After a crazy couple of weeks I finally caught up with the last two episodes of Talkhiyan, and let me just say this serial rocks! Though an adaptation, Bee Gul’s Talkhiyan has legs long enough and strong enough for it to stand tall on its own merit. The story, screenplay and dialogues are just perfect. I don’t know how long it took her to pen this one, or what other work she has done earlier, but I for one am now a true fan. Add in Khalid Ahmed’s direction and aesthetic sensibility, Naveed Malik’s stunning cinematography, the brilliant cast, where its hard to pick between newcomers and veterans, the excellent production facilities, and we have a beautifully executed serial, one that is truly a pleasure to watch and savor.
What stood out after watching two episodes back to back, was just how well-knitted the various tracks are, and how seamlessly the narrative moves between various temporal zones – from Zoya’s present to her past, and travelling back even further to Bibi’s past. While Zoya is our primary interlocutor, we are in effect hearing the story in different voices and seeing it unfold from various perspectives.
We are privy to Bibi’s anguish, as she tries desperately to maintain a semblance of control in her rapidly unraveling life; we hear the censure in Zoya’s voice as she blames her mother, for Jugnu’s current state of mind, and traces his present maladjustment to back when Zoyee had disappeared; and we follow in Appo footsteps as she sneaks away to the church to find solace among Father Albert’s things. While the story is complex, the creative simplicity with which it is being narrated on screen ensures that we the viewers are never lost.
Even as Talkhiyan is about the myriad forms of hypocrisy and double standards rampant in our society, the writer and director are very even-handed in their approach to the story. Rather than simplistically resorting to the argument about ours being a male-dominated society, hence the problems, this story of the crazy Silverwood people underscores the fact that these skewed norms exist because they are instituted and perpetuated equally by both genders.
If one the hand we have Jaanu being asinine about Bibi’s ability to handle her own business and very charmingly equating her with the illiterate village women, on the other end of the spectrum we have Mama-ji finding excuses for Ayee’s late night assignations, bechara Jaanu thak jaata hai… jawan hai, tanha hai, but scolds Bibi for staying out late at night, after all log kya kahenge…
The thing I really appreciate here is the writer’s non-judgmental approach. We are never told upfront who is good or bad; rather, characters are allowed to evolve with the story. Other than Her Evilness, Appo De Ville, no character is completely black or white. Despite the fact that he saved Mama-ji from Agha-ji’s abuse, and notwithstanding his pedigreed charm, Jaanu baba is a sleazebag of the first order.
Similarly, Monty, who seems to be in line for the lover of the year award, is savvy enough to know which side of his bread is buttered – he might’ve been in love with Bibi since bachpan, but refuses to divorce his heiress wife. Initially it had been easy to relegate Mama-ji to the category of a bechari victimized wife, my heart broke when Jaanu dashed all her hopes of getting photographed for the publicity posters, but this time around I was fuming as she gushed on endlessly about her wonderful son, making his birth sound like the second coming… Mama-ji, it was Bibi’s birthday for heaven’s sake!
Talkhiyan is one of those serials where it is hard to pick one moment over others, but I have to say that the kids’ scenes never fail to strike a chord. Appo is crueler than Cruella De Ville could’ve ever been. What kind of woman exacerbates a child’s fears, going on and on about the andheri tareek raat as the terrified child is praying for his sister’s safe return?! Zoyee was beyond adorable when she played dress-up and teased her hair à la her tormentor’s. The way the two kids pulled out their napkins with a flourish as they sat down to eat the birthday lunch was so sweet. Loved the little added touches: Bibi gently tapping Zoyee on her hand telling her to use a spoon; barely noticeable, these gestures go a long way in adding texture to the story unfolding on screen. Sabina and Sagar are just magnificent!
Sanam Saeed was another one who stood out as the distraught mother trying to find her lost daughter. Clutching her child’s sandals to her chest and trying to keep her fears at bay, as she imagined the worst possible scenarios, Bibi finally broke down – her outburst was magnificent.
Monty was the perfect foil as he watched her unravel. Sarmed Mirza is impressing in his debut project. Resisting the urge to overplay Monty, I am enjoying the way he is playing this soft but ultimately pushy character. He expects Bibi to come around to his way of thinking, but refuses to give an inch on his end. Though he keeps talking of unrequited love, I can’t help wonder though if his offer to Bibi is driven by revenge more than anything else.
Hina Bayat is fabulous as the deliciously evil Appo. Shamim Hilali is superb as Mama-ji; I was laughing at the way she provided ridiculous explanations for Jaanu’s exploitative policies. The way her voice rose and fell as she passionately defended her son was worth seeing. Adnan Jaffer is outstanding as the “socialist” Jaanu baba – Marx might have a thing or two to say to this Oxonion’s take on his theory though! I love the irony of his nickname, ’cause he is so not a jaanu/lovable person. And yes, speakng of Jaanu, Nargis Rasheed is in great form as Ayee. The way she was all over Jaanu’s car as she was “cleaning” it was hilarious. She doesn’t say much, but her smiles and glances are laden with meaning.
Finally a huge shout out to whoever is responsible for blurring the cigarette in Zoya’s hand – thank you! Now if only someone could feed poor Zoya some khana that would be great too – the poor child’s been roaming around the whole day with only cup of chai. Mehak is lovely as our very tired, and now probably hungry, interlocutor Zoya – Jugnu ab bas ghar waapis aa jao, your sister needs to eat and sleep now!
Written by SZ~