OMG. (There are better ways of opening a post but in this case there really isn’t anything else that can quite express what I want to say. Just OMG.)
Humsafar. A train I definitely missed, by about a year, but caught in the end anyway. And I’m so, so happy I did. The hype around this show in the beginning was CRAZY. Everyone I knew was talking, tweeting, facebook status-ing it. (That’s a valid use of the word, right?) Countless internet memes flooded my facebook newsfeed. All I could see was a very beautiful, homely looking woman and FAWAD, aka, ex-lead singer of EP. (I look at him and remember all the crazy drooling me and my friends used to do back in our school days. That guy is perfection) Anyways, this was my sum knowledge about the drama (erm, basically nothing. just that there are two hot leads) when I started watching a couple of days ago. I ended up loving every minute of it, and even though I was warned by people that it would drag in the end, I think it was very well-paced, went where it needed to go, and interesting to the end. A must-watch drama for a stickler for strong ethical heroines, like me.
Entertainment value aside, watching it has truly been an experience. I’ve been wandering around Korean, Japanese and American television and cinema for quite a while. The only time I’ve ever watched Pakistani entertainment has been when I’d have no choice. Memories of sitting with relatives, being forced to watch Indian films and (horribly made) Pakistani soaps flicker before my eyes. I’ve only twice spent extended periods of time at a relative’s house. First was a month at my Phupo’s (dad’s sister’s) where I had to acclimatize myself with Indian soaps from 7:30 in the evening to 11:30 at night, without fail, every single day. Torturous. I didn’t understand much what going on, just that someone yet again had come back from the dead and someone had been looking for their long lost son and someone was plotting something, and something really bad was going to happen to someone because a gust of wind blew out a sacred candle or whatever. (I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be culturally insensitive or religiously intolerant, but having anything shoved down your throat will make you resent it) Anyhoo, I’d catch up after every few hundred episodes when I returned for the summer holidays.
Me: (squinting at the screen) So, Sana, what’s happened so far?
Sana: (blabbers on for about thirty seconds till she realizes the impossibility of the task I have assigned her)….I can’t! Whatever, you don’t need to know, just watch.
Second time was about 5 months at my khala’s (mother’s sister’s), where Paksitani serials were watched. This was quite recent, right after I’d discovered K-drama. I TRIED to watch along with my khala and cousins, I really did. I was curious about what Pakistani dramas were like. Most of them were sad excuses for entertainment, time-fillers mostly. There’d be like, one or two shows that were worth any time at all. (Bulbulay and Meri Zaat Zarra e Benishaan) The latter, if I’m completely honest, hooked me, even if it was a bit too gloomy and sad for my taste. The other shows that my cousins watched were completely inane! There was one in particular which frustrated me so much. It was boring and predictable to an UNBELEIVEABLE extent. I’d pack my things from the tv room during the opening credits and right before leaving, proclaim what I knew would happen in the currently airing episode. Sad thing is, I was proven right, each and every day as I was forced to listen to the stupid dialog from the next room as I tried to read. It was bizarre. Why would anyone watch such a crappy drama? This cemented the image of Paksitani dramas in my head as boring household tales, where badly written stories meet badly acted characters.
Humsafar has thankfully restored my faith in Pakistani entertainment and reconnected me with something I had forgotten; the joy of watching something you can relate to, on a cultural level. Of being able to watch something and completely understand the cultural context and background of an act, and thereby instinctively understand the ramifications and significance of said act. To not feel like an outsider looking in, and gladly find (main) characters whom you can understand, relate and sympathize with, even if the secondary ones were absolutely crazy.
It also made me aware of the general nature of our society in general. Something that I guess I’d lost touch with. The comments on the episodes uploaded on YouTube surprised me greatly. We Pakistanis sure are a passionate race. Each comment, positive or negative, was in such extremes. When it came to cute scenes people would comment in high praises and even poetic couplets (not joking!) and when it came to Khizer’s assholery or the mom’s bitch-power, there’d be a FLOOD of Urdu and Punjabi curse words (most of which, thankfully, I don’t understand). Fiction is fiction. Entertainment is entertainment, why do people get riled up so easily? If you enjoyed something, good. Praise it. But if you didn’t like something the villians did and it angers you, it means that they’re doing their job that well. Getting a rise out of us is what they’re aiming for, but remember, IT’S NOT REAL. Chill.
Literally, ‘humsafar’ translates into someone who accompanies you on a journey. Here it refers to the journey of life, and that someone being your life partner. The story revolves around Khirad (Mahira Khan), a beautiful, innocent, well-brought up but poor girl and Asher (pronounced how you would say ‘usher’, played by Fawad Khan), her stranger-like, rich, educated, and at-first, biased cousin. It tells of their storm-like arranged marriage and subsequent falling in love and then hate, due to a series of unfortunate events.
