“Jo Bichar Gaye” is not an easy watch or for the faint of heart. It’s a fast-paced, content heavy, emotion heavy story with little room for sweet, light-hearted moments. Fact is stranger than fiction and fact is also scarier than fiction – and the truth is that wartime stories have always been terrifying in the horrors and crimes committed against average, every day citizens during those times. This is what “Jo Bichar Gaye” depicts as the story unfolds with tensions rising between East and West Pakistan. Starring Maya Ali, Wahaj Ali, Talha Chahour, Nadia Jamil and others in lead roles, the story has been written by Ali Moeen and directed by Haissam Hussain.
In episode 9, Captain Farrukh (Talha Chahour) is under high alert as the army plans to make its move in an effort to disarm those Bengalis fighting back, armed with guns with the intention to attack the army. The West Pakistani forces are like sitting ducks at this point and they are preparing to fight back. Farrukh’s stress is visible and Talha Chahour gives this role his all, Farrukh’s discomfort and hesitation showing on his face. Farrukh is sympathetic to the Bengali cause while also wanting to protect himself. There’s a cute scene between Farrukh and Sonia (Maya Ali) when Farrukh, in his fear of what’s to come, calls Sonia and declares his love for her, quickly hanging up in fear of her response. Farrukh and Sonia’s love story seems like one that will never actually take off – and yet, we still find ourselves rooting for them.
Rumi (Wahaj Ali) is well-aware of the danger to his family and takes steps to protect them in the best way he knows how – allowing the enthusiastic Haroon to join the cause. Haroon is a sweet, innocent character who has seen Rumi’s dedication and looks up to him, wanting to follow in his footsteps and help the Bengali cause. In Rumi’s mind, this is also the perfect way to provide his family with safety by aligning them further with the cause as allies. Immediately, the audience is worried, mentally scolding Rumi for dragging Haroon into this mess – and the worry is not unconfounded. As soon as Rumi and Haroon arrive, Shil (Omar Cheema) zones in on Haroon, having already set his sights on Rumi’s family as “the enemy.” When Rumi leaves Haroon in “safe hands” to get sweets, Haroon becomes a victim of what’s essentially animosity and racism towards West Pakistanis. Being half West and half East Pakistani, Haroon is asked to prove his loyalty by playing that dreaded game of “shikaar,” hunting West Pakistani students.
Throughout this entire scenario, the audience is overcome with anxiety, worrying what will happen to Haroon as Rumi, panicked, runs through the university, searching for his cousin. This is the magic of Haissam Hussain’s direction and execution. In “Dastaan,” we witnessed the horrors of partition alongside the sweeter sequences which allowed us to grow attached to Hassan and Bano’s families – and then, ultimately, their families were thrown into the terror, gutting the audience after opening their hearts to these characters. Likewise, now with “Jo Bichar Gaye,” the story unfolding has given us a window into the growing tension between West and East Pakistan, showing the horrific “hunting” practice in episode two. After allowing us to grow fond of Sonia, Rumi and their family, we now see Haroon thrown into this practice – will he fall prey or will Rumi arrive in time? This is the question everyone is wondering at this point. We are well aware of the tragedy that will befall Sonia’s family, something which has been evident since the moment their house was marked. But are we ready to witness these beloved characters torn apart potentially by death?
It’s Wahaj Ali who shines most in this episode, Rumi’s discomfort, fear and shock evident in his expressions. Rumi is an idealistic character, one who is rough on the outside, but incredibly soft on the inside and Wahaj has portrayed this perfectly, balancing the rough with the soft. Talha Chahour is also wonderful, one of the most polished “new” actors we’ve seen recently. Farrukh is essentially our “eyes” in this story, our kind-hearted, sympathetic character. Talha has made him all the more lovable with his sweet, courageous portrayal. And of course, Fazal Hussain makes a great impact in this episode as the naïve, innocent Haroon. This is a young man who is finding himself a target for simply being who he is – and isn’t that the scariest part of it all? Overall, “Jo Bichar Gaye” is honestly stressful, haunting and absolutely brilliant.