Aakhri Station ~ Episode 2 Review

Last week Yasmin’s story served as a gut punch to not only us the viewers but also her companions on the train. A furtive glance from one, self-conscious peek look-around another, an uncomfortable smile from the third, the pursed lips of the fourth – Yasmin’s was a story as unfamiliar to these women as it was familiar. Details were different but the pain, suffering and depth of despair resonated. It was as if her story was theirs. And it may well have been. Their discomfited reactions affirmed their stories were but only variations on the theme.

Then it was Yasmin and today it was Gulmeena’s turn to reflect.

Wedding songs bring to mind memories, of times when one home is left behind for another; the tinge of sadness associated with leaving behind the safe and familiar is replaced with the anticipation and excitement of starting life anew. But not everybody leaves home out of choice. Not everyone gets to choose. Gulmeena and her family are forced to move due to conflict and strife in their hometown.

As a displaced person, moving from one town to another, Gulmeena’s life changes forever. Not only did she lose her home but lost alongside were her dreams of a happy ever after. She who had once been a beloved wife with a baby on the way was now fleeing a miserable existence – an abused wife of a man old enough to be her grandfather – to look for her son who had been forcibly taken away from her.

Had Yasmin and Gulmeena been by themselves they would’ve continued on suffering in silence, weighed down by the burden of their lives. For that’s how it works in societies governed by patriarchy, a system where women are not allowed to be authors of their story. Their voices muted whilst others decide the direction of their lives. But Yasmin and Gulmeena are not alone, they have children.

It is the concern for a better future for their children that causes Yasmin and Gulmeena to challenge the status quo and they opt out of what was essentially bonded labor. Their lives might have started off being scripted by others but from hereon forward they were going to author their own narratives.

Exchanging stories is not only an act of catharsis but also creates up a safe space where these women can speak without the fear of being judged. Opening up to a peer group allows them to share doubts and confusions about their actions, talk about the guilt that society places on women who dare walk away.

Tehmina’s gentle assurances help allay not just Yasmin’s misgivings but also resonate with those listening carefully to each word exchanged between the two. It is only after the past has been dealt with  that the healing process can begin. Last week it was the blue nail polish, this time the red lipstick is rubbed off. Slowly and gradually Yasmin is ridding herself off the unnecessary and unwanted reminders.  And thus begins the process of self- realization, one tiny step at a time.

Seamlessly picking up the threads from last week, this second episode of Akhri Station made for a compelling watch. Gulmeena’s story enveloped a number of inter-related issues included among them: socio-economic disruptions in everyday lives on account of political unrest, trauma of displacement, gender bias, cultural bias against medical aid for women, lack of healthcare facilities at refugee centers, problem of being a widow/single woman, wives being treated as bonded labor, and no protection of mothers’ rights.

Even as the two stories we’ve seen so far have been very different in tone and texture and in terms of issues they’ve touched on, I am loving how well-knit these two plus the frame story are, and appreciating the expertise with which the various issues have been threaded in alongside. I liked how Yasmin’s story got a proper closure today, the song leading into Gulmeena’s story was very nicely done and made the transition very smooth.I like how Tehmina’s character is being gradually built up, acting as it does as the bridge between various stories.

While I enjoyed Gulmeena’s story I have to say I did not find this episode as compelling a watch as the first one. Partly because the dialogues sounded stilted and in some places foreign to the setting and the overall narrative was a bumpy ride. Gulmeena played by Amara Butt was better in the latter half of the episode. The rest of the actors were not very convincing though they looked the part and had accents right. That old husband was creepy!!

Among the other actors, Eman Suleman was again very good. With their reaction shots Farah Tufail and Malika Zafar have me intrigued about their stories. The star of this episode, apart from the cinematographer, has to be Sanam Saeed. She had only a few clichéd lines to say, but the way she said them and her performance throughout, the little smile, the glance away out the window, little touches that added much-needed gravitas to this episode.

I had complained about the sound last week and it was gratifying to see that issue fixed. Visually this episode was as much of a delight as the first one, the shot of the door latch was quite terrifying. The village scenes were all beautifully shot. The precap has me looking forward to the next episode.

So yeah, I’m still on board this train – what about you all? Looking forward to your thoughts.

Written by SZ~

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12 replies

  1. Fabulous review as always, SZ. The first episode packed a punch; this one – not so much. Eman Suleiman and Adnan Sarwar were fantastic last week, but the acting was very weak in this episode, and I think that’s the main reason I wasn’t as immersed. Sanam Saeed’s lines were cliched, but I agree about her acting, especially liked the way she looked at Yasmin and her daughter.
    That said though, Akhri Station is the best thing on air right now. The premise is fantastic, so is the direction. I just want more of Yasmin and her daughter – I have grown so attached to her character. Funny how drama serials with 20+ episodes can’t do what Akhri Station’s first episode did in 40 minutes.The promo for the next one intrigues me.

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    • @MM: Hello!
      Seems like all of us here are pretty much on the same page – expectations had gone through the roof after that phenomenal first ep and so we all came into this one expecting the bar to be raised even higher – khair ..as you rightly say it is still by the far the best thing on tv right now – so let’s keep our fingers crossed for the next ep, which does indeed look interesting.

