Pehchan ~ Episode 14 Review

pehchan

Ever since the begining I have been raving about the fabulousness that is Pehchan. For the past thirteen weeks, episode after episode, we have been compelled to face up to our hypocrisies, our double standards, our lies, our half-truths – yes I say and mean ours, as in main, as in aap sab, as in hum, as in hum loag, as in hum khud. Pehchan is not a story of a society and its evils – no, this one is about us and ours. This is about pehchan-ing that society is nothing more than a name for a whole bunch of us living together as a social group, leading our lives according to prescriptive norms arrived at by common consensus. Social evils that exist do so only because we make allowances for them. We are all equally complicit in preserving and perpetuating outdated ideas and ideals and responsible for the regression we see around us. In other words, we are perpetrating hurt even as we see ourselves as being victimized. Zaalim aur mazloom, accha aur bura, kamzor aur mazboot, naik aur bad-chalan,  yeh sab ek hi tasveer ke do rukh hain, sirf dekhney aur samjhney ka nazariya alag hai. In and of themselves these words don’t have much import, it is we, as a society, who imbue them with meaning. Ongoing accommodations for difference and negotiations over gender roles are simplified to the point of irrelevance and translated into absolute terms that render nuance ineffective.

Pehchan is not about what “they” say and think, “they” as in duniya waley, those unknown, nameless entities who rejoice in stalking and talking about you and me. No, Pehchan is about recognizing ourselves in these duniya walas. One supposed digression from the prescribed straight and narrow and we fear Laila is turning into a Kuku, or that this is her way of publicly shaming and humiliating Mansoor for his infidelity. That conversation between Kuku and Mrs. Khan was sheer brilliance in terms of writing. Mrs. Khan is no other than a stand-in for us/duniya waley  – hiding behind the rhetoric of loag kya kahenge while actually expressing her own disappointment in Laila’s behavior – and Kuku represents  the writer asking the hard questions: Agar mard aur aurat ki izzat ek hoti hai tau phir Mansoor ke kuch bhi karne se Laila ki izzat kyon nahin khak mein milti?  Why is honor deemed to be solely a male preserve? Why is it a given that safeguarding izzat is only Laila’s burden to bear? Mansoor se bhi koi hisab leney wala hai ya nahin?

This serial is magnificent in how it flies in the face of stereotypical homogeneous societal constructions of femininity and returns individuality and agency to the woman. Once the pat and easy interpretations are set aside there emerges a whole other narrative, one that explores the possibilities of creating imaginative spaces within which power relations can be re-organised. In going away with Sa’di Laila plays out society’s worst fears: give the aurat too much dheel and she will forget herself and her station in life. Aurat jab khud mukhtar ho jati hai tau control se nikal jaati hai. Ammi ji’s exhortations are an unwelcome reminder of what duniya walas are apt to say: What kind of a shohar is Mansoor, kaisa mard hai yeh … he cannot even control his own wife?

In a social setup where a man’s  izzat is predicated on his control over the woman’s body, or to put it bluntly over her sexuality, Laila’s departure has undermined Mansoor’s manhood, dealing a severe blow to his mardana ego. His mother’s ire is, therefore, not only directed at Laila but also reflects her disappointment in her own son. Had he but realized the grave error he was committing, throwing his fling with Kuku in Laila’s face, he would have thought twice about doing so. But is he really to blame for his stupidity? Mansoor wasn’t doing anything new, he was merely following in his male predecessors’ footsteps. Rather than questioning his judgement, shouldn’t we be looking at ourselves? Haven’t we as women, insecure in ourselves, allowed men to walk all over us?  Fearful of hearing the dreaded “T” word, talaaq, or the other favorite threat, agar tum aaj ghar se nikli tau dobara waapis nahin aaogi, how often have women kept their mouths shut and put up with their spouses’ repeated transgressions? Doesn’t a biwi’s izzat count for anything?

For her part, to me, Laila’s going away is not as much her going away “with” Sa’di as it is about her needing me-time, time to think through her options. Walking away from a marriage is not easy and neither is having a fling. Many are the confusions running through Laila’s head as she weighs her various options. Bucking centuries worth of social conditioning is not a simple thing and neither is it easy for Laila to take on the responsibility for her life.  Throughout their lives, Laila and scores of other girls like her, have had their choices made for them: first the elders in the family chalk out a girl’s path and after marriage her husband assumes the role of her guardian. How then is a woman like Laila expected to arrive at her decisions so easily? Her inner struggles, her indecision and  hesitancy are beautifully juxtaposed against the breezy manner with which she informs Mrs. Khan and the steel she displays when talking to Mansoor. How seldom is it that we see a woman’s story unfold through a woman’s eyes – told from the margins, her story brings to light a whole other perspective, one that is decidedly different from that which is seen through the lens of patriarchy and the omnipotent duniya.

