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TV drama Khaas begs the question: can good women only be victims?

Unlike Saba, Amar's new wife, Salma is selfish and shady but the message is clear: this is what it takes to get respect.
25 Sep, 2019

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.


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.


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?


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.


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.

Comments

1000 Characters
Sania Sep 25, 2019 01:18pm
Question us viewers have been asking ourselves ever since the advent of Pakistani dramas.
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Faisal Sep 25, 2019 01:31pm
While for many Khass may be a must watch, we are only providing an escape for the masses (like bollywood movies) and not portraying the complex issues which the common man faces. Where are the stories showing how people suffer at the hands of police or how policeman makes a living on a meager income? Or how a laborer survives on daily wage and his family dreams of having food three times a day? Where are all these and many more stories? Why are we so engrossed in the stories of wealthy that we have forgotten how a poor man lives and suffer in our society.
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Saurabh bhattacharjee Sep 25, 2019 01:47pm
My wife and me watch this show every Wednesday, and feel this has a very intelligent and layered storyline. We hear a lot that daughters are considered a burden and divorce a taboo, in both India and Pakistan especially amongst the poorer section of the society. But this story has brilliantly shown that even the educated and well off feels the same when the situation is not congenial. Saud is the only parent who is supportive of both the women character- Salma and Saba, and even reproaches his son when situation warrants. But the others, including Saba's own parents seem to dote on Amaar, just because he is a "man". I believe this story correctly portrays this fact considering the fact that female foeticide and female honor killing are commonplace in both the countries. Hope Sabaa excels and then this series can be an eyeopener that good thing happens to good women. Kudos to the writer, director and the actors, especially Amaar's character for his fabulous rendering of a tough role.
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M Saad Sep 25, 2019 01:56pm
Writing a full article trying to justify the story of such dramas is what keeping production houses to get out of these run down scripts. Ehde wafa is a sequel to ABC and Sunehre din so hopefully it is going to be excellent. Along with Alif I hope these dramas give us story unlike any other currently on TV.
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Sadaf Zehra Sep 25, 2019 06:12pm
I absolutely love this drama! Saba’s character is really good in every way, but what lacks here is humour. Not that Saba doesn’t have any sense of humour, but there is none when it comes to a typical husband/wife relationship, so in accordance to our society. She could have said so much to Ammar, as sonia or nida do. Also I don’t mind Saba finding solace in Fakhir, she always thought he is the only one who understands her misery, its like ‘platonic’ friendship turning into a relationship.
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Sohail A. Sep 25, 2019 06:54pm
Although I am totally agreed on the concept of the drama that men needs to be more careful and wise while choosing their words for their wife. But also couldn't understand why is it justified that if husband mistreats her wife then it is okay for the wife to make other male friends and try to seek solace with them. And when caught, become the victim as well. I do not think it is acceptable in any decent Pakistani society.
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Mnkhan Sep 25, 2019 08:27pm
Good article. The drama has holes in the plot and some stereotypes but among the on air dramas it is one of the more watchable one with a reasonable story lifted by excellent acting by Sanam Baloch, Ali Rehman and seasoned actors like behroz and saba faisal. The most interesting character is played by Ali Rehman, I have not seen many male narcissistic characters like him despite the abundance of such personalities in real life.
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hanifsmile Sep 25, 2019 08:49pm
there is so much disconnect between Pakistani people and the plays in Pakistan, its just glamour, nothing else
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TIM Sep 26, 2019 01:36am
I believe the first rule for cultural commentary has become: criticize everything not showing women as superheroes. This drama has its flaws but guess what - this is EXACTLY what happens to many wives. The emotional abuse shown is authentic. The way parents don't listen to their daughters (and often give more preference and credence to sons in law) is bang on target. The way Saba's closeness to Fakhir was exploited (but not ENTIRELY misinterpreted) was real - and no, please don't harp on about equality of women and men because they aren't, in our society. Decide what do you want to see: artifical glorification of women or real tales of their plight?
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joe Sep 26, 2019 07:24am
What's wrong with Saba moving on with her life and finding a love interest in Fakhir. After all Ammar swiftly married her ex. Is it that women have to acquire celibacy after one marriage? I don't understand why the author is objecting on her decision. That's her life and she can do what ever she wants with it. Every one needs a companion. Males always marry easily after divorce and same is not true for females.
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Haider Sep 26, 2019 10:31am
Who wastes time on these dramas? Monotonic plots, same characters. There was a time when writers took their time to "give birth to" stories. Now, so many dramas have to be produced that writers do not have time to "think" - just change few ingredients and make another story.
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afraz Jabeen Sep 26, 2019 11:54am
The recent last night episode was ridiculous. Saba's parents were not showing any trust on their own daughter and as her friend made a dramatic entry, her father at once realized that his daughter is innocent. What a childish scene!A man trusts his daughter's words more than his own daughter. Though, I like the main theme of the drama but still a very weak plot.
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