      Re: the comparison of impact I think its length allowed to the story tellers that is doing the trick here. Had they shown us Yasmin’s story stretched out over 5 episodes I dont think any of us would’ve felt that visceral blow .. .its the brevity that causes the storytellers to edit out the trimmings …My sincerest desire and hope for this series is that it does phenomenally well ratings wise so that the other copy cats can rethink their 30+ ep model …

      and yes! Eman Suleman and Zoay make an adorable mom n daughter pair ❤

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    • Hello! Lovely to hear from you 🙂 Thank you for checking this out on my recc.. I’m glad you’re enjoying it warna tau anday tamatar ka date lagta hai! 😜

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  2. Great review, as always, SZ!

    I enjoyed this episode, and the way it linked back to certain aspects of Yasmin’s story, and to the train journey itself. I also thought it had a certain visual brilliance to it, between the bright green fields at the beginning to the grayish mud that Gulmeena slaps on the walls. As you noted, the clattering door latch was quite affecting, and that visual stayed with me for a while after I watched.

    I thought the actress playing Gulmeena was quite good (props to her for her roti making skills too), but I think the writing let her down a bit in this episode. There was a bit too much expository dialogue (not helped by the fact that I had to pause so often to read the Urdu subtitles). Whereas in the first episode, even the ne’er do well husband felt like a real and inhabited character, the non-Gulmeena characters here were just check-the-box tropes and they didn’t really work for me.

    This episode wasn’t quite the home run the first one was for me. The strength of the first installment was, IMO, a sort of effortless depiction of the milieu–the streets, the characters, etc.–that underlined Yasmin’s story. In this episode, things felt a bit more stilted, if that makes sense.

    I don’t know if it’s possible to identify a theme after just two episodes, but I really like the idea of women actively attempting to change their own situations. Yasmin and Gulmeena have both taken massive risks for the sake of their children, and it may be that there’s more misery ahead for both of them, but they’ve both taken that first critical step, and I’m here for the rest of this train ride!

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    • @RK: Hey!
      Yes, the writing was too clunky and the dialogues really banal and so much of it looked and sounded scripted that I had a hard time getting in to this story in the beginning and thats why I was even more glad that they started off with Yasmin’s story to re-orient us .. Also, I think the narrative was very cut up, partly because they moved so much but just otherwise too the story didnt flow smoothly – so no matter the bells n whistles it didnt quite evoke that same feeling, also as we are all saying the firs ep set the bar very high ..

      Yes, self empowerment is the theme and sisterhood as a source of support is another idea being pushed through here .. I guess one could call it group therapy desi style..

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  3. Wonderful review SZ . Very heart touching stories . This Akhari Station reminds me of Long time back I saw Nina Gupta short serial” Ladies” I forgot the whole name but it was also a train ride .
    In this episod it was hard for me to understand the language .
    Take care in this crazy weather .

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    • @Ranjan: hello! Lovely to hear from you – I was wondering if you would start this one or not.. good to have you on board 👍
      Yes, that was ladies train – a short episodic serial I think. I haven’t watched it but do know abt it.
      Yes, the subtitles were an issue and I think enough ppl have complained, so hopefully they will fix that problem if there are other similar types of stories.

      Thank you 🙂 it’s started snowing a couple of hours ago but it’s ok I’m home now so it’s all good – thanks for checking in.

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  4. After the first episode i was really looking forward for this one but didn’t understand half of the episode bcoz of urdu subtitles and may be that’s the reason couldn’t connect with this one that much. Though it was a strong storyline but was conveyed in a rush. Honestly gulmeena also couldn’t emote her sufferings that well. I hope the next story is better.

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    • @Shabina: hello ji!
      Yes, you are not alone – the subtitles threw quite a few ppl off, including those in PK, because so many dont read Urdu. Many ppl have complained and I think the producers are now well aware of this problem, so hopefully if another story needs subtitles they will think twice.

      I think this story was also hard to connect to because this not a very common situation that many of us can relate to immediately, the Internally Displaced People. So like in Pakistan there are whole sections of populations that have been forced to leave behind their houses and lands etc and live a refugee lifestyle and this has resulted in breaking up the centuries old lifestyle, impacted culture traditions and caused ruptures in families etc …… and all this we saw rushed through quickly along with a host of other problems, which kind of made it all over the place and difficult to focus on one issue or one problem ..whereas last week it was one big issue and then other related tangential issues …

      I hope next week the story is more coherent and less spread all over ….

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  5. Hey SZ
    Yes , a compelling watch but so sad at the same time and makes one wonder what a miserable life must they lead .The urdu font was not easy to read so I hope they improve on that.
    Gulmeena , good job running away but jaate jaate aik laat martee apney budhay tharkee shohar ko , why do such men exist ? ?

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    • Deeba: that husband!!!! Can you even imagine?!?! At that age and munh mein daant nahin and khushfehmi itni ke he imagined ke she was lusting after him 😱🤬
      Honestly ek aadh laga deni chahiye thi us ko jaatey jaatey

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