‘Aangan Tehra’ aired on PTV in the late 1980s. The show starred some of Pakistan’s best; Bushra Ansari, Shakeel, Arshad Mehmood and Salim Nasir. The story is set in a typical muhalla and follows the stories of Mehboob Ahmed, his wife Jahan Ara Begum and their kaam wala Akbar.
The other muhallay daar feature in the play, but the main dynamic of this comedy follows Mehboob Ahmed and his household. Each character in this show is very well fleshed out and depicts interesting stereotypes within our society; the ‘funny’ husband, the wife who doesn’t find the mian funny, the intrusive neighbor and aunty who’s definitely ‘interested’ in an uncle from the muhalla.
However, the one character that does stand out in all this is that of Akbar
Akbar isn’t your usual kaam wala, he’s full of wit, sass and keeps Jahan Ara Begum on her toes always. More so than that, Akbar’s character is very effeminate in nature and is extremely proud of that side of him.
It is revealed during the show that he was a former kathak dancer. Well actually, Akbar reminds us of this fact whenever he gets a chance. There are so many scenes where he breaks into taal, you can see him making parathas and going over the scales- tha tha thaye ya.
The first thought that comes to mind when seeing Akbar dominate a scene is that this character must be transgender, however, the show never addresses this. Through subtleties in the dialogue we get a sneak peak in this matter, but again, we’re never told directly.
It’s refreshing to see that the drama doesn’t hate his character. The drama touches upon how people sometimes get uncomfortable around Akbar, however as the show progresses this changes. Initially, we see Jahan Ara Begum continuously address him as ‘nachayi’ (dancer), like in almost every scene. This however never translates into the Jahan Ara being a rude lady- it’s clearly a play on the ‘typical’ relationship between the lady of the household and her kaam walay. While that dynamic plays out, the relationship between Mehboob and Akbar is depicted as extremely friendly, playful and full of chugatein.
There are many instances when Mehboob Ahmed warns Akbar about going out on his own, or meeting people who are more conservative in nature;Akbar obviously laughs this off with his signature ‘cannot give a fuck’ face. That’s just the thing about this character- he owns his identity fully. Akbar’s character isn’t a confined one. He is out and about, he lives his life with the muhalla, he demands respect and makes his place in the galliyan of where he lives.
The thing is, it’s amazing that in the 80s we had a drama with an overtly trans character at the center of it. Even more surprising however is the fact that this character is never hated on, or judged.
He’s identified as the comic heart of the play, but he’s never disrespected
Salim Nasir’s performance in ‘Aangan Tehra’ is amazing, he embodies Akbar is every possible way, and that’s what makes him all the more lovable.
Sadly, Salim Nasir died soon after this show was aired, and Pakistan lost a brilliant performer.