While Pakistani women have made their presence felt in many different professions and disciplines in the country, it would not be a stretch to say that their depiction in television shows remains trapped in the ‘bechaari’ domain. A project like ‘Aik Hai Nigar’ therefore comes like a breath of fresh air, for it shatters the stereotypes surrounding the hackneyed depiction of the ‘oppressed’ woman at many different levels.
Ably helmed by Adnan Sarwar (Shah, Motorcycle Girl), the film is a biopic of Pakistan’s first surgeon general Nigar Johar, also the first three-star general in Pakistan army’s history. Over the course of its 105-minute runtime, the film attempts to give hope to women fighting for social acceptance and professional recognition. And in showcasing the journey of Nigar Johar from a young girl studying in a convent, through her marriage and to where she is now at present, the film also emphasizes the importance of personal strength in the face of testing circumstances, as Johar encounters at numerous instances during the film’s narrative. Yes, this is a battle cry against any notions of victimhood and a rousing and inspiring one at that. Saying anything more would be giving the film’s plot away.
The movie is just as much a story of Johar Ali Khan, Nigar’s husband. played on-screen by Bilal Ashraf, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Khan. The character comes across on screen as the antithesis of what is often depicted as the average Pakistani male — the one who is plagued by numerous insecurities and who can also display his misogynist colors at times. Important plot situations where Khan, a retired major himself, learns about the promotion of his wife serve to underline the fact how men can serve as a pillar of support to their partners when in pursuit of professional excellence. Indeed, his presence is crucial towards Nigar Johar overcoming her tragedies, and eventually, her professional success.
The star of the telefilm, Mahira Khan impresses once again with an inspired performance. The actress proves that she is more than just a sob-queen — her histrionic skills are on full display not only during the film’s emotional upheavals but also during situations that require her to display a more disciplined, professional facet of Johar’s personality. Her’s is a highly controlled and dignified act. Supporting her ably is Bilal Ashraf, who has grown by leaps and bounds when it comes to his acting skills. Ashraf has a great screen presence and shares good chemistry with Mahira. Together, their synergy lights up the screen.
The film is produced by Mahira Khan and Nina Kashif’s Soulfry Films, who in collaboration with ISPR, leave no stone unturned to showcase an authentic account of Nigar Johar’s journey. The project is shot on actual locations such as the Army Medical College in Rawalpindi, which greatly enhances the viewing impact. Authenticity is also lent by able art direction which captures the 80s and 90s era where some of the story takes place. Haroon Shahid lends his vocals to a surprisingly hummable soundtrack.
To sum up, Aik Hai Nigar at its core is a story of battling victimhood and standing courageously in the face of challenges life throws one’s way. While Nigar’s parents empowered her to live her life based on what she wanted, later her husband shatters social stereotypes by standing fully by her side. It sends out a positive social message for Pakistani girls that they too can dare to dream, and to the men that they only stand to gain from helping their partners through their struggles. Something that we surely need to see more of, on the small screen especially!
Have you seen the telefilm? Let us know what you think in the comments below.