Baaghi Review episodes 2-8
Not every woman can be a Khirad or a Kashaf or an Anmol , some are Fozia Batool . She is an unlikely heroine for an Urdu drama, not the kind to sit and suffers in patient, silence nor is she the kind to fade away in dignified obscurity , she is a true rebel . Loosely based on the tragically short life of Qandeel Baloch the social media phenomenon who shot to fame with her scandalous YouTube videos, Baaghi shows us how Fozia became Qandeel and what led to her murder.
What works :
Fozia sees the way women are treated by the men around her, and is determined not to suffer the abuse and violence she sees meted out to married women like her older sister. When her brother tries to marry her off to his good for nothing brother in law, she finds an escape route in the charming Abid. In a desperate. but clever move she runs away to hide at the Chaudhry’s haveli ,and manages to persuade her family to marry her to Abid. Their relationship blooms at first: full of love and passion , but falters and fizzles under the usual strains of married life . Despite all his declarations of love, Abid gets bored after the birth of their first child and begins an affair with another local girl called Ruby.
“thujay kiss baat ki aaker hai?” he asks, ”Mamuli si aurat hai thu , theen bolo ki mohtaj hai thu” he threatens , angry , abusive and controlling just like all the other men Fozia had always wanted to avoid. However, Mamuli or ordinary is something Fozia is determined never to be.
Saba Qamar gives us yet another brilliant performance, capturing the essence of this character, wearing Fozia’s brash defiance and effervescence like a second skin. No matter how foolish or misguided, her courage and quick thinking force an almost begrudging admiration even from an audience used to more “noble” heroines. Fozia is not the typical Bholi larki so loved by Pakistani audiences, but despite the flash and fire of her personality Saba Qamar manages to give this character just enough vulnerability to draw the audience in to empathize with her rather than root against her.
Ali Kazmi is stellar as the feckless, inconsistent Abid, sometimes a charming rogue , sometimes a loving husband and then an abusive fiend, he never fails to impress. He matches Saba Qamar moment for moment and the intensity between them makes this on/ off romance fascinating to watch. Baaghi is bolstered by a lot of strong performances from stalwarts like Saba Faisal , Simi Raheel and Irfan Khoosat to name a few . The surprise package though is director Sarmad Khoosat’s turn as Fozia’s bull headed, uncaring brother. While his skills behind the camera are undeniable, Khoosat’s performances in front of the lens often fall prey to grandstanding, but this more controlled performance is much more effective.
As with most biopics or well-known stories, the makers have to really on strong characterizations and a sharp, well-crafted script to keep the audience’s attention on a protagonist whose fate has already been decided. To their credit the writers, Umera Ahmed and Shazia Khan, have given us fully fleshed out characters with plenty of shades of gray, even lightening the mood here and there with some sly touches of comedy. Nadia Afghan’s character’s fears that her good for nothing brother might kill himself over Fozia and Simi Raheel’s character’s resigned pride in her son’s good looks are all funny scenes but also highlight the way the men are held to different standards. While Fozia must be very careful not to declare an open preference for Abid, the men’s fancies and wishes are coddled and nurtured by their families. Even Abdi’s affair is considered acceptable , something to be borne with patience while Fozia’s decision to escape a forced marriage is constantly thrown in her face as a sign of weak character.
Baaghi is a well written script that has been woven into compelling prime time viewing by director Farooq Rind. As a stand-alone product Baaghi is pure entertainment and but so far, it has followed an all too familiar path for stories about girls gone “bad”. This is where the serial falls short. By changing and honing Qandeel’s actual story the writers miss a great opportunity to open a discussion on what motivated Qandeel to be such a Baaghi. From Qandeel’s interview with Images she insisted that she was forced to marry a man, whom she described as an “animal”. By softening that blow into a failed romance, the writers have taken away the deep, visceral impact that the forced marriage must have had on a 17 year old girl . The caveat that this is a “fictionalized account” maybe used as a cop out but it’s a weak one if it doesn’t give the audience an idea of the impetus behind Fozia’s transformation to Qandeel.
Baaghi is making great ratings and is very popular on YouTube but there is a certain authenticity missing. In 8 episodes, there is not a single scene or dialogue which tells us, how recent this story is and at times it feels very last decade. Qandeel may have come from a poor, backward, uneducated family but the rise of social media leveled the playing field for her in a way that would have been impossible before the internet. There was something very confident, very modern about her that seems to be missing from the script at times but hopefully that will be addressed in later episodes. From the promos for next week it seems as if Fozia’s only aim is to be a model, but the actual Qandeel claimed said she worked hard to get an education: learning fluent English, getting her matriculation and her bachelors after leaving her husband. Which begs the question : why fictionalize an already interesting story ?
This review also appeared in https://images.dawn.com/news/1178386/by-taking-liberties-with-her-story-baaghi-might-just-fail-qandeel-baloch