Jaisey hi Bibi ko naukri milegi
main tumhen apne paas waapis bulaongi
Phir tum main aur Zoyee apne ghar main rahenge
with big bay windows and a badminton court and a small garden….
Magar kitne dinon mein?
Alas Bibi could not fulfill her promise ….
For a woman who had hoped to be both a mother and a father to her twins, had sworn to love them double, and had helped them nurture rose-colored dreams of a happy ever-after, Bibi failed to deliver. She failed her children, the very same ones for whom she had found the gumption to divorce her abusive husband, had faced down Agha ji’s withering looks, put up with Appo ji’s venom, taken on her brother’s scathing remarks, and rejected Monty’s proposal…
Yet, despite all her best efforts, Bibi could not give her children the happily ever-after she had promised them. The links were broken. Zoyee and Jugnu, two parts of a whole, were mercilessly pulled apart and sent in different directions. Yes, Bibi had failed – as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, she was guilty on all counts.
Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow ~ Ralp Waldo Emerson
Now with the burden of the world weighing down upon her weary shoulders, a very tortured Bibi could only gaze blankly at the poster on the wall which seemed to be mocking her…. It was so easy for Emerson to talk about boundaries and pushing them … How much more could she endure, how much more could she be pushed? She had sent her children away to protect them from the darkness of her life, but how was she expected to live without them? With her children gone, her lover dead, her family against her, and troubled by failing health, how much more was she supposed to grow? How much more would she have to endure to prove herself?
What Bibi did not live to see was that she had already proven herself. She had grown way beyond anybody had ever expected her to grow. Rather than wallowing in misery and playing the victim, this woman had struggled through adversity to empower herself. No, Bibi, much as I hated you and loved you and all else in between, you were never a failure. From where I am standing you were a woman stronger than many I know. You bore your burden with fortitude and passed through your trials and travails with your head held high. Yes, there were momentary lapses, and you made mistakes like the rest of us mortals, but the fact that today you have a lovely daughter, who still cries when she thinks of your unfulfilled life, and a son, who though troubled, still does not blame you and cleans your room religiously, means that your life was not in vain. Bibi, you did not break your promise. You did love them double. Just not long enough.
For me, along with being Zoya and Jugnu’s story, Talkhiyan was primarily Bibi’s story, a tale of her struggles to overcome adversities, all the curve balls that life threw in her path. Rising head and shoulders above the rest of contemporary serials which ostensibly address similar issues, Talkhiyan was in a class by itself. In a story about bitterness and pain, never once did I see glycerin induced tears, nor hear language that disgusted me. As tasteful as they come, as poetically written as could be, and as aesthetically presented as was possible, Talkhiyan is well on its way to becoming a modern day classic.
What made this one special was that rather than presenting a straightforward narrative, or telling the story entirely in flashback, we were treated to a brilliant intertwining of three temporal zones, Zoya’s present, her past and her mother’s past. We began with Zoya’s journey to Silverwood as she came to the little town that had haunted her throughout her growing up years. She had spent some of the happiest times of her life here. Here, everywhere she looked, she could see a young Zoyee happily playing with her brother. It was her twin Jugnu she had come back to find. But finding someone who did not want to be found was not an easy task. As she continued her search, treading along old familiar paths brought backs flashes of days gone by, fragmented memories cohering together to form a narrative compelling in its lucidity. Looking into the past through Zoya’s beautiful eyes, we became intimately familiar with the vividly etched characters of Agha ji, Mamaji, Jaanu baba, Aayee, Azad, Kamoo, Baloo, Lizzie, Margaret, and of course, last but not the least – Appo de Ville.
Appo’s was a character that will stay with me for a very long time. I find it hard to explain her away as simply evil, which she undoubtedly was, there was nonetheless a kernel of humanity about her. Not that I could even begin to understand this crazed woman, but there was something fleetingly vulnerable about her that spoke to me. Her breakdown after Father Albert’s demise was truly telling. That this woman did take care of Zoya, albeit in her own crazy way, and kept in touch with her through the years, speaks volumes about a warmth that existed somewhere deep within her. Sadly though this quality was never manifested. Who can forget her ruthlessness as she planned Baloo’s exit, and the dramatics she indulged in at the police station. With her constant admiration of her pretty feet and hands, and the unending refrain of neelay peelay bacche, if Appo was memorable in her prime, she was even more unforgettable as the almost senile WWF fan. She may have lost her looks, but wow! the woman’s venomous tongue remained as lethal as ever.
