Aakhri Station, an offbeat, seven-part mini-series, aired its pilot episode recently on ARY Digital.
In one, long, monochromatic flashback, the episode hit viewers hard. It tells the harrowing tale of a young woman, Yasmin, who is forced into prostitution by her husband on the prompting of his partners in gambling and drug sessions.
One night, he hints at raising their daughter — their only child — in order that she can take the ‘business’ forward. And, that’s when Yasmin decides she can longer take this. The episode ends with her running away with her daughter. For those who missed the beginning, the climax would come across as a bit unsettling. It shows a frazzled Yasmin and her daughter seated in a train compartment, amidst other female passengers.
Director Sarmad Khoosat explains that the series is about the everyday women aboard the same train compartment, each of whom has their own gritty life story to share.
It has “an-episode-a-woman’s-story type of format,” he tells Gulf News Tabloid, in an exclusive chat. “There are seven women with sort of seven predicaments. A story will sometimes take an episode and half to finish, before the other story kicks off. So, it’s an odd format — a cross between a series and a serial.”
Khoosat agrees that the technique “is not terribly new”; those familiar with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or Khusro’s Chahar Darvesh, for instance, would know how a pilgrimage or a bed-ridden saint’s sickness became an opportunity for a variety of stories to be stringed together into the main thread. In the case of Aakhri Station, though, the purpose is not to amuse or entertain but to hold a mirror to life’s realities.
Developed by noted playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed; development activist and CEO of Kashf Foundation, Roshaneh Zafar; and upcoming screenwriter Amina Mufti, the series is expected to break quite a few social taboos, especially those attached to women in the subcontinent.
Khoosat promises there is no NGO-driven jingoism. “The play is plot-driven. Also it doesn’t offer any resolute endings. The idea is that these women may be victims of social oppression in a male-dominated society, they have an inner strength that is waiting to be tapped,” he said.
For Khoosat, who is more popularly known for his feel-good, family dramas such as Humsafar, it’s about “salvation.”
The play’s soundtrack, which is composed by Arshad Mehmood and rendered by Zafar and Tahira Syed, also features legendary Indian actress Shabana Azmi who gets to recite a nazm (poem) by Amjad Islam Amjad. She is said to have recorded it in India.
Aakhri Station doesn’t boast a stellar cast, but the actors selected for the parts fit the bill completely, such as fashion model Eman Suleman who appears in a deglamourised avatar, and Sanam Saeed. To quote Khoosat, “I needed a kind of realism. Hence, it didn’t have to be star-studded per se.”