Baaghi, written by Shazia Khan, screenplay by Umera Ahmed, directed by Farooq Rind and produced by Paragon Productions, has been one of the most talked about serials in recent times. Highly anticipated because of the pre-publicity of this project being based on Qandeel Baloch’s life story, and that it marked Saba Qamar’s return to TV after her super successful stint in Bollywood. Having followed the Qandeel Baloch saga and news of this ensuing project with a degree of interest, I sat down to watch with reservations mixed in with expectations.
Baaghi is the story of Fauzia Batool, a free-spirited girl who refused to conform. Though she lives in a small village in a house where the roof leaks every time it rains, her father is the village nayi and her brother a doodhwala, she dreams big, Noor Jahan sized big. She wants to conquer the world and be known far beyond her humble surroundings. And all this she wants to do by herself for herself. Main na apna shahzada khud hoon… dekha dongi main is duniya ko ke Fauzia Batool ko shahzade ki zaroorat nahin, woh khud ek mard hai…
Fauzia does not say these words lightly, she means them. Though she appears frivolous, only interested in nachna gana and makeup, she is mature enough to understand the heavy price extracted by this conformist society of ours, with its strict definitions of what a woman can and cannot do. Here, dreaming is frowned upon, ambitions deemed undesirable, and aspirations easily broken down. Even at this early stage it is easy to see this girl is an anomaly, someone who vexes her family no end. Her father is the only one who shows an iota of patience with her, but how long before he too decides he’s had enough? Her brother is merely annoyed for now, but how long before his annoyance turns into full-blown anger?
In its first episode Baaghi has started off on a high note. Shazia Khan/Umera Ahmed’s writing and screenplay is crisp and Farooq Rind’s direction on point. To begin with, I loved how Rind captured the essence of the gaon. The slice of life shots: colorful gola ganda, wobbly rickshaw on the kaccchi saraks, vegetable seller with the microphone, gleaming matkas, doodhwala on the cycle, all were edited in nicely, and subtly drove home the point – the simplicity of the gaon versus Fauzia’s very complex thoughts.
Saba Qamar is an absolute delight as the devil-may-care Fauzia, she fits the character to a T. It is easy to see why Hindi Medium did as well as it has done. While I enjoyed her uninhibited approach to Fauzia, I thought at times Saba came off too polished as a small town gaon ki gori. By contrast, Nadia Afgan was spot on in terms of her accent and general body language. Sarmad Khoosat, his surma game on point, was appropriately menacing, a far cry from the sensitive Imtiaz of Teri Raza. His and Nadia’s scene together was one of my favorites in today’s episode. Ali Kazmi was another standout as the dil-o-jaan se fida shopkeeper. Erfan Khoosat and Saba Faisal were others who left an impression.
Technically I thought this was a good start, editing was crisp, the DOP did a very good job with lighting and framing and thankfully the background music remained where it belonged, in the background. All in a lot of effort has gone into this serial and it all showed in the first episode.
Had this been any other serial I would end now with a well-deserved round of applause for the Baaghi Team. But this is not just any other serial. Ever since it started filming, we have been hearing of this as Qandeel Baloch’s biopic. In fact so much of the buzz surrounding this project comes from that point of interest and curiosity. Imagine my shock then when after months of cashing in on Qandeel Baloch’s name and notoriety, Baaghi began on this note:
I get the need for legalese, and have seen innumerable such notices to understand that this standard procedure in case of shows inspired by true life events, but never ever in a situation like this:
I am not a lawyer but even I can see this as equivocation of the highest order. Basically, not only was Qandeel Baloch exploited in life, but as this fiasco shows she continues to be exploited in death as well.
Written by SZ~