Almost 4 minutes into the episode the brilliant shot of the caged birds said it all. Much like those helpless chickens, with no greater purpose to their lives than aimlessly pacing the confines of their cages till the time when the butcher’s knife is placed around their neck, the women in Waseem’s household too have spent a lifetime confined within the four walls of their house. Like the caged birds they too have no control over any aspect of their lives. When Waseem chose to marry an underage Kulsoom, Shamim and Shehnaz could only look on helplessly. Even though they wanted to, they could not prevent Kulsoom’s rape, or her ill-advised pregnancies, or save Akmal from being beaten up by Waseem, when he accused his much younger apprentice of being unduly interested in his teenage wife. Waseem could do all this, huff and puff about his honor being at stake, while he himself was merrily having an affair with yet another woman. Yes, what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander in our patriarchal society. Women, according to such men exist for their pleasure and at their mercy. Like old clothes they can be easily discarded whenever men like Waseem get tired of them.
What makes Rehaai different from the rest of the serials out there is that rather than just being highlighting the abuse and tears it also provides a solution. Here even as Shamim and her two bahus are scraping at the end of the barrel to make ends meet, while Waseem lives it up with his third wife, there is a ray of hope in the form of help provided by Kashf Foundation. Set up to help women like Shamim and her ilk, this organization is geared towards empowering women through economic independence. Kashf’s success is amply and justifiably highlighted here as we first see Akmal’s family and later Shamim’s family benefiting from their self-help programs.
Unlike a documentary which is more straightforward, this is a serial, so along the way we have to have twists and turns, some masala thrown in for good measure. To nobody’s surprise, therefore, Noor Jehan and her conniving mother were not the kind of ladies to rest easy till they’d milked Waseem of all his money. Hence by the end of this latest episode, Waseem discovered that his beloved new wife has not only sold his shop, but was now demanding a divorce. As if all this was not enough, to rub more salt into his already wounded massive ego, Waseem was badly beaten up by Noor Jehan’s newest paramour.
For me the highlight of this episode was the scene between Rashid Farooqi and Nauman Ijaz, where the latter was sobbing like a baby. Reams can be written about men who routinely abuse woman, but cry their hearts out at the first sight of their own blood. How dare Noor Jehan, a woman, outsmart him at his own game, how dare she be responsible for his blood being shed, how dare she!!! Noor Jehan, you go girl!! Aisey mardon ke sath aisa hi hona chahiye! Needless to say Nauman Ijaz was fabulous as the crybaby Waseem – awww, poor guy! Need a Kleenex or two?!
While there is plenty that works, I have to say I am disappointed in the predictability that has crept into the story. If only Waseem had watched a couple of Bollywood/Lollywood films, or even sneaked a peak at a couple of our TV serials, he wouldn’t have been as shocked as he was at Noor Jehan’s harkats. The minute he fell in love with Noor Jehan and we met Sangeeta, we all saw the writing on the wall. That it all happened as expected was a disappointment. I had been hoping against hope at something different. Similarly Waseem finding out about his family working and getting infuriated is also a given. Hopefully there will be a surprise or a two coming our way in the coming episodes.
Another thing that jars are the dialogues – they seem too literary, too preachy, too filmy to be real. The lines today, where Kulsoom tells Shamim about her having stopped dreaming about her life changing for better, were just too pat. I wish some of the lines had been re-worked using simpler, everyday language. On a similar note, the lines about Kashf Foundation, and the efficacy of their programs, also sound like they are being read out from a pamphlet extolling the organization’s virtues.
These problems aside, what impresses are the performances. Nauman Ijaz is fabulous, and now I’m looking forward to him partnering up with Rashid Farooqi, one of our most accomplished character actors. Danish Taimoor is effective as Akmal. Samina Peerzada is good as usual, but her character does not leave as much of an impact because we are seeing way too much of her on TV these days. Sanya Shamshad is playing her part well. As for Maria Wasti, I am hoping that we will see more of her in the coming episodes; so far she’s not had much to do here. Most of all though, its the child star playing Rabi who has stolen my heart. What a cutie she is!!!
Overall, Rehaai works in parts for me. As an idea and a concept it is novel. This is a story that needed to told. I just wish it had been narrated in a less cliched, more innovative manner, and using everyday lingo. The direction continues to impress, love Mehreen’s trademark slice of life shots, which add so much flavor and ambiance to the story. Also the way windows and window bars have been employed throughout to invoke the imagery of cages, imprisonment, jails, etc is fabulous, and adds layers of visual meaning to the narrative. The idea of economically empowering women, enabling them to attain rehaai in a male-dominated society is a powerful one indeed, and I am waiting to see how it plays out here.
Written by SZ~