Picking up from last week, this third installment of Pinjra detailed the whys and hows of how Aasiya ended up as Jahanzeb Mazari’s vani. But this was already a given, what made this episode interesting was the skillful unfolding of the narrative.
To say feudal cultures are a world in and of themselves is something of a cliche now, but to actually see feudalism up close at work is a whole different deal. Many of us have seen and read about the control exerted by the jirgas and panchayat – they operate outside the ambit of law, the subjugation of many because of the absolute power of a few – but what gets left out is that in many ways feudalism continues and perpetuates because of the very people it oppresses.
For those who have grown up under this system, fear and suppression is so deeply internalized it is like a part of their DNA – to even question the legality of a decision, let alone protest or rebel is unthinkable well nigh impossible. Hence generation upon generation continues to pay the price for sins never committed. And this is what was saw happen in this latest episode of Pinjra.
One look at Mubashir’s face and the family knew Bibi had extracted a heavy price for sparing his life. Had he been in jail there would’ve been some recourse, to submit a plea in his defense perhaps, but here he was dealing with the omnipotent panchayat. That he would comply was a given. So much so that even after the death of his daughter Mubashir had no choice but to look to his sister next. Such was the weight of the panchayat’s verdict. The helplessness of such ghastly a situation was very effectively portrayed here.
Contrasted against Mubashir’s heartbreak and desolation is Bibi’s triumph. She might have lost a son but has walked away with her head raised. Her son’s killer having paid the highest price in the form of Aasiya, now a vani in the Mazari household. Just in case Aasiya was harboring any delusions her lowly status is made very clear on the moment of her arrival. Everybody’s subsequent behavior leaves her with no illusions.
How the serial will eventually turn out is anybody’s guess, but so far I’m enjoying the way Kashif Nisar and Imran Nazir have a firm hand on the story telling. There is a lot of emphasis on getting the actors to express and connect with the characters rather than merely going through the motions and mouthing long winded dialogues. The story and its characters are real and their dilemmas understandable. I am also enjoying the way information is shared with audiences, in little snippets of conversations. Hence we now know Shahzeb (Daniyal Raheal?) is Bibi’s third son who is currently studying abroad.
It is at this point that Pinjra underscores a very important point. All this is happening in today’s time, in the twenty first century. Families, who on the one hand are forward thinking enough to send their sons to study abroad, are on the other hand actively participating in this medieval system of blood feuds and vani, etc. And this to me is the strength of the narrative that everything is done very subtly. There are no agendas, no monologues, no sermons, no showy stands taken… all is handled with nuance, allowing audiences to reach their own conclusions.
Finally, even as we talk about the evils of feudalism and the oppression of the jirgas and panchayats in a mind boggling decision the National Assembly of Pakistan has recently passed a bill to extend constitutional coverage to these tribal councils, hence legitimizing them. Voices are being raised in opposition but to what extent will these make an actual difference remains to be seen. Meanwhile dramas like Pinjra are a good resource for raising awareness and educating the public at large about these endemic issues against which we all need rise and protest for change.
Written by SZ~