Life is easily summed up in two words – beginning and ending. Book-ended between these two innocuous words is that which makes each of us unique and our experiences individual. Why then is it that generation after generation all daughters hear the same things from their mothers: shaadi ki saheeh umar, accha rishta, ameer gharana, tameezdaar mature shohar, tumhara asli ghar, jaldi bacchey, pehla beta? Why is what was right for her mother deemed to be right for Laila as well? Why do socio-cultural conventions dictate that all women’s lives follow a set pattern, a one-size-fits-all road map for life? Why is it for others to decide what constitutes a “good” marriage and what is the “right” time to procreate? Why does marriage turn a suljhi hui beti into a na-samajh bahu? Why is a wife is expected to khayal rakho of her shohar’s sehat and help him succeed in his career when he is not accountable for his benign negligence? Why does a woman’s road map only highlight adjustment and accommodation? Where is the space for her desires, dreams and expectations? Is Laila wrong in wanting Mansoor to appreciate her taiyyari? Is sharing a shawl, an occasional moment of intimacy enough to heal the hurt of seeing her carefully gathered roses strewn around her feet?
Hiding behind a tremulous smile and her eyes wet with unshed tears Laila struggles to come to terms with this new phase of her life. She is deemed lucky to have landed a catch like Mansoor, why then is this so hard? Hadn’t her mother told her that marriage would complete her? Was her mother wrong, were sab loag wrong? Tellingly juxtaposed against Laila’s confusion is Kuku’s pain. Unlike the younger girl, Kuku had flown in the face of societal norms. She forged her own path, but life is not a bed of roses for her either. Saddled with a man-child Kuku has no one to complain to or blame, he was her choice. She had thought with time he would grow up, but Khurram turned out to be a louse, happy to play chef and court jester while expecting her to support him. Looking at the scenario from Khurram’s perspective Kuku has nothing to complain about. After all isn’t this what all aurats out there want? Itni progress, apna business, a supportive shohar… aiwein aurtein shor machati rehti hain yeh nahin ho raha woh nahin ho raha…
What an aurat wants is a huge question, and certainly not one that a twerp like Khurram can even begin to answer. Forget about him, even Kuku and Laila find themselves asking the same question: What do they want? One followed convention the other did not. Laila has familial support Kuku does not. Why is it then that despite their different circumstances both women are equally lonely and hurting? Kuku’s Khurram is lost in his me-myself-n-I world whereas Laila’s Mansoor is callousness personified. He might be with Laila but thinks of Kuku. Honeymooning with his wife, he expects his lover to hear him out. Kuku loves fish, but it is Laila whom Mansoor mollifies. Whereas Laila is bound by social do’s and don’ts Kuku has freed herself from those bonds, why then does she envy Laila her conventional honeymoon? Why does her heart break at the thought of children she might never have? Is there really a difference then between a khaas and an ‘aam aurat or for that matter a mazboot and a mazloom aurat? Looking at Laila and Kuku doesn’t seem like there is much to choose between them. Why then are these labels used to pit one woman against the other?
Smack dab in the middle of these two ladies is the ever-so mysterious Mrs Khan. Dressed in hot pink, matronly pearls and full makeup (so much taiyyari subah subah?!) this woman always brings with her food for thought, literally. Khao. Dekho kitna cream se bhara hua, meetha aur crunchy… a perfect prescription for an insaan jo subah subah itna ghum kha kar nidhal ho raha hai . Barely disguised here is the advice she offers Kuku: Follow your heart’s dictates. But then isn’t this the same woman who had advised her to khayal rakho of her khoobsurat and qeemti zindagi? Fascinating and thought provoking though every character is, it is Mrs. Khan who intrigues me the most. Does she even exist or is she a manifestation of an inner dialogue that goes on within all of us, that other voice that plays the devil’s advocate?
Yes, I am enthralled by Pehchan. Bee Gul’s story is laden with meaning, every word every gesture invites further exploration. Khalid Ahmad’s translation of the story, from the pages to the screen, is accomplished with seemingly effortless ease. Every scene is so beautifully composed that it becomes hard to pick one over the other. Like we saw in Talkhiyan, here too stairs are variously employed to add visual texture to the onscreen narrative. Whether it is Laila calling after Mansoor or him carelessly shoving her aside, or the visual emphasis on the emotional distance between Kuku and Khurram, each time stairs are used tell a story rather than ignored as mere background scenery. The cinematography and lighting continue to impress.
Impressive too are the actors. Iffat is brilliant – no other words for her. I feel Kuku’s pain, her frustrations her anger, all feelings beautifully expressed through her expressions and body language. Alishba is another one who is simply exquisite. The delicacy with which she conveys young Laila’s confusion and hurt is heart wrenching. Sohail Sameer, yes I had a hard time with him in the first couple of episodes, but his duplicitous Mansoor has won me over. No, not that way! Mansoor is very much there on my hit list, just that Sohail is very convincing as the rough-around-the-edges-charmer. Fawad Khan is another one who has converted me to his side. He was so good as the court jester. Watching him in action today I alternated between fits of laughter and wanting to hit him on the head with a frying pan, and a hot one at that. Kiya cheez hai yeh Khurram! Parveen Malik, Qazi Wajid and Sumbul Shahid don’t have much to say, but their scenes leave a lasting impact. Loved the sparring of the samdhans, ek ser tau doosri sava ser. And of course can’t end without a huge shout out to the pata-nahin-hain-bhi-ke-nahin Mrs. Khan, excellently played by Anita Camphor. Pehchan would not be Pehchan without her. Coffee, donuts, cream biscuits, muft mashwaras, hot gossip, haircut dates, Mrs. Khan, can you be my BFF?!
Gaining strength with every episode this one is turning out to be quite the serial. Well played Team Pehchan!
Written by SZ~