Today, in the 21st century, where digital technology is considered a given, 24/7 access to the internet is taken for granted, and information is there for taking, there are still people around us for whom time has stood still. For them the 21st century might as well be the 9th or the 10th century. Despite all the advances in science and technology, all the safeguards provided for protection of human rights, there are women like Shamim, Shehnaz and Kulsoom who have no control over their lives and cannot claim their bodies as their own.
Living in a patriarchal society, where a woman’s worth is measured by the amount of money she can be sold for and sex of the child she gives birth to, Shamim, Shehnaz and Kulsoom exist at the pleasure of the man, the head of the household. If a father decides to marry off his ten year old daughter to a middle-aged/older man, the girl has no other recourse but to resign to her fate. If a wife cannot produce a child then she has no other choice but to step aside and make way for co-wife, even if she is legally still a minor. A mother can only stand by and watch helplessly as her son rapes a child, in the name of marriage. A husband is free to physically abuse his wife and throw her out on the streets because she displeases him. Nowhere in these instances is the woman’s voice heard or heeded. She is a non-entity.
In its third episode, Rehaai continues to build a powerful case for empowering women through economic freedom. As Kulsoom’s story unfolded alongside Shamim’s, we saw that while names and faces might have changed, the heartless society in which these women live remains unchanged. Yesterday it was Shamim who was a child bride and today its Kulsoom. Shamim was forced to grown up in a hurry as she mothered a child, and the story is no different today for Kulsoom. Only in this case, Kulsoom is loved by her mother-in-law. But again, Shamim’s love and support does not really mean much for Kulsoom in practicable terms. She still has to endure Waseem’s unwanted advances.
While Kulsoom is pampered to a large extent by her mother-in-law, interestingly enough problems are created by Shehnaz. Once her ardent supporter, the minute Kulsoom became her rival, Shehnaz’s attitude towards her underwent a 360° turn. Now Kulsoom had taken her place in Waseem’s affections. Not that Shehnaz had any love lost for Waseem, but because Kulsoom’s impending pregnancy and future child meant that Shehnaz’s own place in the household would become uncertain. As it turned out, despite her best efforts, Shehnaz still ended up on the streets, with no place to go and no means to support herself.
As compared to the previous two episodes, this was a less shocking episode in terms of graphic images. Though I’m not a huge fan of voice-overs and flashbacks, I’d rather deal with those than have to see the disturbing images of a hulking Nauman Ijaz and a child less than half his size. Thank you for sparing us those visuals! That said, I think the flashbacks have been used very effectively here. Shamim’s story is extremely compelling and it is great to see her trying to protect her young daughter-in-law. But is it just about sympathizing and empathizing? Seeing how vocal she is, and how unafraid she is of standing up to her son (that he doesn’t listen to her is a whole other story) I am a little surprised that the idea of continuing her studies comes from Kulsoom rather than Shamim. I would’ve thought that having gone through a similar situation, she would be the first one to push for the child to continue her education. Another thing that surprised me was the lack of discussion about Kulsoom’s pregnancy. Surely, as the oldest woman in the family, Shamim should have talked to Kulsoom about her impending motherhood. Given the social setup they live in and the kind of adult life she leads, where everything revolves around the issue of an heir, how could Kulsoom remain unaware that she was expecting? Even after their return from the hospital, Shamim kept pretending its nothing. In a story based on addressing the gritty realities of life, I found this part a little hard to digest.
With Shehnaz out of the picture for now, and Kulsoom down for the count, do we expect Waseem to behave himself or will he go find another woman to add to the already messy mix in his household? Will Kulsoom be able to continue her studies? I am enjoying Akbar’s track and look forward to seeing the role he plays in Kulsoom’s rehaai. And on Kulsoom, yes, I really appreciate the fact that the child actor was replaced by an older actress – does not make the story any less grim, but definitely less disturbing. The actors continue to do full justice to their characters, Nauman Ijaz was the standout once again. I love how Mehreen has juxtaposed Nauman’s imposing physical stature against Kulsoom’s much smaller frame to convey an omnipresent sense of violence and danger.
Overall, this was an interesting episode. By now, we have a sense of the story so the shock factor of the first two episodes was no longer here. Infact in many places the story seemed to flow along predictable lines. What I did enjoy though, was that the story is cohesive and well-plotted, so many of my questions from the previous episode were answered here. The narrative flowed smoothly between the present and past. The change in colors adds another layer of visual interest, making Shamim’s story distinct from Kulsoom’s. With so many things happening in this episode, the foundation is set for the story to now move in new directions – here’s to hoping for better things for Shehnaz and Kulsoom!
Written by SZ~