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Baaghi episode 13 review

Baaghi

 

At this point Urdu 1’s drama Serial Baaghi should probably have been named meri mujbooriya instead. Despite the careful disclaimers at the beginning of each episode and the writers’ assertions that this is “fictionalized account “most people started watching this serial because of the Qandeel Baloch connection, so the producers do owe her story some level of honesty. The writers have stated their hope not to “glorify” Qandeel but to serve the public a morality lesson about the mistakes she, and other girls like her, have made. However so far, the storyline has followed a very predictable Pakistani drama track which relieves their heroine of much of the responsibility for her own choices in life.

By episode 14, Fozia Azeem has started a new career, she is no longer the rejected first wife, or the batameez larki that  her family despairs of ever controlling .She has reinvented herself as Kanwal Baloch , pronounced with an English accent and has mangaged to find her way onto two reality Tv shows.

The story so far:

Fozia finally arrives in the big city to take up her dream job of modelling, leaving her cheating husband and young son far behind. The modelling agency is willing to spend money and time, grooming and polishing this rough young girl and Fozia soon learns why. Alone, with no money or backing, Fozia looks like an easy mark for the usual predators that haunt unprotected young women. There is the business man who might consider her as a brand ambassador if she “entertains” him, then she is sold by a woman running a girl’s hostel, even her job as flying coach hostess is marked by sexual harassment.  Disappointed, Fozia returns home only to find her place taken by her husband’s new wife Ruby, and her son given away to her childless sister in law. She expects no welcome from her own family either and returns to the city determined to earn enough money to get her son back. No matter how desperate her situation gets Fozia stands her ground, refusing to sell her body or compromise to get ahead.

In all this turmoil she is always supported by her gay /transgendered friend Rehan played by Khalid Malik, who helps to groom her but helps her learn English.  Depression haunts her till she sees an escape in the nascent Pakistani reality Tv show Desi Kuriya. With absolutely no filter on her emotions and an ability to make her presence felt on screen the way few can, she is perfect for this new genre. However, her rough, violent ways get her thrown out of Desi Kuriya and she is left with yet another shot at success in the form of Pakistani Idol. When she is rejected from the very first audition , she decides she can no longer afford to have principles and will do anything to get money.

What works:

The sexual harassment Fozia faces is sadly very real. While the writers have spared no effort in turning this character into a typical soap opera style beychari, the one thing that rings true is the constant barrage of people who want to take advantage of her. Women in any workplace whether its, Hollywood or Karachi, have to learn to fend off anything of from casual sexism to full-fledged sexual assault . The writers must be commended in pointing out the way any woman in any public space is assumed to be fair game by a certain type of man.

Yeh jo Tv pey athi hain koi achi aurtein nahi hoti “snorts Fozia’s Bhabhi after catching a glimpse of Fozia on screen. Fozia’s family and her ex – husband recognize her but her new ‘mod’ persona keeps her identity hazy enough to give them a cover against the gossip and the judgement of their neighbors.

Saba Qamar captures this strange hybrid “for the camera” persona flawlessly, the restlessness, the ambition and the sense of mischief are all there. Saba Qamar shines in sequence after sequence showing us every facet of Kanwal’s personality with skill and charm. Khalid Malik is also very effective in a strong supporting role. He is the voice of reason in Kanwal’s rollercoaster life and most tellingly points out that with her lack of qualifications, “izzat ki roti “is the most difficult thing to earn.

Salman Saqib better known as Mani is another great addition to the cast of Baaghi. His stint as Waqar Zaka, the sarcastic but friendly host of Desi Kuriya, desperate for anything to get ratings was quite funny. The taunting humor, the fake personas put on by the contestants and the cat fights aren’t just amusing, they show us something very important. This is what sells, this is what people want to see, people want to be shocked and Qandeel figured that out very early on.  While so many claims to be disgusted by reality Tv and Qandeel Baloch, there  were enough people watching to make her somebody who could earn money quick despite her supposed lack of real talent.

