“Mushkil” is undoubtedly a predictable storyline following the lives of two “friends” (rather “frenemies) who wind up under the same roof. And yet, despite the predictability of the story, “Mushkil” is winning over viewers with its binge-worthy content, good performances and intriguing narrative. This is guilty pleasure viewing at its best. Starring Saboor Aly, Khushhal Khan, Zainab Shabbir and Hamayoun Ashraf in lead roles, the story has been written by Adeel Razzaq and directed by Marina Khan.
Despite being a daily show with mostly fluff and melodrama, “Mushkil” does manage to sneak in moments that force the audience to think. At the beginning of the episode, we see Sameen (Saboor Aly) and Faraz (Khushhal Khan) discussing their future plans. While Faraz is blunt about his desire to divorce and start his life with Anita in the USA, Sameen is aware of how much trouble this will create in her life moving forward. This is a short scene, but a strong one for two reasons. The first are the performances. Both Saboor Aly and Khushhal Khan have done a wonderful job here as Sameen, who proves she isn’t a sitting duck, tries to explain her situation while covering up her tears, not wanting Faraz to see her as weak. Khushhal Khan proves why he’s one of the industry’s best new talents as Faraz hesitates, hearing Sameen crying and wanting to approach her….but uncertain on how to do so without infringing on her space. The way this scene has been shot and enacted with a lot of sensitivity is admirable. The second reason is how, intentionally or unintentionally, this scene highlights gender privilege in south Asian society. While Faraz sees this as a positive idea for both himself and Sameen, the two “moving on” to happier prospects, he fails to see things from Sameen’s perspective, which goes to show how removed Faraz is from Sameen’s world. Sameen recognizes that she has been disgraced in her neighborhood and throughout the city and being a divorced woman will only add to that disgrace, not only for herself, but also for her family. In the same situation, both Sameen and Faraz have two entirely different perspectives simply based on the fact that Faraz is a man living in a patriarchal society while Sameen has to live with the ramifications of her actions as a woman.
The rest of the episode is fairly uneventful with the usual (expected) tropes as Sameen develops a fever and is still mistreated by her mother-in-law. Of course, she decides to play angel and continues to cook, later becoming the topic of scorn and disdain when she breaks a tea set. These are the moments in dramas that are predictable and unenjoyable. Faraz’s mother and sister do not behave like educated women in any way, shape or form. And while one could possibly expect it from Faraz’s mother, what’s his sister’s excuse?
Of course, this twist could be seen from a mile away, but Hareem (Zainab Shabbir) works her way into Sameen’s home by enticing Asfand (Hamayoun Ashraf), Faraz’ brother. Why is Asfand interested in Hareem? He is a kind man with good character and seems to have a good head on his shoulders – and also knows that his mother and father would expect a girl from a good background. There isn’t any reason for this twist at all other than it’s just convenient. Regardless, this gives Hareem the excuse to re-enter into Sameen’s life and set the foundation to exact her revenge on her once-best-friend.
The best performances in “Mushkil” at present are Khushhal Khan and Zainab Shabbir’s. Zainab has acted in many roles up until now, but the ease with which she’s portraying the manipulative, narcissistic Hareem is applause-worthy. Khushhal Khan is also performing with sincerity, which is difficult when playing a character like Faraz, who could be easy to hate. Saboor Aly is also likable in this role, though we’d like to see Sameen come out and shed the “bechaari” mode soon enough and fight back. Overall, “Mushkil” is a fun show to watch, though it won’t be acclaimed or lauded for originality or shattering stereotypes.