In 2022, Hum TV’s ‘Sang e Mah’ set a new benchmark for Pakistani dramas set in the ‘northern areas’. Does ‘Khaie’ come close to that standard? The short answer is, no. ‘Khaie’, 7th Sky’s latest venture on Geo Entertainment, runs in parallel with the haunting silences of Sang e Mah. It is loud. It screams. It has trigger-happy Pashtuns. Gunfire becomes its default soundtrack. Four episodes in, and there is already a pile of dead humans buried under the shadow of apathetic rocky peaks. If ‘Sang e Mah’ was artsy-indie cinema then ‘Khaie’ is its mainstream- masala twin.
Paint The Town Red
‘Khaie’, starring Faisal Qureshi, Dur-e-Fishan and the late Khalid Butt, revolves around the ‘khaie’, a tribal practice whereby revenge is exacted on a family by slaughtering all its male members, effectively wiping off the clan’s next generation to be. Dervish Khan (Noor ul Hassan) returns to his hometown after a self-imposed exile along with his wife and children to break the cycle of revenge. He extends an olive branch towards Duraab Khan (Khalid Butt), the patriarch of a rival clan. Instead of avenging the murder of his father by Duraab Khan, Dervish comes to offer peace so that his now grown-up children can lead normal lives in their ancestral home.
That obviously doesn’t happen. As soon as we are introduced to Chinaar Khan (Faisal Qureshi), the lecherous eldest son of Duraab Khan, it’s clear that Zamda (Durefishan), Dervish Khan’s only daughter, would become a bone of contention between the two clans. Lo and behold, ‘khaie’ is carried in a scene that reminds one of the Game of Thrones “Red Wedding”. It is bloody yet stunning; cruel yet dazzling. Kudos to the director Syed Wajahat Hussain (Mannat Murad, Ishq Jalebi) for capturing the poetic symphony of violence which makes ‘Khaie’ a dazzling watch on screen. The sweeping drone shots of the silky green river bounded by rugged mountains is a welcome respite from drawing-room shows that populate our television.
The City Girl, The Village Boy
Writer Saqlain Abbas (Namak Haram) doesn’t give us heavy exposition. The House of Duraab Khan is steadily peeling off in layers by Zamda. We discover the burgeoning clan – the wives, the sons, the children – just as Zamda does. She, like us, is an outsider peeking in, to uncover the fault lines, the soft spots in a house made of rocks.
Dur-e-Fishan has now mastered the act of a progressive female lead intent on reforming the social norms of our society. The actor is having a phenomenal season dominating ratings across all three behemoths of the entertainment industry – ARY, HUM and now GEO. But the Zamda of ‘Khaie’ has chosen a different battle from the recently concluded Jaise Aap Ki Marzi’s Alizey or the ongoing Ishq Murshid’s Shibra. True, the accent remains the same, but in Khaie, Zamba’s urbane progressiveness is not preaching but avenging. Durefishan is radiant like a starry Skardu sky, but her soft feminine vulnerability is so at odds with Zamda’s pursuit of blood-stained vengeance, that it feels like Dure is off to new shores in Khaie.
Fasial Qureshi is having the time of his life playing the bad boy on screen. First ‘Shikar’, then ‘Zulm’ and now ‘Khaie’, Qureshi’s acting prowess shines through in how unique each of his ‘villains’ turn out. If it was 2005, we would have described Chinaar Khan as metrosexual; a guy who, in Ernest Burkhart’s (Killers of the Flower Moon) parlance “loves women”. He isn’t as evil as he is deluded. His pursuit of Zamda is not driven as much by lust as by his endearing fascination with urban sophistication or the ‘citiness’ that Zamba embodies. But if Chinaar Khan is not the true antagonist of Khaie, who is?
Khalid Butt’s Last Act
Duraab Khan’s sun-kissed face, sunken cheeks, droopy eyes portray the weariness of someone who has seen it all. The slim frame yet austere posture reveals him to be less of a human, more of a wild creature of the mountains. Khalid Butt’s performance is barely a performance; the unsaid backstory of Duraab Khan brims in his every gaze, every move. This masterclass in acting has sadly come to end after three decades on-screen. Khaie is Khalid Butt’s theatrical tour de force. But now that he is no more, Duraab Khan’s chilling menace shall acquire a weathered gracefulness Butt never intended.
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The Hopes Ahead
‘Khaie’ has the potential to transcend from a perfectly watchable saga of retribution to a great coming-of-age drama of a sheltered, naive Zamda. Zamda’s tale of revenge would be elevated if the darkness of her task engulfs her inherent goodness, for better or for worse. Her journey is underscored by the evocative lyrics of ‘Parvardigara’ sung by the evergreen Zeb Bangash. The OST is a lamentation, a plea for God to interject. But would His intervention result in another khaie? Whether Zamda breaks the cycle of revenge or breaks it completely, remains to be seen.