If you don’t want spoilers, stop reading now and go watch the drama. I do believe there you can find it with English subs on viki and youtube, although I’m not going to vouch for the quality of the subs since I have no idea really how reliable they are. It would be a pity if things get lost in translation.
Now let me dissect the drama and talk about what I loved and what I didn’t.
WHAT I LOVED
Chemistry.What struck me about this drama, more than any other thing, was the chemistry, the reality, the utter depth of the love between the two. I’ve seen my share of dramas, Pakistani and otherwise, but this, these moments captured on camera between the two, they seemed so real, tangible even. The actors and writers were AMAZING in this sense. The way the two main characters both start off completely (and understandably) indifferent to each other, but end up endlessly devoted to each other, and most importantly, the natural, gradual way it happens, floored me. It wasn’t just the generic fact of marriage, the robotic default setting, that you HAD to love the person you’re married to, that brought them together. We saw both of their personalities, egos, senses of justice unfold before us, and the slow but sure force of gravity bringing them together was a joy to watch. The way Asher looked at Khirad, with that look of tenderness made me want to look away from the screen, it was THAT intimate. Used to the way of western and Asian entertainment, where love needs to be physically expressed, I was so surprised that something even deeper can actually be conveyed with absolutely no close contact. It’s all in the eyes, baby. The way they look at each other is enough to convince even the hardest cynic.
Khirad’s character. I unconditionally loved her, from the very beginning. Her purity and childishness contrasted with her ego and strong sense of justice, but both were truly definitive of her character. She was quiet, but not because she didn’t know what to say. Ignorant of her beauty and wiser than her looks, it’s no wonder Asher fell for her. It was cute, the lovey dovey stuff in the beginning, and it was hard, watching her get stomped all over, unable to do anything but cry when deserted, but what was truly FASCINATING was watching her evolve after that. Cast out without a penny to her name, deserted by the one whom she thought loved her the most, slandered, and most of all, pregnant, she survived. Gone was the gullible, trusting girl, and in her place stood a strong, cynical woman with fire in her eyes, who would not, could not be broken again. I freaking loved it.
The only thing that remained of her old soft side was her love for her daughter, who was everything for her. She stood up in her own feet, got a job, lived her life with her head held high, without any help from her hated in-laws. How she swore she’d never forgive him, how she’d stopped waiting for him, and later, her having no other option but to turn to him for help to cure her daughter’s illness. It’s so in-character, what for her was a last ditch option. She never wanted to turn to him again, but this was her Achilles heel. (and thank god for that too)
Asher’s flaws: Asher, on the other hand, was a weak male. That’s a fact. In the eyes of the world, he was too good for Khirad, but it was obvious it was the other way around from the beginning. You could get a glimpse of his passiveness back when his dad guilted him into accepting Khirad as his wife, when he clearly told his mom what he wanted but couldn’t say anything to his father, even though it was within his rights to decline. (Although this can doubly serve to vouch in his favor, as proof of his being a good, obedient, and therefore ideal, son ) Same goes his petty jealousy when he unreasonably acted out because of Khizars provocations. Yes, Khizar’s words were enough to make anyone jealous, but Khirad’s behavior in response to him was so clearly clueless. How could anyone mistreat her when the most casual of observations would show her completely innocent? If Asher had a problem with their relationship, if he were a man, he would have told her clearly that it made him uncomfortable. This chink in communication enabled all the things that followed to happen at all. His biggest crime though was that he was so heartbroken with what happened after that he twisted the feelings inside him to hate, and listening to his mother’s lies, failed to give Khirad a chance to explain herself. My only consolation was that he had a nervous breakdown afterwards. Good for you, Mr. Mommy’s-perfect-son. Credit MUST be given to Fawad here. He is a better actor than he was a musician. His face said it all. The look he had on face on that day at Khizar’s apartment, that look of complete loss, made me not hate him. He loved her, that much was proven in the fact that if he couldn’t have her anymore, he couldn’t bring himself to open his heart to anyone else either.
Their coming back together. Their re-meeting, coping with their daughter’s sickness, him slowly softening and then failing to even hate her after believing her to be the bad person she wasn’t was riveting. Asher’s hateful words, and the raw hurting emotions behind them, and Khirad’s coldness and the sense of dignity and pride behind that drove me crazy. I went to bed scheming of a million ways to reunite the two. She remained unforgiving as ever, not giving him even the slightest edge in her heart to perch on, while he, after observing her in her weakened state during the surgery, started to soften towards her and finally begin to wonder how she’d managed to spend those years of her life alone. It was heart-breaking how he was just so desperate to have her back.
Asher: I’ll forgive you so just come back.
Khirad: When did I ask for your forgiveness?
Asher: YOU SHOULD’VE! Don’t you hear me? I’m not asking you to ask me to forgive you. I AM forgiving you! So can’t we try once again?
Khirad: Thank you for your high-minded compassion, but I don’t need it. I think we should leave now.
Oh god. I thought they’d never make up. There just seemed too much wrong done to untangle.
