That I love Jackson Heights is not news – despite being the shy sort, someone who believes in keeps her likes and dislikes to herself, I think I may have slipped up here and there – but even if I hadn’t been quite as enamored I’m pretty sure these past two episodes would’ve sealed the deal for me. Though there is not much going on that should make one happy, what with the issues addressed being so dark ‘n all, but kudos to Chaudhry sahab, Madam J and her über talented cast and crew this one actually makes me happy. No, not happy as in oh I’m thrilled that my girl Salma got beat up again, or happy as in my lovely Michele is being played so skillfully, nor jumping for joy at the fact that these hot, hunky men are such numbskulls… Nope, none of that.
Jackson Heights makes me happy for completely different reasons. Happy as in, Wah! Koi to hai who dares make a non-shaadi drama. Not only that, with this one we also get: masterful storytelling – complex and subtle at a time when in your face, 2+2=4 formulas rule the roost; zabardast writing – taking on dark, depressing subjects and making them palatable with desi humor ka tarka; kiya acting – matlab ke wahan jalebi Jamshed is reeling in my masoom Michele with all the expertise of a master angler and yahan I’m sighing over their “romance.” What direction – showing all this without emptying out stocks of glycerine in New York!! Taaliyan!!
With the shabashi out of the way – couldn’t review last week so was carrying pichle haftey ke applause ka bojh as well – let’s get down to all that transpired in these two episodes. With character as meaty as these we have a ton of stuff to discuss and debate, so chalein…
Though she goes through her days enveloped in a fog of delusions and self-deception there are times when there are moments of clarity for Salma. Once she overheard Sikander’s nefarious plans there was no way she was going to simply hand over her jewellery. Her love for Iman triumphed all those rationalizations that she’d been using to pacify herself; no, Sikander was never going to change and it was up to her to protect her daughter’s future. That Iman was her step-daughter and Sikander her real father is not a thought that ever crossed her mind – she loves this child like her own. Despite knowing what lay in store of her, she still went ahead and returned the jewellery, and what happened later was no surprise to anyone, least of all to Salma.
It is at moments like these that make me want to applaud Team Jackson Heights for taking on a subject we’d rather not think about, let alone discuss. But rather than playing it safe, merely pointing to the issue and skirting around the messy parts, we get a full fledged study of how “normal” a battered woman looks like on the outside, how much she looks and sounds just like one of us. There are no obvious signs pointing to her totally messed up life, so much so that even her Millat fan aka Bhatti sahab has no clue of how far south things have gone in Salma’s life. Aliya, a stand in for all of us, tells her to move on, but she too is unable to see the twisted reality of her friend’s life.
And twisted is exactly how I would describe Sikander babu. Kiya cheez hai yeh? Oopar, oopar se he’s charm personified, but on the inside he’s as ugly and as cruel can be. Its all about me, myself and I for this guy. No longer satisfied with beating up his wife, he’s now also threatening his daughter, aur tau aur Bhatti sahab too cannot walk by unscathed. Beta tau beta amma begum bhi subhanallah! She who did not bat an eyelid while bahu was being used as a punching bag is now contemplating a run for the dadi of the year award. Wah!
Thankfully awards are not handed quite as easily, but if they were I would nominate Sikander for the slimiest shohar of the year. The joy he seems to get out of torturing Salma, not just physically but emotionally as well is quite something. The vivid scenario he drew of how it would be Salma’s fault if Iman landed up in foster care was something else entirely. Forget about Salma, I, sitting in my own living room, felt a shudder run up my spine as I watched that evil grin on Sikander’s face. I have no clue who Ali is drawing on for his inspiration here, but I most certainly would never want to come within fifty feet of that guy! My heart went out to Salma as she wondered what would happen to Iman were anything to happen her. Sikander!!! Tum ko tau ab Allah hi samjhey ga!
Ab Sikander tau chalo is certifiably evil, but what should I call that handsome wolf in sheep’s clothing? Ji, ji, I am referring to apne izzatdar parhey likhe Jamshed sahab. What I love about this track is how it mirrors Bhatti sahab’s track. Hence, Jamshed and Michele today are maamu and mumani Bhatti so many years ago. Ab bhateejey ko rokne ka kiya faida … maamu needs to jhanko in his gareban first. But, much as I can see where Jamshed’s anger stems from, vis-à-vis maamu trying to warn him off, I most certainly cannot condone what he’s doing either. Nope, no way! Good looks can only get you so far with me mister, you’d better clean up your act, ASAP! Yes, Jamshed, I’m looking right at you!
That phone call scene in the last episode was brilliantly done, in terms of writing, directing and acting- just a hint of a nod towards Michele and Jamshed’s game was out in the open. Exquisitely subtle, this scene packed a very powerful punch indeed. But then again so good are these actors that a few minutes later I was sighing over the two of them sitting together on that park bench. And for those who didn’t get it he first time around, this week jalebi Jamshed offered us yet another look at his game plan. Not once in that superbly executed confrontation did he come out and deny his mamu’s accusations, on the contrary, amid all the bluster in a roundabout way Jamshed pretty much admitted he was following in Imran’s footsteps.
But to give him credit Jamshed is not doing what his uncle did, he’s actually ratcheting it up a notch. Hence, he climbs on his moral high horse and proclaims he is better than Imran because he’s not cheating on a gori. Ab koi poochey, ke bhai saheb, gori ho ya kali, desi ho ya Amerikan, a citizen is a citizen is a citizen, no matter how you spin it. But no, our self-proclaimed hero has decided he’s the injured party. Poor Michele! My girl is so seedhi ke had nahin, us ka kab paala para tha aisey jalebi jaise seedhay mardon se. Pehley cell phone, then home delivered and home-cooked meals and finally an apartment. Jamshed miyan ki tau not only all five fingers in asli desi ghee but head fully submerged in the karhai as well!
Despite all this Jamshed still manages to carry a boulder the size of Texas on his shoulder. Har baat unki intehayi nazuk izzat-e nafs pe bohot giraan guzarti hai. Even though he denies it he’s just like his uncle – an expert at throwing pity parties. And on Imran, mamu ne tau sirf maami ko mamu banaya tha magar yahan tau sab unko hi mamu bana gaye. First Kathy saw him with Salma and gave him the third degree, then Salma did not answer his calls, then poor guy gets mugged and injured, then he comes home to more nagging, phir bhateeja has issues with him, aur tau aur ab tau barey bhai ne bhi seedhi suna di … ab mamu jaayen tau kahan jaayen ?
Imran Bhatti is brilliantly conceived by Vasay and equally fabulously brought to life by MJ and Nauman Ijaz. Its been fifteen weeks but Bhatti remains elusive as a character. For a man who speaks so much there is quite a lot he keeps buttoned up. Is he just a do-gooder caught up in a duniya matlab di type scenario or is there more to him than meets the eye? Perhaps its these same questions that Kathy finds herself asking as well: Did he really love her all those years ago? He says he still does, but then how and where does Salma and his boom boom heart fit into this scenario?
Fifteen weeks in and I’m still hopelessly hooked. Excellent writing, on spot direction, beautifully shot scenes, and fabulously acted, this is one of those serials that actually gives me hope. Hope that perhaps all is not lost yet. Channel walo you can keep churning out as many shaadi serials as you want, but saath saath keep giving us quality stuff as well. Surely, its not that difficult to open up a couple of slots per week for serials with stories that are not about saas-bahu/doosri biwi/extra marital affairs …please!
Written by SZ~