Bulleh Shah ooh kon utaam tera yaar,
Ooss dey hath Quraan hai, ossay gul zanaar.
Before I go further let us all take a moment to enjoy Shanno and Khalil! Given the latest trend for mashups which would you prefer: Shalil or Khanno, either way this, Khatwateen-o-Hazrat, is the beginning of the end. As I impatiently devoured this latest episode a sinking feeling began to set in, a feeling that’s not going to go away anytime soon, which is why I give you Shanno’s dua and Khalil’s safar all to the melody of Sohail Haider’s Nimi Nimi Aag Te, one last time. For making us fall in love with you as much as you love each other, Shanno and Khalil, this one’s for the both of you.
Now, second things second, as I said above this is where the beginning of the end begun (if I were you I’d definitely click on this link it’s perhaps the best version of Lana Del Rey’s This is What Makes Us Girls). Kyun, aakhir kyun? Just when I was starting to fall in love with Shalil. Alas, some loves never let you go, but I guess, at the same time, some loves are never meant to be. This has been a year of lessons, the worst one being when a drama is good and gets you hooked, kill one or both of the leads. It happened to me in Bunty I Love You and to Kanwal in Pyare Afzal. Now, the same thing is going to happen here, don’t believe me, here’s what next week has in store for us.
Lekin why lose sight of the here and now, right? Wrong! Jab mohabbat khuda ban jaye tab ya Allah say mulaqaat hoti hai ya phir aapnay chahanay walay say. Love has no middle ground. Baday, baday fanaa ho gaye, unsay baday tabah ho gaye. After all, the very essence of mohabbat, of love, of ishq is that junoon, the kind that will destroy you but at the same time immortalize you. Immortality, I find, is often the quest of men, love, on the other hand, is usually a quest for Allah. In our rather rich literary tradition – Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi – lovers become synonymous with God. Countless poets from Bulle Shah to Baba Farid have long drawn upon the trope of the divine lover and that’s where Qamar sahab brings us after ten long weeks.
I’ve said this before that religion will have a significant role to play in the narrative and not because the sanest person around is religious, but because love in its purest form is but an ibaadat. Seeing Shanno waking up for Fajr and Khalil heeding the Azan brings us full circle. Their love is truly pure, it isn’t corrupt, it isn’t fleeting, it isn’t an infatuation. So powerful is Shanno’s impact that Khalil not only turns to his Allah but does so consistently. For a man who doesn’t turn to God for anything and everything under the sun, such a change can only come from longing, from wanting something desperately. Shanno will serve a good wife to Khalil, if only…
Moreover, from our modern perspectives spiced by Farida’s badgumani and Rasheeda’s bile, can there ever be a love so honest, so pure in this day and age on television let alone in life? Life, of course, is a different story, but TV with its penchant for pandering to ratings makes one wonder, what really has love come to? Paisay say biknay walay aashiq (aka Bunty I Love You), badgumani kay shikar shohar (aka Firaaq, Shukk, and this list is definitely longer), chichori aur gaandi nazaroon say dekhnay walay mard (aka Chup Raho), where is the love, I wonder? So, if only for a transient moment, seeing Shanno and Khalil immersed only in each other with a pukta yaqeen in Rab-ul-Alameen gives me faith not only in their mohabbat but in mohabbat generally. For scenes like Khalil in Namaz and Shanno in Sajada, that tie this entire story in to one seamless narrative – mohabbat mera Iman, Allah mera gawah – thank you Ehtheshamuddin and Qamar saab!
If the writing and direction give us screen magic, then, the acting and the art direction are equally compelling. Yes, Mahira, I see your Shanno, and I believe you have done justice to her. Seeing your nek-namazi Shanno, all I can say is Allah usko uska Khalil zaroor bakshay. Ameen. The daktar, Humaira, Inayat, Rasheeda, and even Farhan Ali Agha’s Khalu-ji leave nothing to chance. Inayat’s “Mein gutt say pakkad loon go ‘Sheeda ko, kaminee“, had me going we’re definitely in Punjab! At the same time, I absolutely love how calm and composed the daktar is, and perhaps, I think, he functions in the place of narrator, which I why I said maybe he is what Qamar saab is now (or at least how Qamar saab feels now about the situation in hindsight). Just as marhoom-Mehtab Patel had the best dialogues in Bunty I Love You, I find daktar Maqsood has some of the most compelling lines in Sadqay Tumhare (this week and last!). From “Shanno nazar aati hai uski shakal mein“, “Janati hai uskay saath zulm ho raha hai lekin majal hai ki uski aankh say ek aansoon gira ho“, and that ever-telling “Jaisay zinda rehnay kay liye saans laina zaroori hota hai“, you’re on the mark daktar sahab. It remains to be seen, though, if your words of wisdom can save our lovers from their barbaadi.
In the same frame, I find Saniya Shamshad’s Humaira not only likeable but a convincing friend, the kind that won’t hesitate getting into trouble for the sake of her friendship, something we have seen in the last few weeks. Her trust, her faith in Shanno is second only to Khalil’s yaqeen in Shanno’s mohabbat.
But there is only so much Humaira can do when faced by a demon in ‘Sheeda. Her “Ab mahtam kar rahi ho” is a chilling forbearer of what is yet to come. Apni Allah Wali beti Shanno ka dard, ki mohabbat, her daughter’s longing, is this mother blind to all this? ‘Sheeda-ji, waqt aur mohabbat kay samnay to baday, baday Badshah ghutnay teek gaye to aap kya cheez hain. I find, Rasheeda to be a character stuck in the past – static, still, motionless, even dead. She is unwilling to move beyond her own pain and suffering, which she inflicts on all around her – husband, children, rishtaydaar. The thing with being stagnant, though, is that try as you might not even you can stop the inevitable. Take note.
Where this entire seamless journey comes to a zenith is the art direction. I find the visuals convey as many meanings as Qamar saab’s writing. Shanno looking out of the beautifully carved jharokha that hides her from the world outside is tied into Maqsood looking through a bamboo screen towards Khalil praying. From beginning to end, our lovers long for a union as they look out, and the cinematographer brings their longing to us. Similarly, Khalil’s Lahore wala vayda is every inch what a Punjabi house should be – manjis, round cushions, arcaded verandah, and a clothesline to boot! The brick walls could use another coat of red or white, though. ::wink:: It is good to see originality exists somewhere, so for an excellent job by the art director (and this includes the costume director too!), shukriya!
For an episode mid-way through the series, there’s a lot of repetition. We see Khalil playing cricket yet again, we see Shanno be-sabri say humming Hazar Baatein, phir say(!), and we see ‘Sheeda in perpetual attack mode, but this is what makes Sadqay Tumhare, even in repetition it gives us something new, something to dread, something to look forward to. Inasmuch as I want to disagree, I’ll heed to Shanno this week, yeh duniya waqai kisi ko hasta na dekh payee. So, for ‘Sheeda and that zalim zamana I’ll leave them with one of Bulle Shah’s qalams:
Masjid dha de, mandir dha de,
Dha de jo kuj dehenda.
Par kise da dil na dhaanvi,
Rabb dilaan vich rehenda.
Till next week,
Rab Rakha aur Shaba Khair
RB (Tweet me!)