Resolution. The ending was fantastic. Powerful, well-timed, well-acted, bravo. It was the perfect balance of atonement, defeat, horror, peace and lastly, rebirthing of love. Asher’s discovery and his horror and self-condemnation were palpable. You could imagine everything, EVERYTHING being repeated in his head, being painted a different, very painful color. He brings back his wife. When she hurries down the stairs the way he looks at her was like he was seeing her for the first time, through new eyes. She didn’t have a clue and neither did we that we’d finally get THE CONFRONTATION as soon as they stepped home. OMG.
Evil Mommie: Beta, I did all of this for YOU. I love you so much, that’s why.
Asher: (face contorted in anger and grief) Mom, why? Is this your love? That today I’ve been made a criminal in front of my wife and child? That I can’t even look them in the eyes because I feel so much self-hatred? When I think about what I’ve done to them I want to go kill myself. If you hated her so much, you should have just told me. I’d divorce her, but that still would have been a thousand times better than what you did to her. Innocent animals are treated better than what you put her through. If I even had to choose between my mother and my wife I’d have chosen MY MOTHER!
OMG. Jaw, meet floor. Heart, there isn’t much left of you anyway, so whatever.
The baddies. What with the evil corner of the love triangle (Sara), the even more evil presence of Asher’s mother, Sara’s inconsistent mother and the hell-bent, idiotic energizer-powered puppy of a person, Khizar, we had our hands full with people to hate. The sense of entitlement and lack of compassion these people operated with left me flabbergasted. How can a family be like that? Forget Fareeda Aunty and Khizar and Sara, all of them were stupid and blind. My beef was with Sara’s mom. She seemed to be the only one in the quartet that seemed to have something that resembled a conscience. How could she do exactly what her sister said, and SMILE AT THE END OF IT? How can a mother ruin someone’s life so her daughter can be with the (married) guy she loves (is obsessed with)? Is that how you cheer your daughter on? By crushing those in her misguided path? How can you expect happiness to stem from something so awful? How can you be sure your hateful sister won’t do the same to your daughter? How can you destroy someone’s life and for the sake of your vain wishes? I wanted to puke, looking at them so happy after all they did. I wanted to burn the house down with them in it. How can you say you love each other after hurting another so much? You two faced, sick, egotistical, self-serving bastards. Graaah. Sorry, just had to get that out. They were evil, yes, and all of them basically got as good as they gave, except Khizar. Dunno why he couldn’t have been hit by a car, or died in a plane crash on his way back to the states. Some argued that his mother deserved worse than insanity. I think it was ok. Asher was deeply wounded by his mother’s actions, and man was he awesome when confronting her, but the fact remained that she was his mother and he did love her, so the way she ended up was understandable to me.
Urdu usage: Another thing that I liked was the use of Urdu. Urdu is a very poor language, neglected by its own users. Its ability to absorb foreign words easily has become its biggest hindrance, to the point where most people simply do not know how to speak it without substituting English here and there. I liked how the main dialogue sounded and felt. Urdu has a profound, very romantic, very deep sound to it. I liked the occasional use of ‘gaari urdu’ and the poetic metaphors.
The music: The soundtrack and use of bgm were flawless. I don’t cry easily, but there’s just something about sad, soft, desi instrumentals that bring tears to my eyes. So much better than loudly played ballads (Yes, K-drama, I’m talking about you.)
Debatability of Asher’s dad’s actions: You need to have an understanding of Pakistani culture, and the importance and authority it places on the elders of a family to not really resent the way Asher’s father acts in the beginning. There is some serious emotional blackmailing involved, but hey, if he hadn’t done what he did, Khirad and Asher would have remained strangers, just greeting each other politely when bumping into each other. What even negative points Asher’s father scores in the beginning, he more than makes up for it later, when we see him accepting and regretting the wrong he did (the forcing). Even then it was never a matter of debate whether he was a good guy or bad. It was clear he was operating out of purely good intentions, and for that I think that he was probably the most wise, most noble person in the entire show.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Horrible acting by extras, sometimes flawed and abrupt transitions between scenes, minor details forgotten, and the aforementioned character inconsistencies and the fact that I couldn’t find a single DVD quality source are the only things that I can say sucked about this drama. It’s understandable though, knowing how underdeveloped the art of drama-making is in our country. Also, I shouldn’t say this but I found the daughter really annoying too. Someone wrote a comment on YouTube that described her so well, it made me laugh out loud. “Hareem itni lalchi hey. Bilkul bhi Khirad par nahi gayi, saali.” XD (Translation: Hareem is so greedy. She’s not like her mother at all, *****.) What’s so great about spoiling your child? Khirad and Asher really made it seem like their child was the first child in the existence of the universe.
The good thing, however, is that the good stuff eclipsed the bad by a long shot, making this drama a very, very memorable one, and one that will stay close to my heart for a long time to come.