It has become much too common for Pakistani dramas to feature topics like rape, child molestation or some sort of sexual assault.
While this might be a good step to encourage conversation about matters considered taboo in our society, tackling those subjects without sensitivity defeats the purpose of educating the audience. Up until now most such stories have either blamed the victim, made the rapist a hero (I still get nauseated at this thought), or some other ridiculous story.
Also read: Romanticising rape is not okay. So why do Pakistani dramas do it anyway?
In all of these stories and the ratings game, I believe Cheekh definitely stands out. Produced by Big Bang Entertainment and directed by Badar Mahmood, the drama has been scripted by Zanjabeel Asim.
Cheekh revolves around two families: Yawar's (Aijaz Aslam) and Nayab's (Ushna Shah).
Yawar has two younger brothers; one residing in a different country and married to Mannat (Saba Qamar) and the youngest is Wajih (Bilal Abbas Khan). He also has a sister Haya (Azkeh Daniel). They are extremely rich and seem to be a closely-knit family. As the bare bhaiyya, Yawar is responsible for everyone (their parents are deceased), including the help.
Nayab lives with her father, step-mother and two half-sisters. While their family isn't well-off like Yawar’s, the young women of both families — Nayab, Haya and Mannat — are good friends. In fact, Nayab likes Wajih and instead of being snooty, the sisters want to see them married and Nayab a part of their family. However, Nayab's step-mother plans to wed her off to another, much older man because he is rich and promises to pay 20 lakhs haq meher on the spot. She confides in her two friends, claiming she wants to die, but Mannat and Haya let her know they will never let that happen.
Unexpectedly, during Haya's engagement ceremony, Nayab falls off the terrace and is critically wounded.
Initially, people believe she committed suicide since she was so unhappy with life and her upcoming marriage. Doctors, however, find that she was raped and then thrown off of the balcony. Inspector Amir Khan (Nayyar Ejaz) is in charge of the investigation.
While everyone is at the hospital, Yawar starts acting suspiciously, having the whole house cleaned up and behaving in a rather shifty manner. When Nayab's father is told to file an FIR against Yawar's family - as the incident happened there - Yawar is quick to talk him out of it and pay for the hospital bills. He makes claims about Nayab being like his younger sister and about his plans to marry her to Wajih. While Nayab's father is taken by it all, Nayab's mother makes a big scene. The audience knows that she cared little for Nayab yet she behaves in an out-of-control manner. I wish her character wasn’t so over the top.
Nayab regains consciousness long enough to say "Raja bhairiya hai" (Raja is an animal), only to pass away after.
Confusion arises as Raja is Wajih, and also Wajih's friend Shariq. However, the inspector believes that Wajih is the Raja Nayab speaks of and starts working on a case against him.
It appears that Cheekh will be based on the mystery of who killed Nayab. Was it Yawar since he is so on edge? Was it Wajih as Nayab kept saying his name when they all visited right before her demise? Or was it Shariq, the other Raja in the ensemble, who says “bohut ghalti kerdi tu neh Wajih mujhe ander bhej ke.” If it wasn’t him, maybe he saw who it was.
The police inspector, having failed to bribe Yawar, first calls Mannat to the station to tell her Wajih is the killer and when she doesn’t believe him, he goes to Nayab’s house. Episode 4 ends with Nayab's father and mother threatening Yawar that they will get revenge and justice for their daughter.
From the teasers and the OST of the drama, the show seems to be leaning on Wajih being responsible and Yawar bent on protecting his brother while Mannat is the one set on unveiling the truth and getting justice for Nayab. However, with shows like this, a lot has to unfold and be revealed.
Zanjabeel Asim so far has written a great script. Each character has several layers to them and there is definite mystery surrounding who actually did it. At this point we can predict that Mannat will begin suspecting Wajih and their family's happy equation is about to change. It is obvious why the drama is named Cheekh. It's encouraging victims to not stay silent: Cheekh ke batao, chup mat raho.
Badar Mehmood has taken the script and made it a visual delight, along with bringing out the best from his actors. Saba Qamar shines as the best friend who'll stop at nothing to find out who hurt her loved one and Aijaz Aslam as the older brother who will do whatever it takes to protect his family is at his best. While the whole cast does justice to their parts, these two are brilliant.
When excellent acting is paired with memorable dialogues, it makes for some truly memorable scenes. One of the best scenes was when Nayaab’s father asks why his daughter would commit suicide. Mannat chides him for trying to marry her to an old widower with grown children, “Chacha, 20 lakh chahiye the na, mujh se le lete aap.” Saba Qamar’s dialogue delivery and facial expressions here were on point.
Another great scene took place in episode 1 when Yawar was upset that the female help served lunch to the driver. He goes off on everyone, including his wife, saying, “larkiyon ko rakha hai to inki izzat ka khayal rakhna bhi humari zimmedari hai. Khuda na khawsta kuch ho gaya to humari zimmedari hogi, ayenda koi ghar ki aurat kisi driver ya maali ko jaaker khana ya paani nahi degi, chahein bhooke he kyoon na hon.” Again, his dialogue delivery and expressions really seemed to suggest that he cared about everyone, including the people who work for him.
The treatment of the drama has also been on par with decent editing, void of botchy cuts. The transitions of the scenes make Cheekh a good watch.
For the episodes that have come out, Cheekh gets five stars and from what I've seen so far, I'm expecting it to be the one drama where justice will be served. Looks like the criminal at hand will not be romanticised or forgiven or married. Here's hoping.
Will Cheekh be the drama that actually punishes the rapist?