Till the week before last Firaaq was on a high not because of the chemistry between our lead couple, no, nor was it due to the compelling plot twists (or lack thereof) rather it was because of Uzma Gillani and Syed Mazhar Ali. I’ve had my eye on both the elder actors from day one and they certainly didn’t disappoint whether it was the ill-fated jhaddo, Maa-jee’s very many confrontations, or Haider’s stolen moments with Tabassum. Is it any wonder, then, that the one episode they fail to appear is the one episode that fails to elicit a response?
Chalo, momentarily brushing aside their absence, what the… what just happened?! Suspicion, disease (HIV no less!), and dhoka kahan say aa gaye? Usually firaaq between me (as for many of us) and a drama series arises mid-way but this journey was just too good to be true. Yes, yes, I know there is more to come, and I’m not complaining about pace or narrative, what I have an issue with is the choices – adultery, disease, and lack of trust. Here, let me elaborate.
First things first, are all the male leads in Pakistani dramas blind? Aap-janab aandhay ho kya? Seriously… seriously?! Well since we’re here, we might as well go down the road of insecurity, suspicion, and mistrust. I’ll start with Imroze solely because he’s the character that frustrates me the most. For a psychologist he seems rather bad at his job (not that we were in any doubts about that, just ask Sara), but basing his entire misplaced sense of shukk on two things: overhearing a conversation between Roomi and Shams and putting two and two together in his pretty little head. Any man who doubts his wife’s fidelity especially by having an affair with the likes of Roomi or Khizer (yes, Ashar I’ m looking at you!) is beyond me. Painter, single by choice, in his early 30s, good looking, charming… HELLO!?
Do the f****** math! Really, Imroze, really?!
As if love, lust, and dhoka weren’t enough to shake things up we’re now bombarded by a mystery illness. A bleeding nose, sudden bruises, tiredness, and a loss of appetite (for whatever reasons!) sends our resident doctor (with a Ph.D. mind you) on a scare about HIV. What in heavens name is Mustafa Afridi smoking because I really want him to share it with Samira Fazal of Shukk fame and Zanjabeel Asim of Bashar Momin fame. Janab, sorry to say this is in very bad taste. First, throwing every scientific and rational bone out of his body Imroze is all of a sudden doctor extraordinaire – he can himself without waiting for the tests to come back. Fear, I get, it makes us think, do, and act in ways we normally would not. Given Imroze’s current shukki situation, I can understand why he’s paranoid, but seriously with that voiceover as he looks into a mirror.
Mujhe bhi batayein kya nazar aaya, Imroze miyan, HIV kay ilawa…
I get they need a reason for Imroze to be the dark horse, I get that sickness coupled with doubt propels the narrative, but what I don’t get is why this? I don’t see the point, I don’t see the reason, and I don’t get it except as a means of schooling the audience. How many times do we hear the dreaded HIV word on primetime television…? Yeah, you guessed, NADA! I wonder, whatever happened to decency? Whatever happened to common sense? More importantly, whatever happened to good taste (to put it simply)?
For these two reasons alone, I find the last two episodes utterly and thoroughly lacking not because of acting, editing, or direction but because of FLAWED plot points. Where and how did shukk come into the picture? What about disease, how does that factor in? I guess all will be revealed in time…
If Imroze, Paiman, and Roomi are a perfect example of what not to do in a drama again, then, for the love Allah, Shams is finally reconciling his differences – with Sara, with Haider, with Maa-jee. And high time too! His brief meeting with Haider in the midst of suburban Americana (those plaza malls be everywhere!) led to a fruitful meeting with his Abba marhoom’s gori. What I fail to understand (yet again) is how come Tabassum looks old enough to be the sautan’s daughter? Again, a lack of logical conclusions. Regardless, that’s one battle won and Shams can move on as can Haider and Maa-jee. Seeing him make his way to his childhood home was a welcome relief. A well-shot sequence with cuts back and forth with the walk in the park, I loved this brief distraction from suspicion and (if haven’t said this enough already) disease.
Sara seems to be AWOL but I think she’s playing the angry wife for the time being. Also, from the sounds of it most people are happy at this absence (too bad it didn’t take the series where they wanted it to go). I, for one, miss Cybil’s calming, composed, and somewhat rational presence (notwithstanding the brief jhooti harkats). When are you coming back, Ms. Chaudhary?
As always the elderly couple steal the show but I’ll spare you my gushing this week instead I’ll concentrate on things that need a urgent rehaul to bring things back on track. First, lose the disease angle. HIV is not a joke and certainly not one that needs to be used as a plot point. Imroze could be suffering from high BP, heart disease, cancer, what have you, why this particular ailment. And I’ll tell you why I’m up in arms about it. Not because I think Muslims don’t get AIDS (really with that reasoning?!), I actually see no reason for Imroze to even suspect that unless like Paiman’s infamous Abbaji he’s hiding something. AIDS/HIV is a threatening disease that can have consequences on a person that many amongst us cannot even imagine, to make it a cheap plot point when people are actually suffering from stigma is (in my opinion) shameful.
Imagine seeing a plot line that makes light of issues like rape, violence, terrorism, and that list is endless, how would that feel? We are a society constantly besieged with dark and menacing social issues, does portraying a happily married man having doubts about his wife’s fidelity help? What purpose does him doubting his health really serve -for the narrative, for the series, for HUM TV, and for us the audience (it does lead to a series of ignorant and despicable comments)?
For a series that remains on point in terms of direction, editing, acting, cinematography, and background score, I am amazed at the turn of events. Moreover, these two episodes could have easily been tightened into one big hiccup, so we could all move on. Alas…
I hope this isn’t my last review (I doubt!), if it is, I wish you all a pleasant viewing journey.
Till next week,
RB (Tweet me!)