Penned by Nusrat Jabeen, directed by Shahood Alvi and produced by AnB Productions, Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai ended its 28 week run this week on Geo. Formulaic, stereotypical, cliche ridden, dragged out ending – yes this serial had all of these boxes checked off, but there was nonetheless something subtly different, an undercurrent of something intelligent, something innovative, that had so many us coming back week after week. That it managed to keep the TRPs ticking while holding the interest of the usually more selective viewers is quite a feat in and of itself and for this the entire team deserves a round of applause – well done, guys!
Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai started off as the story of a typical desi couple, Shazma and Muazzam, who seemed to have everything going for them – she was the ideal wife and mother, as dictated by our societal norms, and he an ideal husband and father, a good provider and doted on their two daughters, Seerat and Baseerat. But this was all that was left between them: she did her bit and he did his. They fulfilled their duties and responsibilities as a couple but beyond that, as individuals, there was nothing between them. Not that they didn’t have anything to say other – they did and plenty at that – but they had stopped communicating a long time ago. Now they were like strangers who happened to share the same bedroom. Enter Seemab.
Seemab’s entry causes not only a stir in Muazzam and Shazma’s lives but also marks a crucial shift in our standard narrative. For the first time in forever we saw a wife question prescribed social roles. Shazma had dedicated her life to her family, why was it then not enough? Wasn’t she doing perfectly what we as a society teach our girls? We’ve had serials upon serials telling us the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, or by being a good housekeeper, or by being a good daughter-in-law, why then did it all fail in Shazma’s case? Why was Muazzam dissatisfied even though he was married to the perfect wife? Why did Shazma feel ignored even though she was married to someone who by all counts was a perfect husband? Simply put, theirs was a perfect marriage, why then did it all fall apart? Was it all simply the other woman’s fault?
That the wife suffers more in the aftermath of a divorce is an unfortunate reality , but in this case Shazma rose to the occasion and refused to allow circumstances get to her. Unlike other bechari TV wives, who sob their eyes out apportioning blame and waiting for someone to bail them out, Shazma refused to beg her husband for support, and with her daughters’ encouragement and emotional support from friends was able to empower herself. This is not to say the journey was an easy one, it wasn’t. Shazma shed her fair share of tears and faced more than one adversity but ultimately her story is a triumphant one.
Shazma’s journey of personal discovery underscores a very important point. When discussing various characters and their characteristics we often make easy stark distinctions between strong and weak women. With Shazma we get a character who defies easy categorization and we get a real woman, one who makes mistakes, who is angry, scared, unsure and uncertain all at the same time as she cries herself to bed every night, but still wakes up every morning with a renewed sense of purpose. Shazma is how I would describe a woman with substance. Someone, who after being declared stupid and summarily dismissed, struggles and reaches a point where the same husband is now impressed by her, to the extent that he begs forgiveness and asks for a chance to start over with her.
While Shazma went through a lot to reach the point from where she could refuse her ex-husband’s teary pleas, Muazzam, in comparison, had a much easier ride. Granted he had to deal with the cuckoo crazy Seemab, but then again nobody held a gun to his head. Seemab was his choice as were all the rash decisions he kept on making as if on repeat. Though he recognized his mistakes and begged for forgiveness, it was a case of too little too late. Asking Shazma to consider a halala was yet another example of the entitled desi male mindset that were so well epitomized by Muazzam’s character. Throughout, unlike other serials where the man gets to eat his cake and eat it as well, Muazzam’s missteps were underlined continually. And the cherry on the cake, he was made to suffer the ignominy of being rejected by a wife whom he had once shunned – yes!
The best part of this high on melodrama story was that we were spared the OTT-melodrama. Shazma cried, yes, but not the crying jags of hai bechari main that we are so used to seeing. Muazzam was not the brightest bulb on the block, but he was not villainous by nature. We also did not see any physical abuse or bad language, everything was handled with tameez and tariqa. So much so that even the much-derided villain of the story, the hated doosri biwi, Seemab, was also allowed her dignity.
And yes, Seemab, an aptly named character if ever there was one. Her entry in the serial became the point from where the story took off and kicked off Shazma’s journey towards self realization. While both Muazzam and Shazma had their character arcs, I do feel that Seemab got short charged as she was easily relegated to being the ‘bad guy’ of the story. There was a lot simmering below the surface which was left unexplored. Her constant refrain of how she wanted to care for Muazzam, her desire to be loved exclusively, her constant need for attention, all were left by the wayside and we never got to understand her side of the story. What reason would be big enough to compel a young attractive girl to choose a middle-aged married man?
Basically, for me at least, Mujh Kuch Kehna Hai was a serial where the subtle subtext was far superior to cliche-ridden text that unfolded over a period of 28 weeks. That I could read so much into an ostensibly ghissi pitti story is in large part due to the astute direction by Shahood Alvi. That he got the nuances and was able to get his actors to convey those subtle unsaid expressions says a lot for about Shahood’s skills as a director, and to do all this without endless crying!
Among the actors, Sabreen Hisbani was fabulous and carried the serial on her very classy shoulders. That said, I would request her to let this Shazma be her last such character, enough is finally enough. Shahood played Muazzam with a lot of grace, something which allowed Muazzam to make a somewhat of a graceful exit, warna harkatein tau sab pitne wali theen. Then we had Seemab. Mira played her with a lot of elegance, but I do think a lot of nuances went unexplored making the character was too uni-dimensional and ended up coming off as a caricature. Mahi Baloch and Arisha Razi were good as Seerat and Baseerat. The rest of the cast was strictly okay, and their OTT makeup, hair, and overall styling did not help their cause any.
My biggest complaint about this serial, aside from the fact that we really, really need to move away from the pyar, shaadi, shuk, doosri shaadi, talaq, type plotlines, was the mediocre production quality. Presented as it was by AnB Productions, I don’t think I was wrong in expecting a bit more. But alas! Production people, trust me, aesthetic sensibility and glitzy packaging does matter – a lot actually!
This then was my overview of a serial that surprised me, pleasantly so I might add. Past experiences have taught me to give AnB serials a wide berth, but this one showed me otherwise. Here’s to hoping this was but a first one of the many more serials that I will tune in to from AnB Productions. Well done Team MKKH!
Written by SZ~