The second episode picked up the narrative seamlessly, building upon the foundation laid in last week’s opening installment, giving more of an insight into Fauzia Batool’s family dynamics and adding in more shades to her personality.
Though she lives in a gaon, she refuses to allow her narrowly circumscribed surroundings limit her very big ideals and ideas. She dreams of a world where women and men are viewed through a similar lens and she dares questions the status quo – why is it just a man’s right to be famous? She wonders why is a woman expected to stay in an abusive relationship. Why can’t a wife divorce a husband who treats her like a punching bag? Where is a woman’s place in this male dominated society? Lofty questions all these.
Fauzia sees injustice and double standards all around her and vows to walk away – to a new life where she is famous and a star. How exactly will she get there is the one question she does not allow herself to ask. Firm belief in the seemingly impossible is what she believes will make it all possible. But all these are as yet just a naive girl’s dreams. The stark reality is that her family has promised her hand in marriage to her bhabhi’s leechar brother. This mangni will be the first real test for Fauzia. It is easy to talk about challenging societal norms, but does she actually have the courage to walk the walk and defy her family’s wishes? The precap promises a showdown next week.
I enjoyed the pacing of this second episode, where it acted as a bridge between Fauzia as a free-spirited girl and the more determined young woman that we will meet in coming weeks. Saba Qamar has surrendered herself to the character and her uninhibited performance as Fauzia is a delight to watch. I enjoy her in the lighter moments, but it is in her silent, reflective mode that she shines brilliantly. Ali Kazmi makes for an appropriately tharki suitor, who threatens to kill himself if he doesn’t get his way. Look closely though and this Dubai returned shopkeeper is a lot more complicated than he lets on.
While Abid is still trying to convince his mother, Sajid has already won the day with his dhamkis. He may have convinced his family of his sincerity, but his affections is only superficial. One act of defiance from his bride-to-be and all tall talk of love and jaan dena will go down the drain. All his bluster aside, he is no different from Nazia’s brutish husband. Babrik Shah is convincing as Sajid, someone who wants a butterfly because it flies beautifully but crushes it wings the minute he captures it. Nisho begum is believable as Sajid and Asma’s mother.
Of all the characters that surround Fauzia, my favorites have to be her father, bhai and bhabhi. These are all stock characters but the actors imbue them with such life that I find myself waiting for their scenes. Irfan sahab and Sarmad are so good in their scenes together. Sarmad has the brutish, hen-pecked Rahim down pat. Rahim and Asma are fab. Nadia Afgan has done these evil type roles before but she is so fun here; Asma is as colorful a character as the chamkeeley parandey she wears. It is easy to see how this wily woman has her husband wrapped around her palu, check out how she waits till the very last minute to offer to clean the milk containers. Saba Faisal is very good as the mother exhausted from being pulled in different directions.
There is a lot going on here but the narrative is fluent and Farooq Rind has succeeded in capturing the look and feel of small town life. That said, editing needs to be tighter. We are only two episodes in and already one gets the feel of stretched out scenes and repeated thoughts and ideas. There is a lot of talking here and not all of it works. In theory I like the writing and the lines are impactful, but not when they are being mouthed by an 17/18 (?) year old village girl. Moreover, Fauzia’s character traits were pretty well established early on and there is, therefore, no need for repeated reminders of gender bias. Why belabor the point so much, and that too abhi se!
Similarly with Nazia. Her lines about abused wives were all good in principle but this textual underlining did not work here, more so when the wife in question looked as fresh as a daisy. I wish they could edit out the iterative lines and give us more of the actors emoting through their body language and eyes. Fauzia laying in bed and silently playing with her hairclips was one of the most powerful scenes of the episode.
Another issue is with the styling of all these characters. Fauzia’s family is supposedly financially strapped, but going by the ladies’ unlimited supply of istri-shuda, patently new shalwar suits with matching dupattas it is hard to believe these people lack for much. Couple that with the ladies’ manicured nails, glossy styled hair, shiny new pots n pans – is this what being poor looks like? A bit more attention to detailing as per the characters’ lifestyle would’ve gone a long way.
My biggest concern though is with foreshadowing and the teleology of storytelling. Yes, we know the story and what happened, but this is a project on its own merit. There has to be room left for the viewers to make up their own minds about the characters, not spell it out from the get go, as is being done here. Fauzia’s is a complex character and a fascinating one at that and I do hope the makers have left space here for her to gradually come into her own, warts ‘n all. Looking forward to seeing how this story develops.
Written by SZ~