THE WEEK THAT WAS

Dil-i-Momin | Geo TV, Fri-Sat 8.00pm

After ARY Digital’s failure with Dunk, Geo’s latest drama Dil-i-Momin is another attempt to incorporate the topic of “false accusations” into what is really a basic plot about rishtas within families, and how one malicious relative can make life complicated. What this show lacks in fresh young faces is more than made up for by a proven, experienced cast, including Faysal Quraishi, Madiha Imam, Gohar Rasheed and Shabbir Jan, whose excellent performances have made this show a very watchable, if sometimes guilty, pleasure.

Full credit to Shehrazade Sheikh for crisp direction and shorter scenes that move the narrative forward, avoiding the kind of long dialogue exchanges that allow the audience to question the lack of depth and perspective. However, the complete lack of awareness of #MeToo or the guidelines for what can be sexual harassment is inauthentic for the kind of modern, upscale college Momin (Faysal Quraishi) is teaching at.

Writer Jahanzeb Qamar has introduced some nuance to Momin’s character by showing how overt religiosity can blind the practitioner and irritate others. Another plus is the well-sketched out motivations for each character, but the usual lack of context, easy stereotypes and the all-too-familiar theme of “blind obsession” hold back any exploration of the deeper structural causes and issues around sexual harassment.

Hum Kahaan Ke Sachay Thay | Hum TV, Sundays 8.00pm

Fifteen episodes down and we are at the heart of the misogyny that binds this plot together. Aswad (Usman Mukhtar) is convinced that either Mehreen (Mahira Khan) physically poisoned Mashal (Kubra Khan) or at least pushed her ‘rival’ into committing suicide by bullying and abuse. The mind boggles that a mature man of Aswad’s intelligence believes this without any solid evidence and, even worse, feels he has the right to exact retribution.

The last three episodes have been textbook cases of emotional and psychological abuse, which are slowly pushing Mehreen not just into deep depression but suicide, as her hallucinations of Mashal keep asking her why she has not died yet? Aswad’s guilt at scalding Mehreen is supposed to show us how conflicted he is, but only serves to highlight the way he has erased Mehreen’s humanity, relegating her to an object of revenge, undeserving of any consideration. Just as he has reduced Mehreen, Aswad has reduced himself and is now shocked at his own behaviour. Despite her education, the years of belittling and threats have broken Mehreen and she seems unable to plan an escape.

Such “misery porn” is a proven ratings-grabber, but the regressive ideas it reinforces about women having to prove their innocence and worthiness through suffering are dangerous and thankfully outdated. Outstanding performances from Mahira Khan and Usman Mukhtar combined with their intense on-screen chemistry have made this addictive viewing, despite the negativity.

What To Watch Out For

Kulup | Netflix

Take a break from the saas-bahu melodrama that haunts Pakistani screens and walk into a different set of betrayals and broken hearts in Kulup (or club) on Netflix. This fascinating Turkish drama is set in the Jewish community of ’50s Istanbul, building up a wonderful picture of a diverse culture, a mix of religions, traditions and modernity in troubled times.

When Matilda (Gokce Bahadir) is released from jail after a murder, how does she reconnect with the baby daughter, Rasel, who she gave up 17 years ago? How does a singer such as Saleem Sohel overcome his deepest fears? Unflinching in its portrayal of prejudice, exploitation and historical injustice, Kulup balances the evil wrought by the cruel, with the simple kindness of everyday people.

Published in Dawn, ICON, November 28th, 2021

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