My second pick for this segment is Vasl. It has been four years since Vasl aired on HUM TV but it continues to have a massive appeal. I’m astounded by the fact that dramas under twenty episodes managed to grasp the interest of the audience and had so much more to offer. I suppose when all attributes fall into place, you can’t beat the odds of a win-win situation.
With Mehreen Jabbar at the helm (the undisputed queen of direction), an engaging plot brilliantly written by Samira Fazal and the great vision of Momina Duraid for exceptional production values that are signature of HUM TV, Vasl was an absolute delight. Amongst other winning attributes was the ensemble cast- Adnan Siddiqui as Hashim, Ayesha Khan as Henna, Faisal Rehman as Salman, Ahsan Khan as Adeel, Juggan Kazim as Marina, Imran Abbas as Nabeel, Tooba Siddiqui as Kamla, Eshita Mehboob as Roma, Shahood Alvi as Adnan, Badar Khaleel and Shereyaar Zaidi as Ayesha’s parents, and Zarmala Gillani as Soni.
Vasl was not just a single story, it had many stories intertwined within. It touched upon many taboos prevalent in our society that more often than not, are suppressed due to the awkwardness surrounding them.
Love, lies and deceit
Hashim and Henna had been married for ten years with two beautiful children, Soni and Naa’el. They resided in the USA and were seemingly enjoying a blissful marital life. Henna was the perfect wife- dutiful, devoted and naïve. She hailed from a conservative family and despite being abroad for the last decade, she maintained her values and simple ways. Hashim surprised Henna with tickets to go visit her family in Pakistan for a couple of months with the children. Henna was over the moon to meet her family- her parents lived with her elder brother, Adnan, his wife Shani and their daughter as well as her younger brother Adeel. Her family was ecstatic to have her and enjoyed hearing her stories. Within a few days, Hashim told Henna that the kids need to come back since they have an important project to submit which will affect their grades. Once the kids were gone, Henna received divorce papers via courier. She was devastated and remained in denial since she couldn’t fathom why Hashim would ever leave her. Her family’s attitude suddenly changed towards her- she was now a persona non grata in her own home.
Trouble in Paradise
Hashim was a slave of desire and he was having an extra-marital affair with his best friend’s wife, Kamla. Even though Kamla was cheating on her husband, Nabeel, she did not want to leave him. Hashim started coercing her repeatedly to divorce Nabeel. In Henna’s absence, Kamla was staying at Hashims’s place to take care of the children. Nabeel walked in on them having an intimate conversation and he physically abused Kamla which made her seek a divorce from him. Shortly afterward, she married Hashim but the children, Soni and Naa’el wouldn’t accept her as their new mom. Hashim didn’t make much of it since he felt complete with a partner that he could show off. The children kept pushing Kamla away until she realized they deserved to be with their mother and secretly booked them on a flight to Pakistan. Hashim found out about Kamla’s intentions and they had a fall out. Just as quick as she was to marry him, she wasted no time divorcing him either. She later reconciled with her ex-husband Nabeel and Hashim was left alone to raise two kids.
Looks can be deceiving
With her growing frustration at being separated from her children, Henna started getting desperate for a solution. Hashim had never applied for her green card so traveling to the USA seemed highly unlikely. Adeel’s friend, Marina played cupid and tried to set up her Mamu Salman with Henna. Initially, Henna was extremely against a second marriage, but Salman assured her he would help her meet her children since he was an American citizen and could sponsor her. All he wanted in exchange was a friend. Henna’s desperation pushed her into a marriage of convenience and she never really saw Salman as a husband. She never loved him but respected him for his kindness. That was until he accepted that he was impotent. Henna immediately started loathing him and punishing him for his lies- she accused him of deceiving her and furthermore called him gay! It’s sad how we seem to have preconceived notions we live by that dictate how we treat people. Salman was bullied growing up and had lived a life being labeled. It was only when Salman told her that she was treating him the way Hashim treated her did she take a backseat and rethink her behavior. She realized Salman’s overcompensating behaviour was in reaction to his insecurity that stemmed from his personal weakness. She consulted a doctor who treated Salman and soon she conceived. Little did she know that becoming a father would change Salman completely and he forbade Henna from seeing her children for the sake of his own daughter- Zeelina! Salman was selfish but he wasn’t necessarily evil and no matter what he did, Henna never reciprocated his feelings which pushed him further into the depths of insecurity.
Feminism isn’t about putting men down
Marina was a hardcore feminist in every sense of the word. She was Adeel’s chat friend and helped Adeel with his girlfriend issues. Adeel was in love with Roma who was insincere and only wanted him after she found out he landed a high-paying job. On the day that he was going to propose to Roma, he realized it was Marina whom he truly loved. Soon, they decided to get married. Marina suffered from a complex since she was overweight and to cover up for her obvious lack of self-esteem, she resorted to playing tough and swearing. Adeel landed a job with Salman and soon they too shifted to the USA. She constantly blurted whatever popped in her mind and had arguments frequently and constantly tried to show him down. Things got to the point where Adeel and her decided to separate. Marina felt she couldn’t live with a narrow-minded, rigid man like Adeel but Salman helped her realize ithat she was the one who was difficult to live with. Adeel and Marina managed to sort their lives by accepting that they both had roles that suited them best and being a feminist didn’t mean she had to bully Adeel into agreeing to her every single time.
I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be!
After a gap of a few years, Henna runs into Hashim and finally gets to see her children. However, the reunion wasn’t all she had hoped it would be and she was devastated at how her children hated her and how their lives had deteriorated. Soni was a high-school drop-out who had fallen into the wrong company and was a victim of substance abuse. Na’eel had grown indifferent and couldn’t care less about anyone. To make matters worse, Hashim had brainwashed his children into thinking Henna had abandoned them so she could have a new life. Having spent the past few years alone, Hashim was desperate to get Henna back- yes, this man didn’t have an ounce of shame and he was lower than scum. Henna hated Salman for keeping her from her children and she hated Hashim for destroying their lives and after clearing the misunderstandings with her children, decided that she no longer needed a man in her life and it was her complete dependency on men that caused her insurmountable suffering.
Vasl was a bold drama that highlighted some very controversial topics such as extra-marital affairs and impotency in a very subtle way. It also discussed how we understand stereotypes such as feminists vs conservative people. It took us on a journey of a helpless mother of young children who was ultimately reunited with her teenage kids. Very often children are conveniently left out of a progressing storyline but here, Henna’s struggle was all about her children and reconnecting with them. Hashim was despicable; Salman was selfish; Henna was weak and had no one to fall back on; Marina was outspoken and rude; Adeel was self-engrossed. Everyone played their part to perfection. The ending was extremely gratifying- Hashim got what he deserved; Henna had found peace with her children and was in her happy place and Salman was a changed man. Kudos to the director for bringing out the best in them. I loved the attention to detail that is a trademark of Mehreen Jabbar. Samira Fazal came up with a convincing and commendable script. The story flowed like a bittersweet symphony and even though there were plenty of characters, each of them served a purpose and had a defined role that added to the plot. And last but not least, Momina Duraid gave us breath-taking visuals of Panama City that exponentially helped make this a masterpiece. I must make a special mention of the background score here- the instrumental was very soothing and it’s still on my play-list! Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf74ya7bJSE
Have you watched Vasl? What are your thoughts about the drama? Did you enjoy the pace? Did you relate to the characters? Did you agree with the ending?
Yours in watching,