Prevarications, evasions, sidesteps – not quite lies but not the truth either. All those little bharams we keep. Sweet little lies we tell to cover unpleasant realities. Facades we build to create illusions of happiness. Like filmy cobwebs floating gently in the air, these silken webs of deceit rarely if ever make their presence felt. There but not quite. So intricately are these woven into our social fabric that before we know it the seemingly harmless half-truths begin to live a life all their own. Illusions no longer they they are now hard-core realities. To deny them would be akin to denying our own sense of self. From here begins a vicious cycle of preserving and perpetuating the status quo. Yesterday’s victims are today’s victimizers.
The past is reworked and retold as a story of triumph and success. Mansoor ke abba bohot hi social qisam ke aadmi the… bohot hi heartthrob qisam ke aadmi the… meri saheliyan mujh se bohot hi impress theen… susral walon ki larkiyan tau jal jal kar khaak ho jati theen…
Laila’s mother-in-law spins quite the yarn: glamorous parties, thrilling car-races, memorable paan runs with friends, what a picture she paints of the past! Behind that glitz though is a hard to forgot story of pain, suffering and humiliation: sirf handsome aur khush shakal honay se kiya hota hai beta… a momentary slip but a telling one. This mother is no idiot. Like father like son. Mansoor tau bilkul apney baap par gaya hai. She is fully aware of her son’s philandering. But is awareness enough? Rather than confronting her son and laying down the law, it is to Laila she turns and offers her sage advice: beta chaaron qul parh ke na apney upar phoonk liya karo…
The mantle has been passed. The khandaan ki izzat is now in the hands of the next generation. This is now Laila’s burden to bear, her duty as this barey khandaan ki bahu to maintain the status quo. A seemingly straightforward story of love and betrayal Bee Gul and Khalid Ahmad’s Pehchan is a brilliantly done, subtle yet scathing critique of a social set-up that prides itself on preserving and perpetuating ossified cultural traditions. That a living breathing young girl is being systematically raped – first her dreams crushed, then her body violated, and now her trust shattered – is not worrisome to those around her. They are too busy congratulating themselves on their suljha hua damaad and sajti hui bahu. Where does Laila the individual fit into this grand scheme of making the right social connections? Who is Laila to turn to?
Her parents want and expect a smiling sab theek hai report from her, her husband expects her to be around and willing to serve his needs as and when it pleases him, her saas sees nothing new in Laila’s situation (she went through it and not only survived but thrived), and her friends tareef the handsome and mature Mansoor bhai. Much like those delicate roses that fell from Laila’s hands and got scattered all over the snow covered steps, her life too seems to have slipped away from her hands and shattered in to thousands of fragments. She can apologize a million times for uncommitted transgressions, starve herself silly, shed innumerable tears, but ultimately to what end? How much does a shattered life matter to a people who pride themselves on preserving puraney magar mehnge baahar se aaney waley bartan?
Laila is not the only one hurting. Nor is she the only one struggling to maintain a front. Much like Laila who cannot help but twitch when her dad brings up the sab jhooti khabrein, Kuku too is hard pressed to respond to her client’s compliments about her kitna acha husband kitna caring… Much like the younger girl, Kuku too is learning the hard way ke koi apna nahin. Though surrounded by friends, a husband and a lover there is nobody actually willing to hear what she says. Everybody around her reads what they want in to her words. Initially she had placed her faith in Khurram, but he turned out to be a self-centered loser and user. He may seem like such a bechara, but even as he is baby baby-ing her, he never misses a chance to throw her weakness in her face – she had in fact enjoyed his nerdy sense of humor and found his brand of boyish charm amusing. No, Khurram is no Allah miyan ke gaaye. He is shrewd enough to know exactly which buttons to push when. I am very very bad but never unfaithful. Much like Laila’s saas, his eyes don’t miss much, but why should he upset the apple cart? As long as he gets what he wants, why should he bother himself with what Kuku says, thinks or feels. As for unpaid bills and broken promises – not his headache! TV dekho popcorn khao aur mazey karo… baaqi sab mitti pao.
Kuku is not a fool, but much as she would like to rid herself of this useless appendage she sees no choice but to put up with him. She needs the facade of a marriage in order to fix her second mistake – Mansoor. Another wrong choices of confidantes. She shared her problems with him and he conveniently read her confidences as a cry for help. Like a besotted fool, perhaps lulled by her confidence in her mazbooti and her daring to live life on her terms, Kuku compounded the first mistake by allowing herself to follow Mansoor’s lead. Later, she rationalized his marriage as his duty. She is not denying she’s still attracted to him, sharing chocolates, easily falling into familiar intimacies, but her minds tells her what her heart wants is not possible. A woman with principles, Kuku is trying her best to ignore her heartbreak and send him on his way. Sadly though mistakes are not as easily wiped clean as mirrors. What she does not know is that Mansoor is his father’s son. For him marriage is a mere social contract and the wife no more than a handy plaything. That a “liberal” woman like Kuku is unable to understand this as a given is a challenge to Mansoor’s manhood. How dare Kuku spurn him?
Bas Kuku thak gaya hoon main, enough! Main apne aur tumhare liye kuch nahin kar paya hoon. Nahin samjha saka main apni maa ko… haan main ek bohot hi kamzor insaan hoon…
In a social set-up where patriarchy reigns supreme, Mansoor’s resort to these I-am-the-true-victim-here tactics indicate how down and dirty this man is willing to get. This is not about love. This in not about his relationship with Kuku. This now about his mardana ego. If he truly loved her he would not taunt her about her suicide attempt, neither would he conveniently forget the truth about Kuku’s marriage. That faint begining of a smirk on his face, when he sees the conflict on Kuku’s face, gives his game away. He will play with her weakness and toy with her. She is to be taught a lesson and what better way to diminish her than to reduce her to a sobbing hysterical caricature.What bigger insult for Kuku than to be described as the dreaded mazloom other woman. That phone call scene was BRILLIANT! How, just how could any man be so cruel?!?
Khair, Mansoor might’ve won this round, but the war has just begun. He forgets who he is dealing with. Kuku might have let her guard down and made mistakes, but she did not get labelled a mazboot aurat for no reason. He’s shocked her for now, but I don’t think she will allow him to toy with her this easily again. Laila too might’ve spent the night crying, but her refusal to accept the phone indicates this girl is not someone who will give in meekly. Her mother’s tarbiyat compelled her to go along with this accha rishta, but I suspect it is her father’s influence that will show her the way out of this not-so-accha rishta. Mansoor might be his father’s son, but Laila is not his mother. Mansoor miyan, ab aap apni khair manayen!
That the whole episode was excellent goes without saying, but the phone call sequence was absolutely chilling. Sensitively written, fabulously directed, edited well, and magnificently acted, this was the scene of the episode, perhaps even the serial. Loved how Bee Gul and Khalid Ahmed built up to the moment, then came the shocker and gradually a return to the deceptive calm. So much was crushed and pulverized but not a sound. Sheer brilliance!
Iffat, Alishba, Sohail and Sumbul, all deserve a huge pat on the back for creating that stunning moment, the kind that haunts you for a very long time. Kudos as well to Fawad Khan for his very annoying Khurram. Naveed Malik’s cinematography is top notch. Lighting, scene compositions all are gelling together just so. Suffice it to say I am loving every minute of this ride. A Plus, the producers, writer, director, cast and crew all take a bow – this was yet another winner from Team Pehchan!
Written by SZ~