The second episode proves the fabulousness of the first episode was not a fluke.
This week’s installment featured Hania, a grieving daughter trying to come to terms with the untimely loss of her beloved father. A highly impressionable teenager, she wants desperately to communicate with her dead father, just like in Conjuring. So fixated is she on her quest that anything or anyone who comes in between is deemed an interference, a unnecessary annoyance – be it her mocks or her mother, all filed under the nuisance, waste of time category.
What Hania has conveniently chosen to block out is that her mother is grieving too. She may seem stoic and unfeeling but like her daughter she too has lost a lifeline. Her daughter hurls all kinds of hurtful accusations at her but she absorbs it all. Yes, she was never at home, never arranged birthday parties, never did any of the things that perhaps Hania’s friends’ mothers do. But how could she? Her husband was an artist whose work sold sporadically, and with a growing child in the house the need for a steady income was a given.
Impressive as his writing is here, it is in his exploration of this mother-daughter dynamic that Mohammed Ahmed shines brilliantly. We have dramas galore that claim to represent women’s issues, but what Dhund illustrates in the span of 40 or so minutes they are unable to do in 20+ episodes. Hania’s behavior mirrors societal attitudes towards working women. It is easy to castigate and hurl accusations: being materialistic and uncaring, but did anyone stop to ask this working woman if she ever had a choice in the matter? Did anyone ask her what she wanted?
Sania Saeed plays this nameless woman. She is the dead painter’s widow, Hania’s mother, Imran’s co-worker – we know her only in terms of the relationships in her life. But who is she as an individual? What about her needs? Her husband’s been gone for less than a month but she is back at work – at office and at home. Where is her time to grieve? Doesn’t she deserve a break? Perhaps time to sit and finish her breakfast? Why does she feel so guilty all the time?
That so much is conveyed without long-winded dialogues and preachy lectures is a tribute to the writer, director and yes, the actor. Sania is breathtakingly magnificent; this has to count among her better performances in recent years – she is just that good here. The girl playing her daughter is very good and effective as the bratty Hania. I appreciate how her story underscored the difference between a teenager’s imagination and a medium’s vision. The child desperately wants to believe the notes are from her father, whereas Maria actually sees Haniya’s dead father. And on the that, the third angle in this family triangle, the dad, was an absolute no-go for me. That he was ineffective is putting it mildly.
Speaking of ineffective, Hassan Ahmed disappoints as well. Appearance-wise he is well-cast, but that’s about all. For a character that is supposedly dynamic he is anything but, and though it has only been two episodes I am already bored by his listless dialogue delivery. And that is a shame, because Uzair is the connect between Maria’s frame story and Hania’s nested one.
It is a credit to the writer – director team for their skillful weaving of the two tracks, separate yet together. Haniya’s mother works at Imran’s office and Imran is Maria’s husband. It is through his coworker that we get more details about Imran’s mysterious other life. What were all those trips to Lahore about? Is he still alive? What is Nini’s connection here? Who is Arjumand, is she dead or alive?
Each passing episode opens up more questions, building up the tension bit by bit. The designing of this story is done so intricately that we are gradually getting to know these characters without being offered any solid chunk of information about them. The fact that both of the nested stories so far were left unresolved is yet another welcome change. Jahan Ara’s fate may perhaps never be revelead to us and we may never get to know whether Haniya gets over her preoccupation with her father’s ghost, but that’s perfectly alright. I am liking the open-endedness we are seeing here, and enjoying the unexpected dash of humor.
So far Maria has been an unwilling participant, but now with Fawad, her son’s well-being at stake will she be willing to engage with these so far unwelcome visitors to her home? And if she does, will more ghosts start lining up at her door to get their stories heard? Maria Wasti is very good as the reluctant medium, her over styled hair and makeup not so much.
Two episodes is far too early to predict the fate of a series, but if what we have seen is any indication then I am quite happy to come along for the ride. Scary stuff + social issues + humor + intelligent writing + good direction + brilliant acting = a two thumbs up review.
So yes, I am a happy camper, what about you all?
Written by SZ~