After 22 episodes, Hum TV’s popular drama Khaas raises as many questions as it answers.
The story revolves around Saba (Sanam Baloch), a well-educated young woman from a wealthy family background who marries Amar (Ali Rehman), a self-obsessed man, who turns out to be a narcissist, whose wandering eyes are always looking for a new conquest.
Like all good girls, Saba hangs on for 18 to 19 episodes despite her husband’s constant mockery but Amar has already decided to leave her.
Amar wants to marry his ex-girlfriend, Salma (Hira Tareen) but wants to escape any responsibility for the divorce so he paints a picture of an affair between Saba and Fakhir.
After the divorce, Amar swiftly moves on to marry Salma, leaving Saba to face a barrage of hostility and accusations from all sides.
While Amar is the nominal villain in this story, his henchman are none other than Saba’s own family, who also seem to suffer from an overwhelming belief in themselves. Divorce in any culture is viewed as failure, but in the subcontinent, it is too often viewed as a public disgrace.
After a spate of tragic headlines about women forced to live in abusive marriages (despite begging for family help) who have been found dead, the phrase “a divorced daughter is better than a dead daughter” started to trend on social media but the cultural bias to maintain a marriage at any cost is hard to break.
What is particularly sad is that despite wealth and education, both parents ultimately feel their daughters are a burden; the majority of Saba’s father’s affection for Amar is rooted in his disappointment at not having a son of his own.
Avoiding the usual drawn out misery of a woman enduring humiliation after humiliation to prove her innocence and easy ratings, writer Sarwat Nazir steps up the pace, allowing Saba to escape her abusive husband fairly quickly.
However, the usual “divorce is a stigma” that must be wiped clean with an immediate nikkah is back in play and Saba is pushed into finding a convenient “saviour” in Fakhir.
It is high time our drama makers understood that a woman on her own is not a disaster waiting to happen, but jumping headlong into a new relationship without reflection, very often is.
Although the story is centered on Saba, the most fascinating image of the last three episodes has been Hira Tareen’s deliciously bad Salma. Tareen has made an art form of under playing such women as she is often cast in these short but fun roles.
“Tauba tauba”, how could anyone call this selfish persona 'fun'?
Well, it's obvious Salma’s character is the good girl’s revenge: karma strikes and the audience enjoys a little revenge on Saba’s behalf. If Amar and his family couldn’t appreciate a good girl like Saba, then here is Salma, the nightmare bahu/wife they deserve.
This is an all too common motif in Pakistani dramas and let us all be honest, it’s incredibly cathartic to watch Amar and his family squirm at the powerful Salma’s hands, all their little hypocrisies exposed by a few simple refusals to play along.
While Saba ended up listening to endless lectures about pleasing Amar, Salma bluntly refuses to give Amar’s indulgent phupo, fawning mother or spoiled little sister the time of day. She refuses to meet Nida’s prospective in laws by playing the good bhabi, she demands an exorbitant mehr of Rs 1 crore and then, gasp, insists on moving out of Amar’s family home to her own.
Her biggest strength lies in the way she is completely unimpressed by Amar and doesn’t waste time winning his approval. Unlike Saba, Salma isn’t worried what people will think, she is concerned with her own happiness and how to achieve it.
And unlike Saba’s parents, Salma’s parents don’t spend time judging or punishing their daughter. In fact, they are supportive of their daughter. So yes, Salma is a selfish, rather shady character but the message is clear — this is what it takes to get respect.
All of which then makes me wonder: why do bad girls have all the fun? Why can’t our dramas show good women being assertive without classifying them as selfish? Can a good woman only be a victim?
While divorce from an emotionally abusive Amar was a blessing for Saba, she can only recover from this experience by understanding how our society works in favour of men like Amar. Saba’s interest in Fakhir is still hasty but at least she is slowly taking the reigns of her life away from her parents hands and into her own.
Khaas is a regular on the weekly must watch list precisely because it has the kind of nuance missing from the primetime line up. Add to that some great performances from Ali Rehman Khan and the rest of the cast and we can see why this is a such a great serial to watch.
With strong dramas like Ehd-e-Wafa and Alif making their way to our screens, audiences starved of the excellence once associated with Pakistani dramas might get a reprieve but till then, Khaas is one of the few intelligent stories on air.