Written by Nusrat Jabeen and directed by Shahood Alvi, on the face of it Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai, with its mazloom pehli biwi and the chalu doosri biwi wala done-to-death scenario, typifies the head-meet-brick-wall kind of stories I tend to avoid. But because I was bored and because I was randomly flipping through new serials and because the cast, particularly Shahood Alvi and Mira Sethi, appealed to me, I decided to check out the first few minutes.
This very intelligently executed opening sequence impressed me enough to give this one a slightly more serious dekho. Even as the shohar sahab complained of being taken for granted and other similar bechara main type shikayats, what we were being shown was an entirely different scenario. I loved how the wife’s face was not shown as she ran around like a headless chicken trying to fulfill her family’s demands. Who she was as an individual seemed to not be important, all that mattered was sab ki zarooriyat poori honi chahiyen. Just one misstep, however, and bas. Dant laganey ke waqt biwi ki soorat bhi focus mein aa gayi aur saath hi us ki sab agali pichli ghaltiyan bhi …
From thereon, the story settles into a more familiar rhythm; but even as we see Shazma berated by her husband, Muazzam, and meet Seerat and Baseerat, their two girls who starve for their father’s attention, we are also shown the other side of the picture. Muazzam’s backstory is nicely fleshed out providing a much needed insight into why this character is so boorish. I liked the speed with which the writer and director established the fact that it was not just the husband who was to blame for this very colorless bland marriage, but the wife too was at fault for letting things slide as far as they had.
With Seemab’s entry things come to a head. Not quite sure what this otherwise intelligent, vibrant young girl sees in a much married, middle aged guy, magar ab jab Laila ka dil aa gaya what does it matter ke Majnu gora tha ya kala. Initially Muazzam resists Seemab’s advances, but by the end of the 4th episode they are happily married – mitti pao on the self sacrificing pehli biwi and the two jawan betis.
Thus far this reads like a typical doosri biwi drama, but interspersed in between are points where there is a distinct sense of a shift in the standard narrative. For starters, we get a much needed corrective to Aunty Rafia’s (think Zindagi Gulzar Hai) naseehats that a wife must be a perfect combo of maasi + khansama to ensure a long-lasting happy marriage. What we get here is the obverse. Shazma is the perfect janasheen for Rafia and, therefore, should’ve been the most loved wife on the face of this earth – but she isn’t. What went wrong?
What I am enjoying here is that rather than waiting till the last few episodes to show some character growth we are getting Shazma’s soul searching in the 5th and 6th episodes. There are the mandatory tears and a main bechari type sad song that plays intermittently but thankfully that phase goes by quickly and we now have a relatively stronger Shazma, one who is begining to remember all the dreams she let go when she became Mrs Muazzam. My hope is that as the serial progresses she will find her bearings and emerge as a woman of substance by the time this story concludes.
For his part Muazzam too is getting increasingly stronger vibes that Seemab might’ve been a great girlfriend but as a wife she is no match for Shazma. Forget about pampering him, yahan tau madam wants to be served chai in bed, demands house help and expects to be pampered with chotay motay gifts, nayi car type. Thus far Muazzam is besotted so is indulging her, but it is a matter of time before his patience runs thin. I am hoping that Muazzam and Seemab will evolve rather than devolve as the story unfolds further.
The three leads, Shahood, Sabreen, and Mira, are doing very well and handling their characters with grace. Though there are situations where they could’ve gone overboard it is heartening to see the melodrama reigned in as much as it can be in this kind of a story. The problem is that we have seen Sabreen playing similar stuff before. I really like Mira and see her growing with every serial but am still waiting to see her play another strongly defined character like apni nutso Natasha.
It is with the supporting characters that the serial loses steam. Arisha Razi and the girl playing her older sister are fine, but the rest: Muazzam’s sisters, his partner, Seemab’s sister, her cousin, all are singularly unimpressive; watching their scenes is like watching a whole other serial, a bad one at that. That said, overall the story has so far been evenly paced and things have been moving along pretty smoothly. So far so good.
What really ticks me off is that this well-intentioned story has been masala-ofied to such an extent that any and all innovation has gotten buried deep under mounds of cliches and stereotypes. It was not enough for the makers to leave Seemab’s character as a confident, assertive, well-dressed, career oriented doosri biwi – those qualities alone would’ve been enough to give Shazma a much needed wakeup call. What we get instead is a Seemab who undergoes a transformation the minute she marries Muazzam. Now she’s needy, clingy, totally farigh, spends her days conniving with her chalako maasi sister and thinking up new ways to make Shazma’s life miserable. What happened to the life she enjoyed before she married Muazzam? Why do we need to paint characters in such absolute shades of black?
Similarly Muazzam’s sisters. They are leeches who see their brother as a handy dandy cash cow. The crassness and speed with which they switched loyalties from one bhabhi to another was really OTT and unnecessary, to say nothing of off-putting. Why are drama land rishtedars almost always so evil? Since when did the phrase fifty shades of grey allude exclusively to a particular title? As if this khichri was not masaledar enough there is more – shuk about to make an entry next week. So yes, plenty of kali hari peeli laal mirch added where none was needed.
It is the hope, that despite all the cliches and stereotypes and the eyesore of a decor (beyond bad!) this serial may indeed indicate an ever so slight a shift in the way dramas prescribe and perpetuate problematic gender roles that has me interested in Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai. I am not sold but on the fence in a cautiously optimistic way – dekhtey hain agay kiya hota hai …
Any of you watching this one?
Written by SZ~