“Yunhi” has been an interesting ride up until now. While the story took off to a jerky start, both endearing with its old-world charm and jolting with its warped portrayal of overseas Pakistanis, the show is, at present, one of the best shows on television. “Yunhi” is not a show which has gathered momentum at any point, moving forward in a laid-back, poetic, natural way. This is the story of a family which begins to change – for the better – after a new entrant arrives from abroad. Starring Maya Ali, Bilal Ashraf, Behroze Sabzwari, Deepak Perwani, Uzma Beg and others, “Yunhi” has been written by Samira Fazal and directed by Ehtashamuddin.
In episode 18, the family is pushing forward with Suraiyya’s (Maha Hassan) marriage to Hamid, a marriage of force. While Kim (Maya Ali) does her best to support Suraiyya, her sister-in-law is now furious with her for ruining everything by divulging too much information. While Suraiyya plans to elope with Awais, Kim continues to fight for Suraiyya.
There are several standout moments in episode 18 that truly stand out. First, when Dada (Manzoor Qureshi) calls the family together to discuss Suraiyya’s marriage, he also makes it clear that Kim needs to learn the ways of the family….and the ways of the family are “listen to what I say.” Kim, however, has never been one to take insult sitting down and knows how to fight for her rights. This results in a discussion where Kim leaves the family shocked as she discusses how Dada’s decisions have destroyed the women of his family. His decisions ruined Khursheed’s life when he refused to allow her to study and ruined Iqbal’s (Tazeen Hussain) future when she was married off against her will. While the family looks on, shocked, Kim makes a solid point about how Pakistanis tend to blur the lines between culture and religion, not realizing that Islam offers women many rights and protections against such controlling behaviors. Maya Ali is just wonderful in this scene.
Bilal Ashraf is also great as Dawood, a man who has lived under his grandfather’s shadow all his life, following his rules. However, now with Kim, he is learning that speaking up for one’s rights is not a bad thing and his demeanor is slowly changing. And, of course, Maha Hassan is brilliant in a scene where Suraiyya has an outburst. Razia scolds her daughter, threatening to kill her for her “indecency,” the indecency being falling in love – but why is that a crime? Suraiyya speaks the truth, stating that if her family does not want her happiness, why should she respect them? This is the plight of many women in Pakistan (and in surrounding areas), expected to uphold the honor of their families – while their families expect to dictate their lives without a thought of their hopes, dreams and desires.
Basharat’s (Behroze Sabzwari) reaction is one that comes across as unexpected – and welcome. Kim’s words have struck a nerve, forcing him to think and it’s in these moments that we realize, along with Basharat, that he has never had the opportunity to make decisions. Like everyone else in the household, Basharat has also been a victim of his father’s domineering attitude. At some point, don’t children become the heads of their own families? In South Asian societies, we give respect to the elders – but shouldn’t parents have the right to parent their own children? Basharat wants to parent his children with love and look out for their happiness. Basharat, in a conversation with Razia, expresses that she should be kind to Suraiyya, as she is their daughter – a comment that leaves Razia surprised. Like Basharat, Razia has also never taken direction from her husband and has always catered to her father-in-law’s wishes. Kim has brought change to this household and while Dada may think it’s negative, it is waking up the entire household to their rights and responsibilities. Behroze Sabzwari has performed this subtle scene so well.
“Yunhi” continues to tell a unique, compelling story week after week without pushing action-packed episodes. Rather, the focus is on storytelling and with each episode, we are left with something to think about. When we discuss culture, should we accept all of it, even the negatives? Or should we change with the times and do away with the negative aspects? This is the message behind “Yunhi” and, if the show continues at this pace, this will be one to remember.