THE WEEK THAT WAS

Dobara | Hum TV, Wednesdays 8.00pm

This serial serves as a timely reminder of the well-observed and thoughtful writing that was once a staple of Pakistani dramas. Mehru (Hadiqa Kiani) was an heiress forcibly married off by her dying father at the tender age of 16 to the much older Hidayatullah (Naumaan Ijaz). The drama begins with her sudden widowhood, showing her mourning less for her kind but controlling husband, and more for her own lost childhood.

In a quietly defining sequence, Mehru lets down her hair, symbolising her break with the past, while her newly arrived sister-in-law Durdana Apa (Sakina Sammo) tries to police her display of grief. Kiani understands and projects every layer of her character, bonding with the audience from the first scene.

The other side of the story is Mahir (Bilal Abbas), a 20-something grifter who lives between the empty spaces left by his divorced parents and their unwelcoming spouses. Abbas fits easily into this, grey-shaded, softer avatar, playing it better than his recent spate of intense roles. This is author Sarwat Nazir’s and director Danish Nawaz’s new collaboration after Khaas and, like their previous work, it’s a more contemplative style of a serial. The team has put in the hard work of building up a detailed narrative and connection to characters, bucking the vogue for immediate melodrama, which will hopefully pay off in the long run.

Dobara promises to be a gripping tale of light and dark, and that now uncommon mapping of complicated human emotions that has been airbrushed off our screen by easy conventionality.

Aik Hai Nigar | ARY, Saturdays 8.00pm

This telefilm is an ISPR-supported project that opens a window into the life of Lt Gen Nigar Johar (Mahira Khan), the first woman to reach the rank in the Pakistan Army. This is an inspirational project, so there is little concrete illustration of the kind of ingrained sexism and difficulties Nigar Johar must have faced in her career. Her professional path is shown in a slow but upward curve as her superiors are bowled over by her professionalism, smoothing over what must have been years of hard work and sacrifice.

What this short feature lacks in gritty realism is more than made up for in the beautiful way it captures Johar’s personal life and her relationships with the men in her life. In a change from most Pakistani dramas, we see a line-up of positive male figures in the Maj Gen’s life. Despite his traditional concerns, her father supports her education and makes a point of asking his daughter about her choices and consent for marriage. The highlight of this show is the wonderful relationship between husband and wife that, if a little idealised, looks very real.

Director Adnan Sarwar once again proves his skills as a masterful storyteller who can reach beyond the simple, effective script from Umera Ahmed. Bilal Ashraf (Johar Ali Khan) and Mahira Khan have put their best into this project and it shows in the very natural acting and friendly intimacy of a truly loving married couple that they have managed to project. Khushhal Khan as Shahid also makes a good impression, despite a brief role.

Aik Hai Nigar is produced by Nina Kashif and Mahira Khan.

What To Watch Out For

Maid | Netflix

This serial explores the difficulties a young, single mother faces to keep her child and leave an abusive marriage to an alcoholic. Lack of education and resources force her into desperate situations, navigating the complexities of the American welfare system. This is an eye-opening look at a problem often ignored and a segment of society often scapegoated by politicians sermonising on societal ills.

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 31st, 2021

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