Deciphering Aye Musht-e-Khaak – and a boy called Bobby – with director Aehsun Talish

By Maliha Rehman

“Hi sweetie,” drawls Feroze Khan in a slight accent, half-smiling.

“Dua, you scared me,” he brings out the accent again, in another scene.

The TV watching audience went into hysterics. Memes and short videos filtered out on social media. And everyone started watching ‘Aye Musht-e-Khaak’, 7th Sky Entertainment’s drama starring Feroze Khan and Sana Javed as leads, currently airing on GEO Entertainment. The YouTube views skyrocketed to millions. The drama became a hit. But Bobby aka Feroze’s very problematic hero became quite a laughing stock.

There have been many more scenes from Aye Musht-e-Khaak that make Bobby memorable – in hilarious, shocking ways, mind you. The very first scene that took social media by storm was one in which Sana Javed’s character Dua tells Bobby that she can’t take an international trip with him during Ramzan and he doesn’t understand why. It’s the sort of scene that was bound to trigger reactions amongst an audience which tends to discuss religion at length. The trick worked.

Another scene shows Bobby physically assaulting a character played by Nimra Khan. It sent out shockwaves and lead to discussions on how physical violence and toxic masculinity should not be shown with such clarity on TV. Then came the currently viral clips where Bobby is screaming his lungs out, telling his mother to “handle Dua” in a phone conversation and crashing his car in another moment of outrage.

Ludicrous. Absolutely despicable. But with Aye Musht-e-Khaak rolling out more and more similar scenes, I am wondering if the drama’s makers wanted the drama to incite such reactions. Producers Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi and director Aehsun Talish are not amateurs after all so they must have known that the level of aggression they were showing was going to lead to social media outrage.

Countering this antagonism is a title track that’s become a hit, sung by Shani Arshad and Yashal Shahid.

The story has its own draws, focusing on a good vs evil plot with a strong dose of family politics and romance added in. It must also be added here that Asad Siddiqui, playing Sana Javed’s do-gooder brother, acts extremely well in the drama. Asad has so far been underrated but his body language and speech is so well-coordinated that it’s high time he gets steamrolled into the spotlight. It’s great that a widely watched drama like this one has given him the chance to prove his mettle.

Coming back to the criticism leveled against the drama, director Aehsun Talish confirms, “I was 100% sure that there would be a backlash. But I was also sure that it would draw people towards the drama and then they will understand the arcs that Bobby’s character will go through.”

So as the drama’s director, is he comfortable with the way he story is proceeding? “Yes, because we had to take the character to a crescendo before unraveling him.” He continues, “This drama touches a topic that has never really been discussed but exists all around us. There are many homes where religion is not prioritized, where Ramzan, Eid and prayers are sidelined. We see homes like these all around us.”

“Bobby, similarly, is a non-believer, and he has married a girl who is staunchly committed to her religion. The girl does love him – he is, after all, the first man in her life who she has encountered romantically. Before this, her life was restricted to the boundaries of her family and friends. She is, however, unable to come to terms with Bobby’s beliefs. The clash has to reach its peak before the story proceeds.”

Feroze as Bobby may just be trying to stick to the script but violence on TV generally needs to be toned down. If dramas like this one become all-out hits, they run the risk of setting precedents and many others following suit.

The director is unwilling to disclose spoilers about Bobby and Dua’s journey hereon but it does seem that Bobby’s going to be paying his dues for all the screaming around that he’s been doing. A clip from the drama’s OST track shows him making his way to a mosque which means that he will turn to God eventually.

Aehsun Talish responds to Suno Chanda 2 criticism - Behtareen

Director Aehsun Talish expected the backlash but felt that it was important for the drama’s storyline

To be fair, Bobby’s bursts of outrage make the story more believable – he is spoilt, selfish, headstrong and difficult. Regardless, his journey towards righteousness could have been depicted less violently. TV dramas are watched rampantly all across the country and there are many susceptible minds that can get swayed by videos of a popular hero beating up people and shouting at his wife, his mother, his ex-girlfriend, anyone, everyone. Feroze as Bobby may just be trying to stick to the script but violence on TV generally needs to be toned down. If dramas like this one become all-out hits, they run the risk of setting precedents and many others following suit.

It would be interesting to find out how the actors feel about their roles. Both Feroze Khan and Sana Javed have not made any comments  and the high ratings of every successive episode confirm Aye Musht-e-Khaak as a success. At the same time, the actors are part of multiple memes and Facebook posts that vary from being funny to livid criticisms.

Sana Javed’s last drama was Dunk where she acted spectacularly well. How does she feel about being part of a project that may be watched avidly but is also getting plenty of flak?

“I was 100% sure that there would be a backlash. But I was also sure that it would draw people towards the drama and then they will understand the arcs that Bobby’s character will go through.” – Aehsun Talish

Does Feroze Khan, after the success of Khaani and most recently Khuda Aur Mohabbat 3, squirm at the ridicule directed towards Bobby? Or does he have a different perspective – the drama’s high ratings mean that it’s a success and that may be his priority in this case. Besides, Bobby is eventually going to soften and that may just placate social media commentators. But when he enacted scenes where he was screaming and being violent, did he fear the inevitable backlash?

Also, with multiple roles in dramas where he’s playing the angry, young man, is Feroze at the risk of typecasting himself? There is talk of how Bobby is very similar to another aggressive, very problematic hero in Netflix’s 365 Days – which came with an 18+ limitation due to its lewd content but topped the charts in Pakistan. Did Feroze really refer to the series while developing his own character?

I wonder, though, if either Sana or Feroze will want to address these queries – probably not.

You have to admit, though, that we won’t be forgetting Bobby soon – or his accented drawl or how he’s made us laugh our heads off while he screams away. Even if it’s for the wrong reasons, the boy has gone viral. So has Aye Musht-e-Khaak.

I am hoping for a moral up ahead that makes the on-screen aggression make sense, somewhat.

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Deciphering Aye Musht-e-Khaak – and a boy called Bobby – with director Aehsun Talish