‘Dastaan‘ left me with a heavy heart as a drama.
The drama was magnificently laced together, intricately so much so that upon it ending, I felt ripped into threads. Never had I felt so strongly for a drama before – and it further reinstated my ongoing theory that Pakistani television is honestly the greatest thing to ever fall upon us as individuals. Stories are plucked and sculpted to unravel empathy, pain, loss and last but not least, love – and it is the grandness of a story like ‘Dastaan‘ that sets it up for a justifiable rivalry with cinematic greats like ‘Pearl Harbor’ and ‘1947 Earth.’
Based on Razia Butt’s novel ‘Bano,’ ‘Dastaan‘ was everything as a drama
It was grand, it was nostalgic, and it breathed the incredibly distressing and traumatic unfolding of events that led to the formation of Pakistan through the eyes of one particular family. There were times I was watching the drama and was utterly unable to fathom that this, in fact, is a product of our own industry; it was our own to glorify in and proudly proclaim ours.
The family depicted is wonderful, lovable and exude a certain wistfulness as we’re plunged deep into their lives
The basic premise of the drama was as follows. Saleem (Ahsan Khan) and Suraiyyah (Saba Qamar) are to be wed. Bano (Sanam Baloch) is Saleem’s younger sister, and Hassan (Fawad Khan) is Suraiyyah’s nephew. The family is close to perfection really – it’s big, it’s wonderfully noisy and there’s that undying sense of ronak that lingers within their haveli. With incredibly stark personalities, everyone is adoring. Hassan is the nationalistic wonder boy who instantly falls for a childlike and innocent Bano. Saleem is strict, rigid yet does have a kind heart (however layered it might be at times). Suraiyyah is just achingly sweet, humble and kind. Hassan’s mother Rasheeda (Saba Hameed) and Bano and Saleem’s mother Bibi (Samina Peerzada) are both warm and affectionate. It’s a setting stone for what is to befall them, and one can only ponder just how terrible the downfall will be.
Hushed news of a rise in conflict between Muslims and Hindus spreads, yet the story still gleefully focuses on Hassan and Bano’s budding and old-school-Bollywood-esque’ romance in ‘Dastaan‘ as a drama
The perfect balance of a romantic Bollywood backdrop with stolen glances on midnight rooftops, old-fashioned but like fine wine. A particular theme that resounded was Hassan and Bano’s gazes with burning lanterns. What started out as amorous collisions and soft-spoken words of admiration for each other, turned into a love driven by allegiance to Muslim League. Bano begins painting illustrious posters for protests, much to the dismay of Saleem. Melodious antiquated songs serve in the backdrop, and it makes the drama all the more dreamy – but not unrealistic in the slightest. ‘Dastaan’ was a perfect balance of a dreamy presence and a more vividly crisp undertone.
Passion is like fire for the protagonists, with patriotism so profound it begs us to wonder where it has all gone in this day and age
Saleem and Hassan lie on polar ends of a spectrum. Both dictate an impassioned love for politics, with Hassan an ardent follower of Jinnah and Saleem waving the Congress flag, what with close Hindu acquaintances. They often cross paths and butt heads trying to enforce their doctrines upon one another. And it isn’t just the men who are zealous in their love for politics; Bano too begins supporting Muslim League, and often voices her opinion in inspiring speeches before moved family members – it’s astonishingly encouraging.
While love was the overarching theme growing its roots deep in the story, it was the underlying political strife in pre-partition India that made ‘Dastaan‘ so rich as a drama
Love is the sunset of a deeper complexity about the rise in tensions between the Muslim League led by Jinnah, and the Congress Party that eventually slaughter everything ‘good.’ However, the drama remains relatively upbeat as hushed news spreads of violence in pockets across the country. It hasn’t affected the family, nor us as viewers quite yet.
It’s only when we see a direct impact on the family we have grown to love, torn apart in a brutal massacre that sets the immediate tone of what ‘Dastaan‘ really projects as a drama
The massacre is quick, shocking and hair-raising. Saleem is instantly killed, and it’s bittersweet. He loves his family more than anything, and it is evident from the beginning; and while his ego deters him in the beginning, his cognizance that he must protect his family comes all too late. The entire household that we have come to cherish so dearly are at the edge of their impending death. As they draw their last breaths, I’m at the edge of my seat, covering my eyes and praying they somehow survive. But the family are cornered, and the end is nigh.
‘Dastaan‘ brought forth impeccable acting in a drama, with scenes directed to the utmost perfection by director Haissam Hussain
Bibi’s face, when she contemplates choking her beloved daughter to save her from the hands of rioters, is Oscar worthy. At one point, Rabia who is Hassan’s love interest stands in the corridor with her back towards Hassan. As she turns, Hassan hallucinates Bano in the same attire. Bano begins to dance manically upon seeing Basant, (the Sikh man who kidnapped her, raped her and converted her to Sikhism) dead after an accidental fall from the roof. It’s a joyous occasion but gives us little relief, for we realize Bano is broken to the point of no return.
We would never see another chirpy day, as the jarring reality of partition slaps us cold
Rape became an uncomfortable norm, as did dark stabbings. Bano is on a train to Lahore that is attacked by Hindus. No one was safe – Bano’s journey was hindered constantly by brutality, plagued by unfortunate circumstances that led to the demise of her mental health. The story is told over plenty of years as partition unraveled, hatching a striking and heartfelt story.
Bano’s resilience is incredible, and her inevitable deterioration is heartbreaking to witness in ‘Dastaan’ as a drama
A pillar of strength, to see Bano journey from a frivolous and simple girl to someone who has mustered enough courage to wake up the next day and plow on through is both admirable and disturbing; admirable because very few can brave such storms, and disturbing because fate can be so ruthless at times to some – when it rains it truly pours. Basant, the Sikh man who kidnapped her and forcibly married her is what ends up ruining her to her core; Bano has disappeared and it’s no longer the girl we knew. She cannot love her son, for she sees Basant’s laughter exuding in his young face, and is constantly haunted by his cruelty.
These are the love stories that really take a toll on the heart
Suraiyyah plunges from the rooftop after seeing her husband Saleem stabbed in the back. Bibi cannot bear to see her daughter raped, and tries to choke her. Hassan vows to marry Bano years after he thought her dead. Hassan wakes from a nightmare at the exact moment Bano and Bibi are forcibly separated when rioters attack the Muslim camp they were hiding in. Love is unforgiving and vicious, and nothing short of wicked; it’s hardly ever on our side – and that is precisely what this drama shows us.
What did you think of ‘Dastaan?’
Cover image via: Hum Network Limited