Most local TV productions may be stuck in a rut with clichéd themes and characters but every once in a while a serial has a tendency to get it right. Case in point: Khaani. The recently concluded drama serial not only received critical and commercial acclaim but also broke all previous records in terms of ratings. The Feroze Khan and Sana Javed starrer consistently bagged the top spot on the ratings chart with most of the episodes trending on YouTube.
Khaani opened with Sarym’s (Ali Ansari) murder when the then-brutal Mir Hadi (Feroze) shot him in broad daylight and the incident introduced him to Khaani (Sana), Sarym’s twin sister. Having learnt of her brother’s murder, Khaani makes an effort to fight the case to put Mir Hadi behind bars but given his strong political background, Khaani’s family ends up surrendering to him and Mir Hadi is set free.
However, Khaani is shown as someone who is not scared of Mir Hadi and therefore faces him with courage whenever she encounters him. This makes Mir Hadi uneasy and curious and he ends up falling in love with her, love that transcends everything. While Khaani never reciprocates his feelings, he turns into a completely different person, who knows he’s guilty, who is compassionate and makes a confession of his crime when he is sent to prison the second time around. The court verdict is a death sentence but Mir Hadi’s mother, Sitara (Saman Ansari) goes on to ask Khaani’s mother forgiveness for her son. In the last episode, Khaani’s mother files the appeal and Mir Hadi’s death sentence is changed to life imprisonment, which proves to be a sentence worse than death for him since he had no desire to live anymore.
The best part about this particular project was how themes and characters evolved over the course of the play instead of things changing overnight. Not only did it delve into character transformations from beginning to end, it also touched upon several important social issues throughout the journey of the serial.
With power, politics and class difference as some of its central themes, Khaani managed to highlight several other aspects pertinent to our society. These included women empowerment, speaking up against injustices, family values, having faith in the Creator, educating girls and gender equality among others. Also, the transformation of Khaani from a simple, innocent girl who avoids getting into trouble to a confident and courageous young woman who is willing to take a stand against evil is commendable.
Director of the project, Anjum Shahzad brought his A-game to the table and kept audiences hooked to their TV screens throughout. He has a credible amount of work to his credit including plays like Khuda Aur Muhabbat, Mirat ul Uroos and Rang Laaga even as Khaani turned out to be one of his best works.
Reflecting on the project in an exclusive interview with Instep, Anjum Shahzad shared, "It was an out-of-the-box project that had the potential to stand out amidst the rest but I didn’t expect it to break all past records. Our plays generally highlight problems but never present the solutions. But, in this one, we spoke of the solutions as well. Whenever the weaker in the society is fighting against the powerful in any period in time, people appreciate it, especially if it’s a woman taking a stand."
Viewers were quite curious to see how the story will unfold for Mir Hadi and Khaani and if the two would ever end up together. Also, ever since Mir Hadi was put behind bars towards the end of the play, with the help of Khaani’s husband, a major chunk of the audience demanded that he should be forgiven as he had changed for the better.
"It was our moral responsibility as well to punish the culprit, irrespective of what audiences wished to see," Anjum Shahzad added. "90 per cent of the people wanted Mir Hadi to not be hanged till death. And this is what happened but we had to justify that end. We had to bring the play to that point to make it believable, it couldn’t be done randomly. Otherwise, the same people would have come up and questioned us. Through television, one can educate viewers via storytelling and justifying the purpose. This doesn’t necessarily have to be preachy, but you have to show them the way. The rest is up to them. You give a ‘vision’ to viewers via television and that’s very important. I am sure after watching Khaani, a lot of girls belonging to lower middle class families will gather the courage to raise their voices against evil."
One of the major reasons behind the success of Khaani is the powerful performances delivered by almost all of the actors associated with the project. Whether it was Feroze or Sana, or Mehmood Aslam and Saman Ansari, who essayed the role of Mir Hadi’s parents, all of them did complete justice to their roles. However, one performance that outshined all others in the play was that of Feroze Khan, who essayed the role of the brutal, fearless Mir Hadi with flair and finesse. And as he transformed into a somewhat meek individual in the second half of the play, he left no stone unturned. This was definitely Feroze Khan’s best performance till date and, rightly so, garnered huge acclaim for the actor, from Pakistan and beyond.
"I took Mir Hadi and Khaani very seriously; I put all my heart and energy into it and that’s what came out," he shared. "The transformation that my character went through was justified. I am not here to send out messages; for me it’s an emotion that I give out. It’s like living the life of another person. It took me a lot of time to get out of the character because everything has an impact on you."
When asked if he feels that the play should have been called ‘Mir Hadi’ instead of Khaani, he responded, "I think Khaani was the perfect name for the project because this is where everything changes for Mir Hadi; his life completely changes. Khaani became the biggest drama in the history of Pakistani television. I want to thank the entire fan base for all the love and support throughout."
Khaani was produced by Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi of 7th Sky Entertainment, the production house that has launched some of the most popular TV plays in the history of Pakistani television. Producers aren’t always willing to experiment with scripts that are out of the box but this duo did and the results have been impressive.
Speaking of how the play broke all previous records and managed to bag a special spot in the hearts of viewers, co-producer of Khaani, Abdullah Kadwani maintained that they made sure not to leave any character in the middle and showed their complete transformation, including that of Mitthal (the servant).
"Life doesn’t always have a happy ending and we try to depict reality in our projects," he asserted. "Our plays don’t have a happy ending because we believe in natural endings. We would like to tell our viewers to be realistic and not expect something that isn’t justified. We are answerable to those viewers; though a small chunk wished to see the culprit being punished at the end. Mir Hadi was a criminal who shouldn’t have been set free."
He also informed that they plan to take the project forward with a series of plays that will be symbolic of Khaani. "It will be a kind of a franchise featuring real time stories that will depict different issues," he added.
Based on 31 episodes, Khaani saw multiple high points before it concluded. When Khaani got married to a guy named Arham, when Mir Hadi left his house and started living at a shrine, when he admitted his crime after the case was reopened and when the judge ordered death sentence to him - all of these instances hinted at possible endings of the play. However, they might not have made for a perfect closure that the actual end did.
The beautiful script of the play was written by Asma Nabeel who is working on multiple scripts these days.
Speaking about the project and what it aimed to convey to viewers, she shared, "Gradually we’ll try to bring viewers to realistic endings so that they get used to it. Drama is all about realities happening around and so it would be an issue if we incorporate fairytales into it. We need to change this mindset that has been instilled in viewers for so many years. The way we will portray things, viewers will learn to accept them like that. Not all men are bad husbands; there are good ones as well. We can’t label people as entirely good or bad."
Summing it up, Khaani came to life due to the efforts and hard work of an entire team that was willing to experiment with a unique project. From the producers to the director, and to the writer, the entire cast and crew played their part in making it a success.