By Maliha Rehman
Dobara refuses to be predictable – how many dramas on Pakistani television can make a similar claim?
The drama, currently airing on the HUM TV Network and directed by Danish Nawaz, is setting some very fine examples in storytelling. Having wrapped up 21 episodes so far, the story continues to move at a steady pace, knit together with exceptional direction and acting.
At a cursory glance, one assumes that the story revolves around a romance between a younger man and an older woman. The initial few episodes are dominated by how Mehru and Maahir, enacted by Hadiqa Kiani and Bilal Abbas Khan respectively, begin to develop feelings for each other. By the time they get married, you feel like you know what’s going to happen next. He is going to win over her family and negate the unnecessary societal taboos attached to an older woman marrying a younger man. Things could have gotten a bit boring, very very quickly – except that there are layers to Dobara that hadn’t been foreseen.
The last few episodes, for instance, have revealed negative shades to Maahir. He’s turned out to be a manipulative gold-digger, subtly shifting Mehru’s loyalties from her children to himself, taking over the family office and quietly relishing the affluence that he had never had before marriage. Mehru’s children, who had earlier seemed selfish in the way they had treated their newly-widowed mother, now appear panicked and hurt by the way their mother has transformed. Mehru, in the meantime, is lovestruck, believing in Maahir completely and oblivious to his machinations. Mehru’s deceased husband’s wife, ‘Phuppo’ huffs and puffs about the house, schemes and plots and adds moments of hilarity to the storyline.
One can’t be entirely sure of what happens next. That’s what keeps things interesting.
The exceptional cast is a major highlight. Hadiqa Kiani, in merely her second acting role, is entirely believable and very impressive as Mehru and Bilal Abbas – one of our very finest – transforms easily from the misunderstood, struggling young boy to the clever husband puppetteering his wife. Sakina Samo is a force all on her own, emulating classic phuppo behavior. Osama Khan, also, must be commended for playing the confused, hurt son so well.
The story, also, has been steered with great sensitivity. For instance, only slight snippets are given off of the romance between Maahir and Mehru. Had director Danish Nawaz decided to build upon longwinded romantic scenes, perhaps the unlikely couple would have had been more difficult to fathom. Instead, their companionship is depicted just enough to make their marriage believable. At the same time, the topic at hand isn’t evaded at all. The message rings out loud and clear: if it is not considered out of the ordinary for an older man to marry a younger girl, then a similar relationship should also be acceptable vice versa.
It was this message that drew the director to Dobara. Wasn’t he afraid, though, of touching a tricky topic that audiences may find strange to watch on TV? “I was completely sold on the story,” says Danish. “I knew how I would handle it. I was focusing on a very pure relationship, between a husband and a wife. I was only cautious when I directed the scenes when Maahir and Mehru met before they got married. They had to appear to be very platonic, only eventually driven towards each other because of their circumstances.”
The director did not fear backlash. “The casting played a huge role in ensuring that the story was told the way that I wanted to tell it,” he reveals. “Both Hadiqa and Bilal have an innocence about them and that translates on screen. And then, I felt that the audience would enjoy the subtexts within the main storyline; the way people gossip and taunt Mehru about marrying a younger man, the way she gets bullied by her children and her sister-in-law because they want her to behave a certain way, how Mahir’s difficult childhood and broken home affects his personality. All these plots come together to form the main story.”
These sub-plots, woven together beautifully to build a unique narrative, is what makes Dobara riveting. The direction is extremely intuitive. The cast is brilliant. And while most dramas start dragging and getting repetitive midway through their run, this one refuses to do so – you want to watch it dobara, dobara!