It wouldn’t be wrong to call 2019 an important year for Pakistani television as it has already introduced several highs in terms of subject and social awareness. We did not only see many bold and courageous women dominate television (Cheekh, Ranjha Ranjha Kardi), but also witnessed several key social issues (Surkh Chandni, Darr Khuda Se) making way to the small screen. This new wave of socially relevant plays with fearless female protagonists initiated a couple of years back, particularly post Udaari (2016), and is diversifying with time. That is a good sign.
One play that tackled a pertinent social issue and recently came to an end after garnering immense recognition is Inkaar. Featuring Imran Ashraf, Yumna Zaidi and Sami Khan in key roles, the play revolved around the theme of consent, ‘no means no,’ and handled it with sensitivity.
A young woman, Hajra (Yumna), crosses paths with Rehan Chaudhry (Imran), the only son of a feudal lord, at her university and the two fall in love. However, Rehan turns out to be an entitled, spoilt brat who’s living off his father’s wealth and power, and on one occasion he tries to take advantage of her. In shock, Hajra tries to cut him out of her life but Rehan refuses to comply and follows her everywhere, making her life living hell. Another friend from Hajra’s university, Shayan (Sami) approaches her and convinces her of his love; Hajra agrees to marry Shayan but Rehan – in his way of rage – stands in their way. Unable to handle rejection, he shows up at the salon where Hajra is getting ready for her wedding and stabs her multiple times, leaving her grappling between life and death.
One incident leads to another; Hajra and her family take the legal route but things only get worse, given Rehan’s influential background and his family’s nefarious plans. However, with constant support of her father, essayed brilliantly by Rehan Sheikh, and her fiancé Shayan, who stands by her through thick and thin (they eventually get married), Hajra is served justice. “I just wanted my integrity back,” Hajra says, while requesting the judge to free Rehan Chaudhry and walks out of the court.
Inkaar touched upon several key issues such as harassment, feudalism, injustice, corruption and power that are relevant to our part of the world. What made the play stand out is the way it presented the role of a girl’s father, who accepted his daughter’s mistake, forgave her and showed his trust in her despite all odds. Besides, Hajra’s spirit to fight back was commendable and she chose not to surrender to circumstances, though she was a little shaken when her brother’s life was at stake.
In addition, the recently concluded project shed light on the relationship between parents and their children and how their social backgrounds affect their upbringing.
Penned by Zafar Mairaj, the script was crisp, close to reality and convincing. Though there were a few episodes in between when the story slowed down a bit, it picked up later and kept us hooked till the end. Some of the dialogues really hit hard and reminded one of the cruel acts that we see all around. Director Kashif Nisar tactfully handled this masterpiece, with special attention to detail.
Performances remained a major highlight throughout the play and so they deserve a special mention. Not only the protagonists but the entire cast including powerhouse performers Imran Ashraf, Sami Khan, Yumna Zaidi, Rehan Sheikh, Noor ul Hassan, Imran Peerzada, Munazzah Arif, Kinza Malik and others were at their best. Ifitkhar Iffi as Gullu Badshah and Ali Tahir as the lawyer had relatively smaller roles but the two stole the show whenever they appeared on the screen.
Conclusively, Inkaar came across as an apt reflection on morality and society as it stands today and offered good parenting as the one element that stood responsible for rehabilitating it.