For a while now, many of us have been complaining about the routine stuff we see on TV these days. There are three or at best four formulas that are continually re-worked to gives us the thousand and one dramas currently on air. This is not to say we don’t get to watch anything noteworthy, we do, but such stories are few and far in between. That said, when we do get good dramas, they are really very good. Based on its very promising first episode, the offbeat Talkhiyan, I think, is going to be one of those noteworthy serials.
Inspired by The God of Small Things, Talkhiyan has started off on a strong note. We met our lovely story teller, Zoyee, a young girl with unnaturally dark shadows under her eyes. She’s on her way to the town where she’d spent a significant part of her childhood. Naveed Malik’s excellent cinematography catches the eye immediately as we follow the circuitous path of the bus bringing Zoya to her destination.
The carsick passenger, the nosy-parker lady, and mustache-twirling taroo bus driver, the small town stores, stray animals, nickel and dime toy shops, the rows of colorful umbrellas, all minor details, seemingly insignificant in and of themselves, add so much to the overall look and feel of this visually stunning story that is about to unfold.
Walking down the unkempt path leading to the colonial era bungalow, Zoyee is hit by an avalanche of emotions, recollections of happier times colliding with memories of familial tensions. She thinks back to when she had first come to live here with her mother, Bibi, and her fraternal twin Jugnu. Back then her grandfather Agha, grandmother, Mama, mother’s aunt, Appo, Janoo Baba, and their family maid Aayee lived. Now, only Appo and Aayee remain. As Zoyee walks in towards the house, all is silent and there is a general air of abandonment.
From hereon the narrative moves between the past and the present as Zoyee looks back on her growing years. As a child she was playful and lively, but the girl we see today is quiet and troubled. Watching the past unfold through Zoyee’s eyes we see her close bond with Jugnu, her affection for her quiet but strict mother, her initial impressions of her grandparents, and her unforgettable close encounters of the nasty kind with Appo.
What stands out vividly in Zoyee’s recollections is how bitter and hostile their reluctant hosts were towards her family. Agha did not seem too thrilled to see his daughter and grandchildren. Other than a few well-chosen insults, he doesn’t say much. He prefers instead to use his hands to get his point across. The otherwise caustic Mama seems to be resigned to her fate as an abused spouse. From their conversations we gather that as a child Bibi too was not spared her father’s wrath.
As for Appo, she seems to have it in for Bibi and her kids. The way she says sneers every time she says Pa-ool, and her snide references to his being a non-Muslim hint at a lot of suppressed anger at the world in general and Paul and his ilk in particular. The episode ends with Bibi’s announcement that she is no longer married to Paul and is moving in with her children. To say that her hosts are stunned would be an understatement.
As first episodes go, this was a great one. I was hooked right from the very shot. The lush Bhurbhan setting, the intriguing story and strong lineup of actors, an exciting blend of experience and youth, made sure that that I did not even think of touching the remote. All the cast members gave a very good account of themselves. We are seeing Shamim Hilali in at least a couple of other serials these days, but here she has a completely different look.
Similarly Sanam Saeed’s stiff backed, stern Bibi is a far cry from her insecure and angry Kashaf. Khalid Ahmed is in a very different avatar as well. It was hard to recognize Nargis Rasheed as Aayee, I remember her fondly as Shaheen from Akbari Asghari. Mehak Khan, a newcomer, is effective as the older Zoyee. Over and above all though, this episode belonged to the young Zoyee and Jugnu and their nemesis Appo, brilliantly played by Hina Bayat.
Recently we have been very hard on Hina for playing musical mummy jaanis. Well, guess what, this time around Hina’s Appo is no mummy jaani, musical or otherwise. In fact Appo is one of the nastiest characters I’ve seen in recent times. But the way the character is written and Khalid and Hina have worked to bring Appo to life is simply mind blowing. You hate her but cannot help fall in love with her quirkiness. The way the very elegant Appo sucks on a chicken bone is something that has to be seen to be appreciated. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t watched it as yet, but trust me you do not want to miss Hina Bayat here!
Any mention of the crazy Appo would be incomplete without talking about her poor victims Zoyee and Jugnu. Sabina and Sagar are absolutely adorable as the fraternal twins. The chemistry they share with each other and with Hina Bayat is amazing. Just loved all their scenes together. Rarely do we see child stars turning in such mature performances. Sabina in particular is fabulous in all her run-ins with Hina.
The kids are also very natural with Sanam and have great chemistry with her. The bedroom scene, when the three are unpacking and talking about marriages was excellent. Similarly, when the kids are waving their hands in front of their partially blind grandmother and then later when Jugnu asks his grandmother about her blindness were both memorable moments. Actually its unfair to talk about one sequence and leave out another because each and every moment was executed really well. Kudos to the director and his actors for doing full justice to these beautifully written characters.
Judging by the first episode, producers Raziuddin and Seema Razi’s Talkhiyan promises to be an interesting take on Arundhati Roy’s modern classic. I am eager to see how Bee Gul’s adaptation deals with the very complex and controversial original story. So far, the first episode has set up the premise beautifully and director Khalid Ahmed has done a fabulous job walking us through the opening chapter.
Though Talkhiyan, as the name suggests, is a somber story, I did not walk away feeling depressed or heavyhearted. To a large extent the darkness of the narrative is offset by the vivid colors of the beautiful hillside setting of the story. Naveed Malik’s cinematography has a lot to do with keeping the visual canvas bright and lively. The aptly chosen background score adds to the overall ambiance of the story. All in all, I enjoyed the first chapter and look forward to more. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t disappoint!
Written by SZ~