credible character, looking more like an abuser than any kind of hero.
Rang Mahal | Geo TV, Saturdays 8.00pm
Despite the bright lights and soap opera feel, Rang Mahal is turning out to be more than an addictive guilty pleasure. Mahpara (Sehar Khan) is a munshi ki beti who was once the spoiled, adopted daughter of her father’s wealthy employers, but everything changes when her supposed brother Suhail (Humayun Ashraf) marries Hajra (Aruba Mirza). An idyllic childhood dream is shattered as Mahpara learns that the only person she can truly rely on is herself.
Humayun Ashraf impresses in a negative role as the all-too-common predator hiding in plain sight. Most of the other characters lack dimension but their motivations are clear and understandable. Sehar Khan not only captures the sweetness and simplicity required to make this naive Cinderella believable, but also her determination and strength as her character arc matures. When Mahpara loses her home, she finds a job to support herself. When she realises her lack of interest in education and starry-eyed dreams of romance are her downfall, she sets out to improve her grades and become independent. Compared to the trembling, crumbling heroines that fill our screens, crying about “kirdar ki gawahi”, with no internal life or thoughts except men or shopping, Mahpara is a welcome change. For those looking for easy entertainment which is not completely unthinking, Rang Mahal hits all the right marks.
What To Watch Out For
Ek Hai Nigar | ARY, Coming Soon
This is another script from writer Umera Ahmed, based on the life and career of Lt Gen Nigar Johar. As an ISPR-sponsored telefilm, the focus will obviously be on national unity and her inspirational struggle to achieve her position. The first teaser shows Mahira Khan stepping out in an army officer’s uniform, and some netizens have complained that she looks “too pretty” or “model like” for a tough military woman. This also highlights the way women have to de-emphasise, even suppress their femininity, modelling their dress, behaviour and attitude on what are considered manly characteristics, to be taken seriously in traditionally male-dominated fields.
Published in Dawn, ICON, August 22nd, 2021