By Maliha Rehman
“Raddi mein phenki huee aurat ke bhi ghazab kee koi hadh nahin hoti.”
(There is no limit to the fury of a woman thrown away like garbage.)
It’s an unsparingly aggressive dialogue simmering with pent-up rage and a woman’s thirst for revenge. This dialogue, among others, hits hard in the two odd minutes long trailer of ‘Qatil Haseenaon ke Naam’, the latest Pakistani series about to release on the Zee5 OTT platform.
“Seven fiery women, seven fiery tales…” the trailer further elaborates, in a gory palette of red and black, before hurtling into a range of images: blood, screams, gunshots, knives, sledgehammers and sinister cutting boards. It’s obvious that the upcoming series isn’t going to be a happy, carefree cakewalk. The macabre imagery and the palette sifting through dark, sinister hues indicates a definite tilt towards horror, with the violent fury of seven women scorned thrown in as the main peg.
Described as a ‘desi noir anthology’ by its director, Meenu Gaur, the series boasts a heavy duty cast including Beo Raana Zafar, Samiya Mumtaz, Sarwat Gillani, Eman Suleman, Meher Bano, Faiza Gillani, Sanam Saeed, Saleem Mairaj, Sheheryar Munawar, Osman Khalid Butt and Ahsan Khan. The script has been co-written by Meenu and Farjad Nabi and is set in a fictitious ‘androon sheher’ where stories of love, lust, power and ultimately, revenge unfold.
“The series hopes to bust myths about Pakistani women,” Meenu further elaborated in an online trailer launch. “The noir genre often has a male voice attached to it. This series is conceptualized from the woman’s perspective.”
Anthology series #QatilHaseenaonKeNaam premieres Dec 10th on @ZEE5India@sanammodysaeed @sarwatgilani@BeoZafar
#SamiyaMumtaz#EmanSuleman #MeenuGaur @farjadnabi
— farjad nabi (@farjadnabi) November 24, 2021
Needless to say, the woman’s perspective in this case is a very angry one. The trailer hints at stories of a woman deserted by her lover after he had made promises to her, an artist talking about how she had always dreamt of a happy home with a family, of a matriarch telling a younger girl to take her destiny in her hand. Eman Suleman’s part in the voiceover is accompanied with images of a woman wielding a sledgehammer, declaring “… freedom jiss ji koi hadh na ho.” (Freedom that has no boundaries.) An arrogant Sheheryar Munawar is shown telling a woman that she is plain-faced and ageing. Ahsan Khan proclaims disdainfully, “Gaddi aur raaj sinf-e-nazuk ke buss ki baat nahin.” (The weaker sex is not capable of sitting in positions of power.)
Some very bad men evidently try to ruin the lives of these women and then, the women avenge themselves – with a whole lot of blood, screaming and a variety of weapons.
The series promises to be a shocking thriller – and yet, not too long ago, Zee5 made its debut with a series along the same lines, where women sought to take revenge from the erroneous men in their lives and epitomized Churails. Even some of the cast of the earlier series has been repeated which makes the trailer look even more familiar.
“Qatil Haseenaon ke Naam has a very raw story compared to Churails,” observes Sarwat Gillani who has acted in both series. “Churails had an urban setting while this series is set in a small town. There is a local flavor to it and it seeks to tell stories about how certain things may be forced upon women and how they struggle.”
Shailja Kejriwal, Chief Creative Officer, Special Projects at Zee5, explained at the trailer launch, “Qatil Hasenaaon ke Naam has an entertaining storyline. As women, a lot of us have resentment or anger towards things that we are stopped from doing and these women are badass and decide to do something about it.”
It is understandable that following the success of Churails, Zee5 may have realized the potential of gritty, no-holds-barred stories about empowered women. This probably must have prompted them to come up with another series in the same genre a little more than a year later. Some of the cast may have gotten repeated because for one, they are all brilliant performers and secondly, not all actresses in Pakistan are comfortable with playing dark, sadistic roles. The cast of Qatil Haseenaon ke Naam, however, seemed to be genuinely excited about being part of a project that allowed them to experiment. This is also understandable, considering the mundane, holier-than-thou roles that tend to rule mainstream drama. Actors hardly ever get the chance to push boundaries with characters that are completely off the wall.
What is not understandable, though, is how dark the series seems to be. If Qatil Haseenaon ke Naam is set in Pakistan, and not in a fictitious neighborhood somewhere (in hell?), then why does it not seem to be from the world that we live in? It may not be fair to pass judgment by seeing the trailer alone – and I will not do so until I watch the series – but the treatment of images in the trailer is akin to Bollywood horror. It may be a story of blood, gore and revenge, set in a seedy neighborhood in Mumbai – I can certainly not connect the style to Pakistan’s particular brand of storytelling.
This brand may have deteriorated at the hands of directors choosing lackluster plots for the sake of TRP’s but there are still a slew of directors who are currently pushing boundaries on Pakistani TV and cinema. The directorial styles associated with them can’t be seen in the trailer – pitch this series as a Bollywood project and you wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
At one point during the trailer launch, Meenu described, “The series is not all dark. There is a lot of playfulness and fun to it. There is mystery, suspense and plot twists.”
Why, then, does this playful side not come to light at all in a trailer that lasts longer than two minutes? The dark, morbid packaging of the series does not hint at any lighter elements at all. Stories revolving around women empowering themselves are particularly relevant to the times that we live in but they also need to be dealt with sensitively. The narrative needs to connect with the psyche of the women and the cultural aspects of their lives. The story can’t simply be about whipping out a sledgehammer and chopping a villainous man to pieces.
Based on the trailer alone, the Qatil Haseenas seem to be on a rampage that is far too repetitive. Churails was a grueling but thrilling ride, opening up a storyline that was yet to be navigated by local storytellers. Perhaps Qatil Haseenaon ke Naam has come too soon. Perhaps local flavor should have been added to it.
Then again, all this has merely been deduced by the trailer. Perhaps all these criticisms will prove to be wrong once the series comes out.
Cover image conceptualized and illustrated by Samiya Arif