We’re 15 episodes into Manahil and Salahuddin’s love story and I’m hooked, no doubt, but disappointed at the same time. How, in this day and age, can the writer and director justify that Mannu, a headstrong girl, has settled for a life of compromise with a man who’s not just indifferent to her but despises her and makes no bones about it? Not only does he verbally belittle her but in the last episode he also physically bullied her, pushing her into premature labour. Meanwhile she’s holding an iron caste grudge against Salahuddin and will do anything to hurt him. Sallu on the other hand, is besotted by her and will do anything to help her ease any pain, including secretly paying her hospital bills, sending his confidante Jamil to take care of her etc.
What happens in this episode: Jamil, the hired help planted in Mannu’s home by guardian angel Salahuddin, has started carrying hidden messages from his ‘guru’ for Mannu. They are words of wisdom that she holds onto like dear life and enjoys as much as the sattu that ‘guru jee’ sends for her. Mannu’s mother in law has finally started to behave more like a saas and less like an apologetic friend to Mannu. The father in law is not in the picture and the two kids are growing up. The story is an absolute drag and it’s the characters or our love for fairy tales that has us interested in this regressive tale of a woman who had all the keys to happiness and yet chose misery and misfortune.
Here’s what bothers me most: the message that Mann Mayal seems to be sending out is that ladies, stick it out with your husband because that’s the honourable thing to do no matter how big a loser he is. Mikail is a good for nothing and spiteful man who gambles all night, parties, has absolutely no interest in his wife and kids (borne to charm his parents) and despises Mannu every single day. To expect her to stay loyal and committed to him is a very sixteenth century concept, that made sense in a film like Woh Saat Din, when the husband (Naseeruddin Shah) was a ‘gentleman gem’ but certainly not here. Mannu’s MIL has started bringing in the “keep your husband happy” jargon and that is all the more bothersome. What happened to reciprocation?
On the positive, yesterday’s episode brought to light two things: Mannu (Maya Ali) is beautiful and she’s a pretty good actress. Salahuddin (Hamza Ali Abbasi) is good looking and he’s a pretty good actor too. Ayesha Khan reminds me of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction; the soundtrack that comes on behind her is pretty creepy too. Mikail (Gauher Rasheed) is very effective as the nuisance of a husband. You want to slap him at the end of every episode.
I just hope that Mannu will realize that she has a backbone AND supportive parents AND the love of her life AND so there’s no reason for her to continuously suffer.