Eye opening content that raises awareness on unspoken subjects and talks about taboos is always welcome on channels that – for most part – play it safe. This is precisely why drama serial Haiwaan was an opportune narrative, raising awareness about child protection against predators, most of whom are people known to the child. The story revolved around 10-year-old Masuma’s assault and murder by her best friend and neighbour’s father, Hameed. Leaving a devastating impact on her mother and elder sister, Masuma’s death comes under investigation several years after her murder when her body – buried by Hameed in the backyard – is unearthed. It creates havoc in both households, further complicated by Hameed’s son Maan’s marriage to Masuma’s elder sister, Momina.
In a moment of weakness Hameed confesses to killing Masuma to his wife, Sitara. Unfortunately, she chooses to keep this secret to herself in the faint hope of keeping her family together. But Momina overhears the conversation and demands justice be served. As expected, it creates deep rifts between the families, which begin to fall apart until they crumble when Sitara – who has till now been publicly denying what Momina is saying, finally tells her children that what Momina is accusing their beloved father of is true.
The strongest element in Haiwaan is the character of Hameed, the antagonist, and that too because of Faysal Qureshi’s brilliant portrayal. But while the performance may be award winning, as a character he is ironically also the weakest link in the story.
Hameed is a character who’s sociable and charitable and evidently God-fearing but twisted enough to commit a crime as heinous as assault and murder of a 10-year old child. There is no evidence that he’s done this before and he is not remorselessly evil; he is shown to be someone with a disturbed, almost sick mind. But the crime he commits is not small and there is nothing to explain to the viewer what drove him to commit it. Throughout the play it feels like the writer is trying to explain the crime, if not justify it, in the sense that Hameed is mentally disturbed, possibly suffering from mental illness and therefore murdered this little girl.
There is nothing, however, to verify that suggestion. Hameed certainly suffers from remorse and regret over his actions, he talks to himself and has mood shifts – all indicators that he is mentally imbalanced – but absolutely no back-story is given to show why he is the way he is. A reference to Hameed being abused or bullied as a child, to an illness or untreated ailment, anything that explains his behaviour would have worked. Instead, we are left to deal with the fact that he murdered a child because he’s crazy. And then perhaps forgive him.
The last episode of Haiwaan, aired last week, was most disappointing because not only is Hameed not prosecuted but he is assumed to be mentally unstable and is shown to live the rest of his life seeking forgiveness at a shrine. When, in the last scene, Masuma’s mother visits the shrine, he holds on to her feet and seeks her forgiveness too; that’s when she turns around and sees her daughter wave to her happily. It seems that she forgives him, which is an unforgivable ending.
The message I, as a viewer, would take away from Haiwaan is that a man who repents his sins, even a sin as heinous as the one Hameed has committed, can be forgiven. There is no need to involve the law; to push him out of the house and disown him is enough. This ending worked in a drama serial like Dar Si Jati Hai Sila, for example, where Joey Chacha is pushed out of Noor Mahal for harassing the women. It doesn’t work for Hameed and his murderous, possible pedophilic ways. I don’t think anyone wants to give any room for negotiation to pedophiles. Hameed should have been dragged to court and locked away for life – if not hung – or committed to a mental asylum is proven mentally unstable. To relegate him to a shrine felt like the writer was being sympathetic to him.
Other than the ending, the level of unwavering bereavement in Haiwaan was equally disturbing. There was too much hysteria, mourning and wailing for the play to be palatable; I often found myself watching it on mute, or forwarding it on YouTube. Directors and writers need to understand that extreme tragedy and outbursts of emotion need to be balanced; there was no balance in Haiwaan, just a never-ending series of really unfortunate incidents. Unfortunately, unlike Udaari which projected a similar cause, Haiwaan failed in its social responsibility because it did not create a narrative engaging enough. Stories like this one are important to be told to create awareness but they need to be watchable to achieve that purpose.