The last episode aired last night. Mahira Khan fans exploded on Twitter with rave reviews, and I … sat twiddling my thumbs
What was that, I asked?
Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay has been a rollercoaster of emotions for Pakistani drama viewers. Some left watching midway because they couldn’t really digest why Mehreen (or Mahira?) failed to stand up for herself. Some kept watching for the ride. You know, when you jump on the cruise, you have to avail the entire ticket, you can’t jump off half way … paisa vasool syndrome? And some, like yours truly, struggled to make sense of the two intensely opposite emotions that guided my reaction to this intensely opposing narrative.
Let’s start with Mehreen
Mahira you delivered a role of a lifetime. With your arched eyebrows. breathing in chunks of air when anxious, and full-on expressions rather than full-on verbosity – you spoke to your audience in ways they were not used to earlier – and they lapped it up!
Mehreen, this super stoic, independent-minded young girl who had developed a tough exterior because of living in a home she could never really call home. Why was she taking all this abuse from Aswad?
But then, I argued, tough exteriors do not necessarily tough interiors make. Mehreen had always upheld this strong girl facade to tide her through the hard times (and putting on a brave face before her mom and Mashal). Why do I expect her to react now, when she is faced with the one and only person she uncontrollably loves? Mehreen was not a paradox of emotions. She was actually a very well explained human package of turbulence. Her disturbed upbringing, absence of caring parents in her life and living amidst a lifetime of toxicity had made her take on a tough girl appearance. But now, when left with literally nothing – no home to return to, an incomplete college degree and a battered self esteem, plus the guilt and blame of taking a life, that too, Mashal’s, whom she had come to terms with at the end, put her in a deeply compromised mental state.
I believe that the segment of the audience that was calling out for Mehreen to stand up, were just infuriated to see a young girl vulnerable to abuse. They wanted to reach out and save her, and because they couldn’t, they were angry at her for not helping herself. And just like they didn’t forgive Aswad for misbehaving with Mehreen, they never forgave Mehreen for not walking out on him. Audiences can be very exacting mind you, they are people after all. Perhaps, the people in them should realize that all Mehreen’s are not alike. Some will, yes, have the courage to walk out, and for that they can be applauded, but some cannot, will not do it, and they too are stories that must be told.
Have we not all been in a position at times when we couldn’t speak out? No matter how strong-minded we are?
And now we come to Aswad
Usman Mukhtar, you developed & delivered a character that received more flak than all your other roles put together? Well done you for giving it your all! Aswad was abusive, yes. A distinctly flawed personality with reactions that were too extreme to justify anything we did not see in his past or upbringing. Aswad’s mom was perhaps, one of the kindest, compassionate characters in the drama. We were not told anything about the father, so Aswad’s toxicity could not be explained merely by tagging him on to the ‘Mehreen killed Mashal’ bandwagon. Even if he did believe it, marrying Mehreen to gain revenge is the oldest trick in the Pakistani drama book and could have been done away with. Added to that, the mental torture he subjected Mehreen to, was beyond the workings of a normal mind. I mean, who even walks out of the house after marriage without even telling his mom? And, to top it all, who believes the help at home more than his own wife (and cousin) and mother, and then delivers a complete U-turn and begs for redemption after nearly driving his wife to suicide.
Take a deep breath, I tell myself. Calm down.
But then, came the revelation. Aswad did not receive any therapy? Aswad just begged for forgiveness from Mehreen. Which she delivered in one smooth episode. So maybe, part of Aswad’s therapy was, after all, making amends with Mehreen? Maybe his character could redeem itself, heal itself by treading a slow path of recovery along with Mehreen?
It must be mentioned here that Aswad reaching out to apologize to Mehreen’s mom, and then to Mehreen, was perhaps, a first step in healing – that made up a little bit at least, for what we didn’t see as Aswad’s redemption?
Mashal – The villain who became our hero(ine)
I have to say that Kubra Khan played Mashal so subtly, so beautifully, so on point that she was already my hero in this entire narrative, even before her epic dialogue to Mehreen. Mashal was a villain with pizzazz – high spirited, colorful and unpredictable. Umera Ahmed had fun with this one, and well done for penning her with total panache!
Mashal’s dysfunctional mind, her insecurities and jealousy was also covered up with a tough exterior – interesting that! But many, and I mean many among the audience gelled with her story of childhood competition, being pitted against cousins, and obsessing over the one person who is always supposed to be better than you. And no matter what you do, you can never be better than them. Mashal resonated with Pakistani cousin sensitivities and a shout out to Umera Ahmed for taking on this very critical cultural flaw that has scarred personalities & relationships for so many of us.
Mashal’s deep insecurity of not being good enough, of emulating Mehreen, of continuous envy, despite the fact that she had everything to be thankful for, was a scary portrayal of what we have all seen played out at some point in our families, and when we saw her, we realized … THAT’S what had happened. Many secretly spotted the Shagufta in our lives and realized (after that iconic Mashal-Mehreen conversation) why parenting is perhaps, the most important job in the world!
Omair Rana added volumes of context to the story with his brief yet impactful appearance. Laila Wasti needed more punch in her role as Mehreen’s mom. I failed to connect with her hopelessness and ground realities, and blamed her, just like Mehreen, for not being there.
Finally, the drama unfortunately, failed to save the dignity of nani, whom we always treasure as a positive relationship in our lives, But here too, perhaps, this is the nani we expected too much from (just like Mehreen), and she failed. Just like people often fail to come up to our expectations of them in real life. Shabo was a delight and a half, Aswad’s mom was a sprinkling of compassion in a world full of complicated humans – isn’t that as close to real life as it gets?
A disappointment of sorts was Safwan
His turnaround was as unexplained as Aswad’s abusive temperament. Perhaps if we hadn’t seen such a super good side to him, we would have been able to come to terms with the way he deserted Mehreen later?
Final thoughts? Some contemplation on the flow of the script. If Mehreen had already made her peace with Mashal, why was she hallucinating that Mashal was trying to exact revenge on her? Her guilt obviously got the netter of her. If the dog had died, why did the police not investigate further? Why did they not question Shabo, or were they paid off by the mammoo? Why did the mammoo want Mehreen to sign the affidavit when he knew she was innocent?
However, I have great respect for director Farooq Rind in taking risks and showing us a different way to cinematically present scenes, choregraphed with witty camera angles and sequences, often in reverse, to magnify viewer experience and take on story telling to an entirely different level!
And should Aswad have been forgiven by Mehreen?
Here’s my answer. Aswad asked Mehreen for forgiveness. She forgave him. Had Aswad asked the audience, he might not have been forgiven so easily. And that my dear folks, is how the story must end. We can either take a page out of Mehreen’s book and give a second chance, or we can choose to go it alone. She for one, has chosen, and we have to make our peace with that!
And what of my relationship with HKKST? Will I find it in my heart to forgive Aswad? Maybe, one day. When I run into Mehreen & eventually see that she is the manifestation of everything I wanted her to be, with or without him. You win some, you lose some. I have trust issues, you know. I need time, but maybe Mehreen doesn’t.
Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay drove conversations and that alone, perhaps, is a measure of success. It showed that people are watching our stories, relating to them, and questioning them. It shows that we haven’t given up – It shows that hope is still alive!