Throwback to my years working towards my undergraduate degree, I was coming up against a deadline for an assignment where I had to write a short story. Newly married and dealing with some personal issues of my own, I decided to write a short one-scene piece about a married couple fighting about a third party in their relationship. I threw myself into this piece, allowing the emotions of these characters to wash over me, immersing myself into this story and emotionally connecting with it, putting myself in the shoes of the female character. What would I do? What would I want from this situation? A happy ending of course! I worked hard on this piece, put all my efforts into it and, finally, submitted it. When I received my short story back, it had earned rave reviews from my professor – “I enjoyed this one immensely, though the ending may be a bit optimistic.” Upon further discussion, he guided me on moving towards a more realistic ending rather than one rooted in wishful thinking, because relationships do not have easy fixes. Years later, when I re-read this piece, I found myself laughing at my choice of ending – how could this couple have really made things work? That’s right, realistically, they couldn’t have.
Why am I discussing a story I wrote ten years ago? Because this is generally how I feel when I watch the run-of-the-mill Pakistani drama. The feelings that my professor harbored for my short story is how I feel about the way many dramas are written – promising, great concept, but a complete cop-out for an ending. This brings me to the latest episode of “Fitoor,” a drama which stars Faysal Qureshi, Hiba Bukhari, Wahaj Ali, Kiran Haq, Ismat Zaidi and Saba Hameed, written by Zanjabeel Asim and directed by Siraj Ul Haq. Why are we discussing the ending of “Fitoor” when the story is still playing out with no real end in sight yet? Well, because it’s not difficult to predict where this story will eventually go – with Haider begging for forgiveness and Dilnasheen realizing how “the world” works, forgiving Haider and the two walking off into the sunset together with their “happy” ending.
Episode 31 of “Fitoor” leaves the viewer knowing one thing for sure – Haider does not deserve Dilnasheen. Dilnasheen may be a foolish young girl who has not handled her marriage or past relationship well, but she has never outwardly done anything “wrong.” Dilnasheen was forced to marry Haider against her will and then, when she tried to make the marriage work and be loyal, she found herself watching Haider play ping-pong between her and Mehmal, his ex-girlfriend….under the same roof, with even her mother-in-law turning a blind eye to it. Then, when Haider found out about her past, he accused her of having an affair and when, finally, he is called out on his hypocrisy, he slaps her across the face. This is mental abuse. This is emotional abuse. This is now physical abuse. At this point, Dilnasheen can end up with Hamza (assuming he cleans up his drug habit), she can find someone new or she can end up with absolutely no one, get an education and live happily for herself. Either one of these options are acceptable. What option is not acceptable is Dilnasheen showing “sabr” or “bardaasht,” compromising and making this hell of a marriage with Haider work. Haider has been canceled. Haider should be removed from the scenario and thrown out with the trash.
Now it’s not rocket science to recognize that Hamza is unstable, has a serious drug problem and needs to be sent for remission to clean up his act. And yet, Hamza has proved that he does, in fact, love Dilnasheen. He respects Dilnasheen and does not want to do anything to jeopardize her happiness or her level of respect within her own household. Isn’t this all a girl wants? Yes, again, no, a man addicted to drugs is not an ideal partner at all and if this story were to work, his recovery would have to be a part of it. But the way Hamza storms into Haider’s home, confronts Haider and Haider’s mother and lays out all the cards, clearing Dilnasheen’s name – this has earned Hamza a level of respect that Haider will never be able to earn back. So at this point, Hamza could be an ideal partner for Dilnasheen (if he cleans up his act) or Dilnasheen could end up alone, going back to complete her education and learning to be independent. But Haider needs to be shown the door out of Dilnasheen’s life.
Wahaj Ali continues to shine as Hamza. This has to be said – in the initial episodes of “Fitoor,” Wahaj Ali stole the show as Hamza with his performance. The level of his performance was so high that I found myself singing his praises week after week – until he left the show. At that point, “Fitoor” sunk into a mess, repetitive and doing little to move forward. The show has only picked up again in recent weeks with – you guessed it – Hamza’s return. This speaks highly of Wahaj Ali’s power as actor and one can only hope he continues to get roles worthy of his talent. Hiba Bukhari’s Dilnasheen has been a confused wreck, but in recent episodes, it has been refreshing to see her stand up and defend herself against her oppressive in-laws and Hiba Bukhari’s performance has been excellent. Faysal Qureshi does a great job as Haider as well. Haider isn’t an outwardly “evil” character. He is a “real” character, real in his toxicity, real in his inferiority, real with his complexes – and highly unlikable in all of this. It will be interesting to see how this story plays out – and one can hope that the team of “Fitoor” has something unpredictable planned for this drama. Will we get the predicted, stereotypical ending or will something of worth actually take place with Dilnasheen going against her in-laws and her family to find happiness?