Behadd and the Beauty in Vulnerability
When Zee Network launched the channel Zindagi in 2014, many of us in India were thrilled because we could now legally watch Pakistani shows. Limited episodes, superior stories, attractive clothes, people like us. The early 90s had stories of VHS tapes of Haseena Moin’s Dhoop Kinare being brought into India by hook or by crook; where all and sundry fell in love with the playful Dr Zoya Ali Khan and the serious-but-gorgeous-smile Dr Ahmer Ansari.
But that was the 20th century, an entirely different time.
Now, in spite of India and Pakistan, we continue to be fans of sarhad-paar music and movies and productions. So, with the onset of Zindagi, the world that comprised Mahira Khan, Sanam Saeed, Nadia Jamil, Fawad Khan, Osman Khalid Butt, Adnan Siddiqui, Hina Bayat and Samina Peerzada became mine. Words like ‘ahmaq’ and ‘himaaqat’ entered my vocabulary, and I loved the sound of “Baithein”/ “Dekhein” instead of “Baithiye”/ “Dekhiye”.
While shows like Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Humsafar became wildly popular, the male protagonist in both — the criminally handsome Fawad Khan — was not a man I could fall in love with. He was obstinate; he was daqiyanusi; and not really the model spouse. But model father? For sure! He played fathers to die for, fathers that daughters would keep boasting about because wou sach mein zameen-aasmaan ek kar dete. Having said that, I thought neither Zaroon Junaid nor Ashar Hussain were men I’d be comfortable with.
My search for the ideal modern day Pakistani man led me to the telefilm Behadd, written by Umera Ahmed (also the writer of Zindagi Gulzar Hai) and directed by Asim Raza, again starring Fawad, but a bearded Fawad, which heightens his handsomeness. This is where I loved Fawad the most.
Behadd also stars Nadia Jamil, whose roles I’ve usually enjoyed. As in, she endures, perseveres and eventually conquers (She and Dimple Kapadia have to have the most gorgeous hair ever). I admire Nadia Jamil in general, and find her to be an inspiration one should learn from. In an interview she gave to Samina Peerzada, Nadia speaks about her three lifelines — “Allah miyaan, darakht aur boxing.” I doubt one can go wrong with such a combination. I also feel that the roles she chooses are somewhere perhaps a reflection of the person she is.
As single mother to teenager Maha (Sajal Ali — Pakistan’s Payel Sarkar), Nadia’s Masooma essays a woman who’s relatable, whose struggles are real, whose vulnerabilities are stark and in the open, and a woman who’s learning to love again after the tragic death of her husband (Adnan Siddiqui in a special appearance). Behadd is where I heard Kaavish’s “Nindiya re” a second time — the first time was on Coke Studio. It’s a soothing lullaby that some kind person on Twitter told me about, and begins with one of the sweetest Punjabi words — “Haule”.
Fawad’s Jamal is five years younger than Masooma and is her best friend Poppy’s (Nausheen Masud) younger brother. One fab thing about Nausheen is that she sports grey hair — I think they greyed prematurely, but she refuses to colour them, which is fantastic, given the ageist-lookist world we inhabit.
Jamal is a divorcee and smitten with Masooma — you know this when they meet again after a significant hiatus. Jamal makes apt use of his dreamy eyes and dreamier smile to convey everything it is that he feels for Masooma. She’s clearly reluctant because she was deeply in love with her dead husband (she still wears her wedding ring) and has a moody and possessive teenager at home. Surprisingly though, Maha takes to Jamal and things begin to appear brighter for Masooma. When Jamal proposes marriage, she accepts because he’s a genuine person, he has a good heart and he really loves her and dotes on her daughter.
However, despite appearing to have accepted her mother’s remarriage, Maha does something horrifying, which leads to Masooma and Jamal breaking up. Maha is happy, but her mother isn’t. Seeing how sad and heartbroken her mother has been feeling, Maha finally realises what she did was unconscionable and apologises to Jamal, who’s so gentlemanly about everything that it’s really hard to believe. But he is. And this makes Fawad’s Jamal the most amazing man I’ve seen on Pakistani TV/Film. Credit must be given to Umera Ahmed for conceptualising such a character. In fact, for every character in Behadd — none of whom are over the top or unreal. These are people we probably know and might have even met.
The best part about Behadd though, is how it explores the vulnerabilities of a child, her fears, her sadness, her heart. Maha is not a mean kid; she’s just used to being the centre of attention, and has seen an extremely healthy and loving relationship between her parents — one that was ruthlessly cut short.
Umera leaves Behadd on an open note — we don’t know whether Masooma and Jamal get back together. But that’s a journey for two adults to decide; two adults who can think and speak for themselves. Until then, we’re happy about the journey Masooma and Maha undertake.
Nadia Jamil was diagnosed with cancer in April 2020. While her luscious locks no longer remain, and I don’t know if she has the strength for boxing, I’m pretty sure Allah miyaan and every darakht that exists have her back. As do mortals like myself.