Episodes 16 – 19
Recap: Tabinda sees Falak at ‘their’ home and tells her to go away. Falak tells her that this is still her home but Tabinda tells her that Salman would be giving this home to her in a few days. Falak notices the vulgar changes Tabinda has made to the house and retains her composure. Salman tells Falak to go away and that she never cared about Salman in the first place. Falak visits her domestic servants’ quarters and sees the difficulties within which they survive. They tell her that they are usually without electricity because their mother does not allow servant quarters to share the generators’ load. Falak tells him that despite all their difficulties, they are still so easily thankful. Falak confronts her mother about their treatment of domestic servants and vents out her anger at her mother.
Tabinda and Salman are shown sitting together talking about Falak and Salman is shown as infatuated by Tabinda. A few weeks later, we see that Salman calls Falak and wants to patch up. He tells her that Tabinda has left him after almost robbing him. A few days ago they had a fight because she aborted their pregnancy and then she left him with all the major valuables of the house. Salman wants a patch up with Falak but Falak says she feels nothing. Their divorce case is already in the court and she doesn’t see any point in going back to him. But her nani convinces her to forgive and she goes back to him. Falak throws away the statue she once made of him. The play ends on the last scene where she is seen playing with her young daughter and they are playing together with play dough.
Review: Umera Ahmed’s cognitive dissonance strikes again. This time we see that the writer is defending a painting. When Falak goes to her home and Tabinda argues with her about one of the paintings being ‘bey-haya’ (shameless), Falak tells her that an object is not bey-haya aur baa-haya, it is in fact the thought that is either shameless or shameful. One wonders if this is Umera’s journey through the play where she initially posited via Nani that ‘b’ut banana gunah hai’ to this point where a transformed and a better Falak is defending a painting?
The scene between Tabinda, Falak and Salman are bizarre. Tabinda is feeding Salman food and Falak is simply staring at the two of them. You know that self-respect Hamza was talking about in the first few episodes? It seems like despite showing the girl as confident and intelligent and now fully self-actualized, it still doesn’t seem to exist or given importance as a personality trait by the writer. Who needs self-respect when you have found God right? Wrong. Even God would want a person to have their dignity in a terrible situation. Fortunately for Umera, Mahira possessed a certain finesse and charm that stopped that scene from becoming a complete cringe-fest. Mahira looks on the two of them as not a victim but as a spectator and while Falak repeatedly says she is detached from any feeling for Salman and that she does not feel negatively about Tabinda, it still does not fit into any reason why Falak would subject herself to that situation when she knows Salman is not hers anymore. Not even a little bit.
Since there is little to no exposition about Salman’s personality, it begs the question as to what he sees in Tabinda and why he is attracted to her and not to Falak? He has grown up in an orthodox society where men and women end up falling for their husbands and wives as their arranged marriages take shape. But what stopped him from loving Falak as his wife the way that he should have – is still unanswered. There is a particular scene where Salman and Tabinda are talking and she is constantly making fun of him and Falak and he laughs and says, “These sweet and lovely words of yours are why I love you more and more!” Um. Sorry, but either the guy is delusional or completely misunderstands how love works. Now both these scenarios are possible, since there are many men in our society who are unaware of how to love a human being. We do not teach men empathy and kindness but tell them how to be macho and gruff. The toxic masculinity affects us all, and men the most. But Ahmed has given little to no attention to Salman’s character development. To the audiences he continues to be the sculpture. Perhaps it was intentional or a deliberate poetic angle to keep him one-dimensional but when the story stretches on for 19 episodes, 40 minutes each, you end up having questions. And funnily enough, considering Mikaal Zulfiqaar is a very talented young man, at many moments (one where he ‘proposes’ to Falak, or in the last scene where he asks Falak to stay) he seemed just as non-plussed as the audiences.
Many questions, along with these, are unanswered in the finale. It ended up being the Eat, Pray Love, Musalmaan version without taking on the more difficult subject of how would Falak now live with a man for whom she apparently has no feeling for any more. Would they forget everything and would they be able to move on from the massive turmoil they faced in their relationship? What would be her long-term plans to change the world, now that she knows exactly what’s wrong with it? How has Salman changed now? Does he appreciate Falak now? Or is she just a mere choice because no one else is there? Is Nani Amma okay with Falak making little statues with her daughter now?
The play ends abruptly and the ending does seem irrational and disjointed. Everything is in too much of a hurry to be wrapped and packed off to the audiences. There is also far too much emphasis on religious people being good and non-religious people being bad. This dichotomy reeks of bigotry as well. There are many religious people who hurt others and make lives miserable for others. And there are many irreligious people who have lived and died peacefully without hurting a fly. Human beings are complex and the human condition and psychology is not as divided between religion and irreligion. There are many factors that shape us and make us and turn us into who we are and what we choose in life. Falak chose religion to find her way to inner peace. Many people would not. And that would still be okay.
The good part was how it addressed some of the crucial issues that Ahmed brought the audiences’ attention to, from the very beginning. One of these issues were of treating domestic helpers with kindness and compassion. Another great message is to help people see beyond stereotypes. Falak goes to a wedding of one of her poor relatives and realizes just how much they needed their help. She speaks to her servant Imam Din and realizes the number of difficulties they live through each day and still are able to remain grateful. These messages are important and displayed well. There is also a message of tolerance and humanity that is hammered in repeatedly and for good reason. Another important lesson is that life is about learning to live with imperfections. Sometimes, women are taught to adhere to standards of perfection that make their own lives miserable. They are also taught to worship their husbands and leave behind or shed their own personalities just to please their significant others. Falak’s story tells women to be strong in their own passions and not eulogise men or put them on pedestals – because the fall is steep and hurtful, both for the man and for the woman.
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