A typical TV serial generates hype when it keeps viewers guessing, creating nail-biting suspense that lasts right till the last episode. By that standard, the phenomenon that is “Humsafar” is anything but typical —tonight hundreds and thousands of eager fans will have their eyes glued to their TV screens at exactly 8 pm even though they know precisely how this modern-day tragedy will play out.
So what makes “Humsafar” special? We know it isn’t unpredictable – adaptations aren’t, since everybody knows the story anyway! It isn’t exactly groundbreaking either, since marriage, separation, intrigue and honour play a part in most Pakistani dramas.
What Humsafar does get right is this: the love story.
A good love story will get any audience going, anywhere in the world. If you add some tragedy into the mix, it gets even better. All the way from traditional tales like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Laila Majnu” to modern-day mush like Twilight, it’s obvious that unrequited romance sells.
Sadly, romance is the one thing that Pakistani dramas don’t do too well, despite us being a generally jazbaati and lovelorn nation. On-screen couples either lack chemistry altogether or shy away from getting too cosy in an attempt to respect cultural sensitivities. But in “Humsafar”, everything clicks! In the space of a few episodes it was obvious that Fawad Afzal Khan and Mahira Khan had pulled off what few Pakistani actors manage to do on the silver screen —they have put love back on the pedestal where it belongs. With just a look and a blush, Ashar and Khirad have rescued the emotion from the tawdry depth it has been banished to, highlighting love’s transformative power. And as love turned two strangers into an unlikely but eager couple, a million Pakistanis sighed as one.
Of course, it isn’t just Ashar and Khirad’s chemistry that keeps “Humsafar” afloat. What really keeps viewers coming back for more, episode after episode, is that each main character is in equal parts abhorrent and admirable — and we just can’t wait to see which side of the character will triumph in the end. Yes, we hated Sara when she tried to drive Ashar and Khirad apart, but our hearts also break for her when Fareeda uses her as a pawn. And no, Ashar’s unquestioning belief in mommy dearest does not endear him to us, but we feel for him because he never stops loving Khirad. And so, by exposing its characters’ strengths and weaknesses entirely to our scrutiny, “Humsafar” manages to be a relatable, realistic drama —– if you can ignore that Hareem looks more like an eight-year-old rather than a four-year-old!
So whether you love “Humsafar” or pretend to hate it while secretly downloading episodes from YouTube, you just can’t deny that this drama has cut across all sorts of divides to become a striking symbol of the times. Khirad and Ashar’s saga has seeped into the national consciousness so deeply that every tragedy seems to have a “Humsafar” equivalent, and everybody from a middle-aged accountant to a squealing schoolgirl has his or her own take on the Hussain family’s troubles.
As the series draws to a close, viewers may be assured of Ashar and Khirad’s future happiness, but long to have this lingering question answered for them: what will happen to Fareeda? This is where “Humsafar” may yet have a surprise in store for us, and we just can’t wait.
1. Ashar and Khirad’s ‘moment’ in front of the mirror. Seeing Khirad dressed in black for a night out, Ashar is floored by her beauty and gulps. “Bohat achi lag rehi ho,” he says, before leaning over to untie her hair.
2. Ashar slams the phone on Khirad when she calls him for help during her delivery. “Tum meray liyay mar chooki ho,” says a distraught Ashar.
3. Fareeda challenges Khirad before throwing her out of the house; if Khirad can ever convince Ashar that the baby she carries is his, and that she had not been unfaithful to him, then and only then will Fareeda accept that she has lost.
4. Baseerat Hussain
Ashar overhears Khirad discussing her unhappiness at the forced match with Baseerat, Ashar’s father and her maternal uncle. Ashar resolves to change his ways and make an effort to get to know Khirad. “Meri fakhar toot chooki hai, yeh soch kar ke meri yahan kisi ko zaroorat nehi. Mujhe apney aap ke liyay ameer aur kabeer shohar nehi chayiye tha, sirf izzat chayiyay thee.”
5. Khizar spilling water on Khirad and taking away her dupatta to make an affair between them look plausible. “Mujhe mera dupatta waspis dein!” cries a demure Khirad.
6. Sara commits suicide and is found by her mother, Zarina. When Fareeda calls wanting to talk to Sara, Zarina says she can’t because Sara is gone forever and that she has lost everything; “Meri beti mar gayee hai. Mein tumharay is khel mein har gayee, mujhey Khirad ki bad dua lag gayi.”
7. Khirad and Ashar
After a grueling day at the hospital with Hareem, Ashar realises he is still in love with Khirad; “Mera dil phir sey tumhari tarf khich raha.” However, when Khirad is unmoved Ashar becomes suspicious that there may be more to the story of their separation than he thought.
8. Sara realises she was being used as a pawn by Fareeda when the older woman tries to convince her to marry Khizar: “Ghalti meri thee, mujhe sochna chahiyay tha ke jo aurat apnay betay kee nehi ho saki, woh meri kaisey ho gee!”
Ashar finds the letter Khirad wrote to him after Fareeda banished her from the Hussain household: “Yeh sara kuch mummy ka plan tha. Mein app kee thee, aap kee houn! Mein pregnant houn Ashar.”
Ashar’s first glimpse of daughter Hareem, which arouses a never-felt-before feeling of paternal responsibility: “Aap woh hee picture waley Papa hain na?”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2012.