By Maliha Rehman
From the very onset, the Hum TV Network’s Dobara was touted as a drama that challenged societal stereotypes. A love story between an older widowed woman and a young boy can be risky territory on TV, if it is not handled sensitively. Dobara, though, was handled with kid gloves by director Danish Nawaz. Carefully, tactfully, Danish moved the story through its various nuances until it culminated to its ending last night.
The director’s expertise was visible particularly at the more tricky stages. The male and female leads, Mahir and Mehru – played by Bilal Abbas and Hadiqa Kiani respectively – were intimate without overtly being so. More romantic scenes were avoided; instead, their growing respect and attachment for each other was depicted with the aid of friendly banter, a cup of coffee, a night out at the cinema where she rests her head on his shoulder. Thereon, the audience could simply connect the dots and they happily did so.
The cast was a powerful one, particularly Bilal Abbas and Hadiqa Kiani, traversing their roles expertly. Bilal epitomized the immature young man, perpetually insulted by his family, struggling to make ends meet and deciding to marry Mehru on a whim. His coming of age after marriage, the way he won over her family and then, in the final episode, his coming to terms with his feelings showcase the actor in his element. Bilal Abbas has already made his mark as a fine actor and Dobara is yet another feather in his cap.
Hadiqa Kiani is equally impressive. It is hard to believe that this is merely Hadiqa’s second acting role ever. From a village woman in her debut in Raqeeb Se she transitioned seamlessly into playing the urbane, sensitive Mehru in Dobara. The audience’s heart went out to Mehru – we rooted for her, wished a happy ending for her and cheered in the rare instances when she confronted her family. Perhaps the one episode that was particularly memorable was when Mehru defied her family and went off and married Mahir in a mosque. The newly-weds entered Mehru’s home right towards the end of the episode, her family was aghast and the drama shifted towards the next stage in its narrative where the couple began dealing with their unconventional relationship.
Other notable performances were by the young Usama Khan, who plays Mehru’s possessive, tempestuous son, Shabbir Jan as Mahir’s father and Javed Sheikh, providing comic relief as a potential suitor for the newly-widowed Mehru. Sakina Samo as the belligerent, very political ‘Phuppo’ was brilliant.
But while director Danish Nawaz and writer Sarwat Nazir have treated the script with a gimlet eye, Dobara still did have its problems. The last few episodes depicted Mahir contemplating leaving Mehru for his old girlfriend, his first love, enacted by Zoya Nasir. There were dialogues that were so cruel that they hit hard, particularly when he says that Mehru’s wrinkles have started pricking him (‘Mujhey Mehru ki jhuriyaan chubne lagi hain’). For women in the audience who may be in a situation similar to Mehru’s, it was an insensitive indication of how a romance with a younger man may lead to heartbreak. When Mehru sat close to Mahir, he shifted away. At another point, he flinched when she tried to touch his hair.
In retrospect, though – now that the drama has ended – perhaps the director wanted these particular scenes to be problematic. Maybe the fact that Mahir contemplated leaving his older, ageing wife was the drama’s way of staying close to reality. Once the initial intimacy wanes away, a young man may feel disconnected to his older wife. How Mahir dealt with these feelings forms the crux of the last episode.
And while Mahir and Mehru eventually have a happy ending, it is a bittersweet one. Now that the plot has indicated that he considered marrying a younger girl and perhaps having children with her, his attachment to Mehru seems a tad incomplete. He may be sincere now but perhaps he’ll get swayed yet again one day. They are in love but still, are they truly happy or are there some regrets still lurking at the back of his mind? If his words about Mehru hadn’t been quite so harsh in the earlier episodes, his love for her may be easier to believe.
Or is that just the way life is – weighed down by regrets and tricky decisions while we try to navigate our way to achieve some semblance of happiness? Not black, not white, but gray, the way it is in Dobara.