Week after week I am left marveling at Bee Gul’s keen insight and her ability to tell a very complex story in such an accessible manner. I fell in love with her writing in Talkhiyan and this one seals the deal for me. Not to be left behind, Khalid Sahab’s direction more than holds it own as he keeps the onscreen narrative as simple as possible, allowing for the said and unsaid words to make themselves heard and felt. Iffat Omar, Sohail Sameer, Alishba Yousuf, Anita Camphor, Parveen Malik all are doing more than enough justice to their beautifully etched out characters. Though Faris Khalid is yet to grow on me, his Sa’di has introduced a whole other layer of meaning to an already compelling story. So yes, another pitch perfect episode from Team Pehchan – ab tau lafz bhi khatam ho gaye hain tareef karney ke liye … will a standing ovation do?

Written by SZ~

Pehchan ~ Episode 14 (For alternate links click here)

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9 replies

  1. Thanks SZ. Your superlative reviews were what made me watch this show to begin with n I am happy to say neither the show nor you disappointed

    Pehchaan is a tad better than talkhiyan in that the story is more simple …but has been made deeply profound n poignant coz of the superlative writing, direction n performances. Each episode brings with it its own set of questions n introspection. ….n leaves you waiting impatiently for the next instalment. This show is anything but predictable n I hope it shall continue to delight us until the end just as u do with ur fab reviews!

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    • @indepgal: Hey! So good to hear from you .. its been quite a while!

      Thank you for checking out Pehchan on my recommendation, so glad to know that you too are enjoying and appreciating this one as much as I am 🙂

      You make a very astute observation in comparing it to Talkihyan, and you are absolutely right that the writing direction, acting all take an ostensibly mundane story to a whole other level.. also, for me this one is all the more special because unlike Talkhiyan, this one is eminently more relatable to any and all of us who have had even an iota of interaction with our desi society, a particular mindset that we seem to carry with us no matter where we might be living… things are changing, but very very slowly … I dont know about you, but for me there are so many situations/emotions.moments in this serial that seem so familiar and thats why I found myself cheering Laila on when she calmly turned her back on Mansoor and carried her suitcase to the car where Sa’di waited for her, and for Kuku as well when she gave the heave ho to Mansoor…what a tool he is!!!

      So, I asked this question last week of @Atty, and let me as ask you as well …. what do you think you would do if you ever in Laila’s place? or where do you see her at the end of the serial.. divorced, back with M bit on her terms, or with Sa’di who professes to be in love with her?

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      • Thanks SZ for the lovely response….

        Where wud I like to see laila? Of the options uve listed, the one that appeals most is her getting back to M on her terms….she loves the man.wants a life with him…but not the one that he envisages for her- that of a stereotypical biwi who turns a blind eye to all his faults n transgressions. I believe her true emancipation lies in breaking the age old stereotypes in her married home , n getting M, her mom in law n most imply her mom to accept n respect her desires, aspirations n expectations….today these aren’t even acknowledged. The day she finds her rightful place in the lives of all these 3 people, is the day she will find peace as she will get closure. One can argue that the better option wud be for her to decouple from all them completely and live an independant life. Sure. But i am not sure thats entirely possible for laila. Firstly, she is too conditioned by her stereotypical upbringing to be able to break free of all the societal shackles without a cost to self but more importantly, she has as child with M. He will always be the father and as such, a part of their lives. Thus, she being who she is, will always feel that twang of regret for what cud have been….I am a strong believer in trying to change circumstances in ur favour…u can always walk away if everything else fails…so I rather that she lives a full life with M , after he accepts her on her terms, duly acknowledges his mistakes n realises that what is sauce for the goose is equally so for the gander…so if he could continue his affair with kuku post marriage, I wud like laila to also have her transgression with sadiq n only then choose to live with M. When that happens is when they will be on equal footing.

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  2. starting with a clap for ur review..
    Coming to the story, last week u asked me what do i think laila should do.. sorry i dint get time to reply, but i had to endorse @Rehmat’s opinion.. Laila should give some time to think over the relation with Mansoor by (may be) moving out, but in no way she should go for Talaaq straightaway.. because v all know k “duniya walay” talaaq-yafta aurat k sath kia krtay hain.. it may be worse than living with Mansoor.. reminds me of BIBI from Talkhiyan…
    Having said that, Last thing i wanted to see was going out with Saadi.. i agree to u that this was more like giving time to herself than going “with” saadi.. but this is what she told Mansoor while leaving.. By doing this, us k pas jo aik patta tha Mansoor k khilaf “duniya walo k samnay kia izzat reh jaye gi apki agr unhe Kuku ka pata chal gya?”, vo patta laila k hath se nikl nahi gaya?? Ab ye tau M bhi keh sakta hai laila ko..
    i could never think k itni simple story itni unpredictable bhi ho sakti hai.. Let’s c what happens now

