Review: Bandish wraps up, leaving high hopes for horror TV in Pakistan

Updated 01 May, 2019 11:22am

Sheeba Khan

The show's director, writers and cast came together to create in one of Pakistan's finest horror works to date

14 weeks (and 28 episodes later), horror drama Bandish has finally come to an end. And the end couldn’t have been better.

Sure, the drama's length could have been cut short by two episodes but that's a minor quibble when we consider the flawless synergy between the show's actors, editors, writers and director that resulted in one of Pakistan's finest horror works to date. Kudos to the entire team!

A recap

The last 10 episodes of Bandish were quite eventful.

Sania (Hira Mani) is completely under the spell of black magic practitioner Sumbul (Farah Shah) – so much so that Sumbul is able to convince her that family friend Izhar Uncle is the one casting magic on her family. Sania gets into a fight with her mother Madiha (Marina Khan) and runs away to live with Sumbal. But soon she discovers Sumbal's real identity, who admits that her father Junaid's betrayal compelled her to curse the family.

All the while, Sumbul's evil little underling Antosh (Tasbeeha) has Sania's sisters Haanya and Aleena under her control. She makes them also leave their mother for their father's house.

Sumbul, who long tormented Madiha and family, meets a grisly end in Bandish
Sumbul, who long tormented Madiha and family, meets a grisly end in Bandish

When Madiha comes to see her, Sumbul tells her the truth too but manipulates her into doing some of her dirty work (that is, leaving a voodoo doll at a shrine) in exchange for Sania's safe return. In a truly thrilling scene, she takes Madiha to the room where she's holding Sania captive and shows her daughter levitating from the ceiling. Madiha agrees to do Madiha's bidding; however, Hamza intercedes and takes her to a spiritually gifted scholar who brings about situations that allow Sania to escape.

Eventually Junaid also believes that Sumbal is causing the upsets in his family life, though both Sumbul and her sister Sandal (who bewitched Junaid into marrying her) deny it. Sandal falls on the stairs and goes into a coma.

Sania gets possessed by Antosh and is taken to Sumbal, who realises that any kin of Madiha's can be used to do her dirty work, but she will have to sacrifice a family member; the only one left, Sandal.

This is Sumbal’s last chance and if she fails, all the black magic she has cast will backfire on her. However, with the scholar's help, Madiha is able to prevent Sania from doing the job and Sumbal’s end is something everyone who is into this stuff should see for themselves!

A script with many lessons

Even though the last few episodes dragged on for a bit, Bandish had a solid script with minimal gaps. From the first episode to the last, Syed Nabeel and Shahid Nizami co-wrote a horror script that not once lost track.

Their script also deserves praise for not making the women beg for any relationships and gave them equal footing as their male counterparts. Neither Sania nor Hania was a damsel in distress. Whether it was Hamza, Abyaan or even Izhar Uncle, none of the men were dismissive of the women.

The only exception is Junaid, but he disrespects Madiha because he was under a spell. As soon as it was lifted, he wasted no time in apologising to her. This is very important because even when men apologise in most dramas, it is almost never immediate due to an inflated sense of self-importance. I wish more writers would write such male characters, especially female writers.

Another important point about the characters is that Syed Nabeel and Shahid Nizami wrote the characters of Izhar Uncle and the other scholar who helps Madiha as calm, humble, and non-judgmental people. They weren’t yelling or putting anyone (especially women) down as most so-called scholars in dramas do. I can't emphasise enough how much we need more of this in serials. Hats off to Syed Nabeel and Shahid Nizami for writing such an amazing script and characters!

A stellar cast

Marina Khan and Sajid Hassan as Madiha and Junaid were great to watch. While Marina is perfection in every shot, I felt that Sajid Hassan's performance suffered in a few scenes with Sandal where he appeared to be just reading his lines and did not use his facial expressions effectively enough.

Hira Mani and Zubab Rana's acting surprised me. As Sania, Hira wasn’t just flawless, but every time she was on screen, you saw Sania and not Hira. This, to date, is her best work yet, especially in the scene where she is being kept in Sumbal’s house of horrors and thrown to the wall by Sumbal’s jinns. Zubab Rana is a new actor but also fit her character like a glove.

The child stars Hoorain and Tasbeeha proved their talent in Bandish
The child stars Hoorain and Tasbeeha proved their talent in Bandish

Farah Shah as Sumbal played her role well, but there were times her costume appeared OTT though. Fahad Sheikh as Hamza and Mani as Abyan both did justice to their roles.

But the winners were the kids, Hoorain and Tasbeeha as Aleena and Antosh. Their role posed quite a challenge to the child actors, from levitation to being possessed, yet they were flawless. Tasbeeha’s smile still freaks me out! These were not easy roles even for adults, but these girls managed to pull it off effortlessly.

A director's triumph

I hadn't heard of Aabis Raza before watching Bandish but this director truly deserves all the awards! He extracted more than the best from all of his actors. He took a sound script and turned it into a visual work of genius. The special effects used in this serial was all shot phenomenally.

The simultaneous good vs bad scenes between Sumbal and Madiha, Sumbal and Izhar Uncle, Sumbal and Hamza could not have been easy to execute yet were shot flawlessly. Same with all the horror scenes showing Aleena being possessed, hanging upside down on a tree, or the furniture moving on its own to lights and lamps flickering on and off. Each scene, each frame transitioned smoothly and not once do I recall thinking ‘this could have been shot better.’

Big Bang Entertainment (Fahad Mustafa and Dr. Ali Kazmi) made a picture-perfect product with Bandish. I also need to mention that ARY’s double episode trend is brilliant. Instead of watching a serial for 28 weeks or more, I can see it in 14 weeks, which is a satisfying experience for the viewer. More channels should hop on this bandwagon.

Now that it's confirmed that we will get a second season of Bandish, I'm not sure what to expect. There weren't any cliffhangers that I could see, so we can't reliably predict what what will happen.

What I would like, however, is for the next scholar to be female. When I saw Dareecha, I was mesmerised by Hina Bayat's character Shamshad Bibi. I think she would be a perfect fit for a scholar's role in Bandish. Apart from her, there are so many others like Sakina Samo, Bushra Ansari and Samina Peerzada who would play the role well.

I'd just like to see more female scholars on screen and Bandish with its equal footing of women and men just might offer us this rare sight.