This latest episode of Dhund has to be my favoritest one yet, favorite because it featured Marina Khan – mera TV pe pehla pyar. But it was not just that. Waisey tau Marina akeli hi kaafi hain, but this latest installment was excellent in terms of writing, acting and directing as well. Thoroughly enjoyed this one!
But let’s rewind a bit and pick up the strands of the story from where we last left it – episode 3.
In the weeks since, Maria has opened up to the idea of helping others with her special abilities, thus bridging the gap between the living and dead. What we are seeing here is that not all dead are the same. Just because they are dead does not mean that these people’s stories are completed and their books closed. No. There are many who still need assistance finishing that last chapter, paragraph or sentence. Hence Maria.
In episode 4 Maria helped bring closure to a friend’s husband who had died in a car crash, his untimely death meant that he had not had a chance to say goodbye to his wife, hence his restless spirit. Episode 5 dealt with a mother seeking forgiveness from a daughter whom she had sold when she was in desperate need for money. This latest episode, 6, dealt with a lonely ghost seeking companionship.
Beautifully embedded within these stories are issues that highlight and question socio- cultural norms and taboos. In episode 4 writer Mohammed Ahmed draws attention to the question of widow remarriage. Even though it is allowed by religion, for many the notion of a re-marriage is akin to a black mark on the surviving spouse’s character. Here, we get a completely different message. Death of a loved one does not mean those left behind should also give up on life. Hence, Erum has a suitor, Kashif, with whom she considers starting a new life.
Last week’s episode drew attention to the question of adoption and how the manner in which it is handled impacts the child’s personality. Hira has gone through life searching for her birth parents, but her adoptive father chooses to withhold that information. Whether out of love or fear of abandonment, the question is whether it was Jamal’s decision to make. From his perspective he was trying to protect her, but what if she felt suffocated by such protection. What I loved here was the even-handed handling of a very sensitive subject, where both sides of the debate were put forward very eloquently. Also, it mainstreamed adoption, a subject not very popular with our lakeer ke faqir media industrialists.
This latest installment trained the spotlight on the story of a single middle-aged working woman. And this is where one has to stand back and applaud the writing. Here is a single woman who is an entity in her own right. She is not known by either her father or her husband’s last name, she is simply Humera Aunty. And Humera Aunty actually has a life! She runs her own business and lives by herself. She is not waiting for a man to come light up her life or rescue her from some mishap or the other. At the same time though she is not afraid to ask for help or show weakness. What a fabulous character sketch! Why, please someone explain to me why can’t we have more women like Humera Aunty on TV? Now this is the woman I wanna be like when I grow up … real and relatable.
If all this is not enough, we also have a frame story, that of Maria’s ongoing serach for her missing son Fawad. I am enjoying how we are given information piecemeal, bit by bit. This episode brought up the issue of Maria being abused by her husband and also drew a question mark on the timing of Nasereen’s presence in Maria’s household. So well-knitted are these intermingled stories that even if Fawad and Imran are not explicitly mentioned the police search for their whereabouts remains forefronted all the time, even while individual stories take center stage. I’m not quite sure how Ahmed sahab does this but it is very well done!
That Dhund is genre defying is clear enough by now. It is reductive to label it as a supernatural thriller, nor is it a story of a medium communicating with ghosts, nor is it simply a social issue-based serial – this is all that and more. Even though it deals with dark and morbid subjects the writing is very lighthearted. I don’t think I have laughed as much in a so-called comedy show as much as I did in this latest episode. If you haven’t yet watched it, I would highly recommend this latest episode. It was a lot of fun, without being overtly funny. Watching this took me back to good old times when comedies were intelligent and the humor smart.
For the writing to work, direction, editing and acting have to be on point as well and that is so here. Maria Wasti, sans her overstyled hair and dark makeup, is the perfect anchor for this series. I like the calm strength and sense of purpose she brings to her character. The lady playing Nasreen apa is fun to watch. Adil Wadia was excellent as the departed lonely ghost – it was lovely to see him on TV again. Jinaan Hussain impressed as Erum in the previous episode. Nauman Masood and Zhalay Sarhadi were also very good. Where all these stars are good, it is the lesser known actors who drag down the naraative with their monotone delivery and paucity of experience. Farrukh Faiz has done very well to keep the various strands untangled and not missed out any of the nuances in Ahmed sahab’s simple but not simplistic writing.
Finally, as an aside, I’ve been a Pakistani drama watcher since before I can remember, but in the past five or so years on account of blogging these dramas have become an integral part of my life. Ab because I watch so many so regularly my husband inevitably catches snippets chalte phirte, but not once in so many years has he ever shown any interest in the going-ons. Not my cup of tea, is his standard response anytime I’ve asked him to watch something with me. Dhund, however, has proven to be an exception to the rule. He is interested and how!
And this makes me question the myopic strategy of mainsteam channels’ marketing departments, who are only interested in catering to their perceived demographic – the 1000+ TRP households and the mythical dumb housewives residing therein. While there are exceptions, overall there is no concerted effort on channels’ parts to increase viewership by exploring different genres and telling new stories innovatively. No matter what channel there is always a version of mangni shaadi and talaaq story playing. Which industry in the world uses such a faulty strategy, one that stunts growth rather than doing the obverse?
Dhund may not be bringing in the required rating numbers but it has brought at least one new viewer in to the fold. Shouldn’t that be taken as a measure of its sucess, hence considered a model worthy of emulation? It is only with innovation and experimentation that mainstream audiences can be persuaded to look beyond their comfort zone, thus leading to an increase in TRPs, no?
Bottomline – well done TV One for going where no other channel has dared to go. I hope we keep seeing more of such hat ke stuff from you guys. Two thumbs up Team Dhund!
Written by SZ~