Baaghi has some great performances and is a nicely put together piece of entertainment by director Farooq Rind, who has translated the story to the Tv screen with great authenticity and control. Though both he and Saba Qamar seem to be laying on the melodrama rather thick in the last two episodes. However, in their quest for ratings the makers have missed quite a few opportunities to rise beyond the level of a mass entertainer.

It’s no secret that Pakistani audiences love a mazloom aurat and they love a bholi larki turning into a mazloom aurat even more. Kanwal Baloch is presented as a tragically misunderstood figure, let down by everyone she loves. If only her brother had been nicer, if only her parents had trusted her, if only her husband had had been faithful; the script suggests she has no fault but a headstrong nature. There is no doubt life in Pakistan for a woman with or without education can be hard but Kanwal and Qandeel’s own choices are also very much a part of the equation that mapped the course of her life not just cruel fate and other people.

The actual Qandeel didn’t consider herself a beychari at all, even a cursory reading of her interviews shows she worked hard and was proud of what she had achieved. In her interview with Images she explained how she finished her education despite the odds, worked her way up from small photoshoots for small ads. She herself gave up her child knowing she couldn’t take care of him on her own and had absolutely no wish to return to a husband forced on her at 17. Unlike Kanwal who is brought low by a zalim samaj ,Qandeel never wore the mantel of injured innocence till she was forced into the shroud of victimhood by her  own tragic murder. She took full responsibility for her choices saying she was disgusted with this “mardon ki dunya” but was very proud of the sexy video she had just released, and spoke about how she would have to learn to “twerk” properly.

This distinction may seem a fine one, and to some it may seem as if the writers are even doing Qandeel a favor by metaphorically cleaning up her image; but let us ask ourselves why to do we, as a society, need a woman to be “mazloom” or “bholi” before we can feel sympathy for her? Why can’t she just be human? Qandeel may not have been a saint but she wasn’t the devil either. Despite the shockingly sexy avatar she used to get rich quick, she was rather traditional in other ways; helping to marry of a sister and supporting her parents and family financially. This is where Baaghi misses the point: no one needs to approve of anyone to disapprove of murder.

This review originally appeared in Dawn Images

Sadaf Haider

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments »

  1. Hi Sadaf,

    Hope you are well 🙂

    I completely agree with your take on Baghi. By glossing over certain aspects of her life, the drama-makers are actually doing a disservice to the cause they initially claimed t:o endorse: celebrating her for who she was. I am surprised Saba Qamar insisted that she and the the team did a lot of research for this play. They seemed to have dug out no more than what was already publicly available.

    She didn’t have to be a bechari for us to have felt for her. I think of Sassi from Rangreza, who is a much more assertive and rebellious girl, yet still likable. This is a problem I have observed in Umera Ahmed’s last few scripts. Her characters have become too one-dimensional. She used to be the master of subtlety (Imagine Amina Sheikh’s character in Daam), but now her characters are too black and white and her situations feel too run-of-the-mill.

    Anyway, please keep writing. I read every single article you post here, even when I don’t comment.

    Like

    • thanks for reading Fariha , your parting words made my day!
      I agree about Umera’s characters slowly becoming too black and white . There was a time when I would have considered her writing as almost feminist and there was so much nuance to it but I guess they are doing this for the TRP meters . They really want to make the drama popular and what better way but to make her the worlds biggest beychari ? Qandeel claimed to have completed her Bachelors privately and spoke pretty good English . I am not sure about the job situation in Pakistan , but couldnt she get a job with a BA ? I think either she was lying about the BA or she just didnt want those choti moti jobs , she wanted money quickly and lots of it . Maybe the writers know something we dont ? but In her interviews Qandeel mentioned her son but she wanted to meet him later when he would understand ….. I got the impression that Qandeel just wanted to be a celebrity , that shouldn’t have got her killed though .

      Like

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