Bakhtawar is a newly released Pakistani drama that tries to do things differently
akhtawar premiered on July 17 with Yumna Zaidi in the title role. She nailed her performance in the double roles of a man and woman. Her character is subjected to double the societal abuse but refuses to let toxic masculinity and misogyny get the better of her.
The drama is about her journey as a young girl who goes through the trauma of watching her older sister thrown under the bus in the name of marriage. She decides to go around as a man in order to protect herself. Her father sells his first daughter to pay off his gambling debts. That Bakhtawar has to transform into a goon to protect herself from unwanted stares and catcalls is a comment on the kind of society she lives in; a dystopia.
The bar is set ridiculously high to strip the characters of their humanity, morals and equality. The opening dialogue provides an insight into Bakhtawar’s estrangement with her parents. She finds solace in her sister’s company. There is little to bridge the gulf between the daughters and their parents. The first episode features a plethora of casual objectification, misogyny and sexism that prevail in the environment Bakhtawar has to survive in. Left with only the fight-or-flight mode, Bakhtawar tries to leave her cage behind.
The cinematography and direction are generally worthy of applause for their depiction of rural Pakistan. However, the opening scenes needed a bit of a positive background to pave the way for the conflict to arise and really hit the mark. The suggestion that all men in rural areas are brainwashed and all women are helpless is an obstacle to unveiling the true intentions of the gambling father. The storytelling is a bit too quick, jumping straight to the conflict and not allowing character development. The one-dimensional dynamic thus presented to the audience may be a setback.
That Bakhtawar has to transform into a goon to protect herself from unwanted stares and catcalls is a comment on the kind of society she lives in; a dystopia.
Bakhtawar is ahead of its time and divorced from conventional standards. The show advocates equality and reflects upon peer pressure and gender discrimination faced by both men and women. It can still become a cult classic for women voicing their concerns against misogyny and trying to be immune to the backlash they receive.
The cast is star studded, the storyline is extraordinary and there are some stellar performances. Yumna is joined by Zaviyar Nauman Ejaz, Mizna Waqas, Saqib Sameer, Noreen Gulwani, Sunil Shankar, Shamoon Abbasi, Huma Nawab and Adnan Shah Tipu. The play has been directed by Shahid Shafaat,
who has previously bagged numerous accolades with projects like Bikhray Moti, Khuda Mera Bhi Hai, and Dil Moam Ka Diya, and written by Nadia Akhtar. It is a trademark Momina Duraid production.
Bakhtawar has the potential to garner international praise for its progressive ideas. For one thing, Zaidi in her Bakhtawar avatar, is never seen whining or complaining about her miserable life.
While most of the supporting actors do their job, Zaidi stands out. Her portrayal of a man and a woman in metropolitan Karachi captures the struggles lay men and women go through every single day.
Zaidi shows a knack for effortlessly nailing complex and complicated roles. Her ability to characterise Bakhtawar is amazing. She has been experimenting with diverse roles from composite to romantic. Her recent project Sinf-i-Ahan has been widely praised.
The show has a message for the flag bearers of a patriarchal society. It also offers to educate the willingly ignorant.
The author, an English literature student at Government College University, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org