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    • @Atty: Nawazish, shukriya, glad you enjoyed reading my take on this ep – much appreciated 🙂

      Re: your point abt L walking out on M and with this move having lost her trump card against him, I think ke nahin aisa nahin hua hai … she knows that Mansoor will never breathe a word abt this to anybody because he minute he opens his mouth the story of his affair comes out and how his wife caught hum and more than that ke she is supporting herself … ab agar yeh sab baatein bahar aa jati hain and Laila walks away (as she has threatened to do) then tau Miyan Mansoor ki izzat tau do kori ki ho jayegi … ke yeh kaisa mard hai jo ek biwi ko nahin sanbhal sakta?

      So her being independent or the fact that shes actually paid him back for what he spent on her is keep him quiet .. warna hamari society main tau aisey affairs kaafi common hain and har dafa biwi bechari isi dar se khamosh ho jati hai ke if she was kicked out of her huband’s where would she go… how would she survive… generally women in our social setups end up going to their parents/brothers’ houses and phir wahan un key saath koi accha sulook nahin hota (remember Mere Qatil Mere Dildar ) but here b/c L is financially able to support herself tau Mansoor ki tau bolti hi band ho gayi … hope Im making some sense!

      Re: your comment about her thinking through her options before going the talaaq route, I absolutely agree, and that’s why I saw nothing wrong with her going with Sa’di .. and what was so brilliant abt it was that she had actually refused his invitation for the reasons he suggested, rather she went when she was ready tand chose to go for her sake not for anybody else …. and I think Mrs Khan’s convo abt Kuku and her bechara-pan gave her the idea to use Sa’di to flaunt him in Mansoor’s face while at the same time she cou;d show Mrs Khan ke she was no bechari … a bit twisted but I think Laila’s been trained quite well by her teacher – miyan Mansoor .. so I think she was very smart when told him she was going with Sa’di (which she was and wasnt lying abt it) b/c she knew exactly how a typical shohar would take her words .. and she wanted to hurt him just as much as she had been when she had come to know ke even while he was begging her to give him a second chance he was not only forgetting their anniversaries but was also sending Kuku diamond necklaces…. ab itna kuch honay ke baad Im sure her dimagh must have been ghooming like a top so isliye she decided to treat herself to some much needed me-time.

      Acha ab yeh sab tau ho gaya .. ab this is what I’ve been thinking since then, and I would love to hear everybody’s take on it … we all want to see our women empowered, we talk abt no more mazloom aurat etc, so here in Laila’s case what can she do to empower herself. to make herself mazboot? How much leeway are we as a society willing to give our women to live their lives?

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    • @Deeba: Haina!!! Such a fab munh tor jawab to her ass of a hubby! And didnt you love how it wasall done with so much class and dignity.. not for a moment did we see Laila out of her character she remained true to her tameezdar and quiet self till the very last sec – loved it!!!

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  3. The empowerment of Laila has already begun….what really interests me in this show is how laila n kuku react so differently in a similar situation….kuku is all heart n fire…knee jerk, impulsive n rash . laila feels equally strongly, but uses her head n reacts after weighing her options….her responses are calm n firm as opposed to kukus fiery outbursts. Yet they have a deep bond n at some level compliment each other perfectly. Whenever lailas heart starts taking over her head, kuku shows her the mirror, n bang she reigns herself in…as seen in this epi with the while anniv gift wish for M which resulted in her decision to go on that hop with S. Similarly, kuku too has started learning how to use her head more seeing the way laila handles M n his betrayals n neglect. I am more like kuku so I watched with deep respect how laila put M in his place wo once raising her voice, changing her tone or losing her dignity…she was awesome! He was speechless ! 😜

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  4. Hi SZ fabulous review. No words . You amaze me so much. Your review make so much difference . ( at least for me) as teacher I think that when you want the student to behave you have to use strategies and you have to keep him where you want ,but firm and when you talk donot raise your voice . You give him your choice not his .to me Laila is doing the same way.she is firm and keep him where he should. But Kuku is totally different. They both are handling M in different way. I am really enjoying . Iffat omar , Sohel sameer , Alishba , mrs. Khan all are doing more than enough to justify their character. Bee gull is amazing writer, and khalid shab also doing a fabulous job , specialy outdoor beautiful scenery . Did Bee Gull write any story in English . Let me know . Hope to hear from you. Aap ke Roja kaise ja rahe hai.( sorry for my language, I am trying ).

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