Aakhri Station is an issue based series, I knew that. It is hard-hitting, I knew that. It deals with women’s issues, I knew that. This project has some very committed and seriously talented people attached to it, I knew that. I love Sarmad, we all know that. All these boxes were already checked off before I sat down to watch.
Conversely, also checked off were those boxes that reminded me of other issue-based serials which though equally well-intentioned had fallen short on several counts. Too long and long-winded, women suffering throughout and getting redemption only in the last couple of episodes, too many side tracks, unnecessary additions of romance and glamour – all of which added up to take away from the seriousness and import of the message being conveyed. Hence my trepidation.
I needn’t have worried.
Stunned, saddened, gutted… I do not have a pretty word to describe my very raw emotions after watching the first episode of Aakhri Station. It’s not like I have not read about such happenings, or don’t know that real life is way worse than what we see onscreen, but the way it all played out and the very matter-of-fact Manto-esque manner in which tension was gradually built up, the teeny tiny unsaid nuances, the old Lahore setting, the creepy doodh wala, the local karkhanas, the bazaars and galis, authenticity of interiors, camera work, colors, that flashing red light – all came together brilliantly. Well done all!
But let me begin from the begining.
Jointly co-produced by Kashf Foundation and Khoosat Films, Aakhri Station is a seven episode mini-series, where each individual’s story forms a link in a larger narrative chain. Written by Amna Mufti the overall framing harks back to that of Anita Nair’s Ladies Coupe, where a ladies’ only compartment serves as a perfect setting for women of diverse backgrounds to come together and swap their life stories. But that’s where the similarities end. The stories here are very different and if Yasmin’s story is any indication then we are in for quite the [train] ride.
Tehmina starts off the story when she gets on the train from Lahore Station. Once she finds her reserved seat in the ladies’ compartment she introduces herself to her humsafars. The value of setting the story in a train compartment is that it cuts across social, economic and cultural barriers to a large extent and Tehmina’s fellow travelers’ clothes, accents and attitudes all reflect that diversity; introducing a transgender person into this very contained setting adds yet another interesting dynamic. Tehmina’s determined friendliness and Gul Mina’s lovely smile make for an intriguing contrast with the taciturn reluctance of the other two passengers.
And then enters Yasmin with her daughter Mano.
We’ve all seen 10001 stories of mazloom biwis with wastrel husbands and in-laws who despite knowing their son is at fault will still defend him till the day they die, and Yasmin’s life is not very different. She begins her story at the point where she can’t even get milk for her daughter and her husband for all his promises gambles away her very last memory from her mother. What happens next is what makes this one special. In a bold move team Aakhri Station dares to push the envelope and delves deeper into the darker side of the human psyche and shows us in stark terms what happens when the boundary between right and wrong is blurred, when humanity is replaced by bestiality.
It is obvious from her terse tone Yasmin has gone through a lot and would have probably continued had it not become about her daughter. And it is this horrifying thought – her daughter leading a life similar to hers – that gives her the strength to walk away. Where she is headed we don’t know and I doubt if she’s thought that far either. For now just the freedom to remove that ghastly blue nail polish is catharsis enough.
Eman Suleman has a piece of my heart after this episode. Her straight forward, no fuss portrayal of Yasmin touched me in a way I can’t explain. Her wistful touching of the bangles on display said so much as did her looking around the “morning after.” She wasn’t guilty yet she felt dirty, a sharp contrast to her husband who proudly shared news of his new venture. A fabulous insight into how differently men and women’s brains are wired in our desi patriarchy.
Adnan Sarwar was fabulous as Waqar. Kudos to him for taking on such a dark character. Zoay is super cute! Sanam Saeed is the star attraction here and after today’s episode I am eagerly anticipating the unfolding of her story.
In an era where telling a complete story in 39 minutes is almost a lost art, Amna Mufti’s screenplay is taut and her script very well-written. So many lines are written simply but are definitely not simplistic and make their point very well. And as for Sarmad Khoosat this is him doing what he does best. Every frame bears his signature. The alleyways of old Lahore looked like paintings come to life and the lighting was gorgeous.
We have all read of Red Light Areas, but to actually see one come to life quite so literally was simply stunning. The interiors of the old haveli, the old in-laws, whose faces we never quite saw, were almost theatrical in the way they moved across the screen. A round of applause for the young production team. Unfortunately ARY cuts off videos before credits roll so can’t name names. But well done all!
My one big peeve has to be the continuous background score, and that too so loud. Why? Can someone fix it, please?
All in all this was a very effective begining. Hard hitting, edgy and unafraid to make a point. Well done Kashf Foundation, Khoosat Films, Amna Mufti, and Sarmad Khoosat – Aakhri Station is a winner!
Written by SZ~
Aakhri Station ~ Ep 1