Among the other residents of Silverwood, the violin wielding, present-but-absent Mamaji was astounding in the way she could change moods, rationalize Jaanu baba’s shortcomings, and compartmentalize her priorities. As hypocritical as any of the others, if not more so, Mamaji nonetheless was as benign as a Silverwood resident could be, given their pretensions to being aristocrats. And who could be a bigger aristocrat than the Comrade Jaanu baba. This Silverwood heir was not an unreasonable man, nope, not unless he was pushed to the limits. What remained unsaid in this self description was that it seemed like nobody seemed to know their limits around him. And if we thought Jaanu baba was bad, then we are forgetting the dearly departed head of the family- Agha ji. An abusive, cruel man, he was happy lording it out over those weaker than him, but the day he was faced with the first real challenge to his authority, he threw in the towel and took the easy way out.
Two men stood out in Zoya’s memories, two who had been kind to her and Jugnu, treating them like they mattered. Monty was the first one. Bibi’s suitor, he charmed the easily impressionable Zoyee and Jugnu with chocolates. Sadly though he turned out to be a sleazeball, wanting to use Bibi for his own nefarious motives. Unlike her chastisement of Monty, for the way he treated her mother, Zoya remembered Baloo with a lot of affection. That his death was integrally tied in with events that led to the end of their time at Talkhiyan meant that that Zoya’s recollections about Baloo’s affair with her mother were hazy at best.
Whether the children ever fully comprehended what had gone on that fateful night is anybody’s guess, but what we do know is that the twins did share a lot of things that we as adults and outsiders were never privy to. It was only though a slip of Zoyee’s tongue did we realize that Jugnu had confided his deepest darkest secret in her. How many other secrets did these children share? What all did they remember? Did they remember Paul abusing their mother? How much did all these wisps of long forgotten incidents impact the way the children remembered their mother the way do now?
The final episode showcased everything that made Talkhiyan so special. Acting wise, you could not ask for anything more. Shamim Hilali, Khalid Ahmad, Sanam Saeed, Hina Bayat, Adnan Jaffar, Mehak Khan, Sarmed Mirza, Nargis Rasheed, Summer Nicks, Sabina, and Sagar, all left their mark in this serial. Apart from the kids who were just unbelievable, it would be unjust to pick one over the other. Lost among all these shining lights, though, was Hassan Niazi, who remained unconvincing as Baloo. Khalid Ahmad deserves a huge round of applause for his aesthetics and story telling skills. I hope we get see more from him in the days to come. Naveed Malik’s cinematography was superb, and played a huge role in making Talkhiyan the gem it has turned out be. The producers, Seema Razi, Raziuddin Ahmed, and Pivot Productions deserve a huge round of applause for having the courage to bring us something different and unique.
Though Talkhiyan was not an original story, Bee Gul’s adaptation was strong enough to stand on its own merit. A dark, somber story, it was nonetheless written with plenty of lighter moments skillfully woven in to the narrative. Written from a child’s point of view, it often presented a very tongue-in-cheek look at the self-important way we adults view ourselves. Many of our adult concerns seemed very unimportant when seen through their eyes, but then trivial matters for adults became important causes for concern for these children. I loved how Bee Gul managed to create characters so exquisitely nuanced that they seemed as real as can be. Week after week, I tried to do some iota of justice to her words, but don’t think I ever managed to succeed. I am now a huge fan, and can hardly wait for her next project.
After a long, painful journey Zoya and Jugnu did meet, and in that sense this was a happy ending, Talkhiyan style. We know Jugnu has had a very troubled past and Zoya alluded to her difficulties as well. Jugnu freeing the caged birds was a beautiful allusion to all the repressed stories that were now going to be voiced. He might’ve been impassive and silent, but he knew after all these years he was finally home, with his twin. The two halves had come together to complete the whole. They had fulfilled their promise to Bibi, to love each other forever…. they had done Bibi proud.
No, Bibi, you were not a failure.
Ishq nakaaam sahi, Zindagi naakaam nahin ….
Finally, as we come to the end of a very emotional and memorable ride that was Talkhiyan, I would like to thank all the devoted followers of this thread. Thank you all for reading my long-winded musings and taking the time to comment. Reading your insights added so much to my own viewing experience. I know I wouldn’t have appreciated and enjoyed the nuances as much if you hadn’t indulged me as generously. A huge shout out also to all the members of the Talkhiyan team who took time out of their busy schedules to join in our conversations and shared their thoughts and experiences – much appreciated!!
Talkhiyan, you will be missed!
Written by SZ~
Talkhiyan ~ The finale