I continue to ask myself the question, what is it that draws me to Na Bole Tum, Na Maine Kuch Kaha? One thing I can say with certainty that it’s the emotional link the writer, actors and director are able to establish with its audience.
When the art critic in me searches for something deeper, I find myself looking at the cultural subtext emerging from within the narrative. Megha, played by Akanksha Singh, is the strong woman protagonist despite her different outward appearance seems frozen in the mode of a conformist and like an automaton prioritizes the needs/wishes of her in-laws/children. We only catch a glimpse of her independent spirit in confrontations with Mohan. The woman in her was so deeply buried that it took a lot to bring it to the surface that she almost missed her chance at happiness. While the writer gives her attributes like courage and determination but seems almost afraid to portray her as an independent modern woman. Maybe it’s the fear of adverse response from a mainstream audience that inhibits the pen. One look at the heroines of serials with high ratings can easily give you an idea of conventional expectations. Will Mohan be the catalyst that puts her in touch with the forgotten woman in her?
In Mohan’s character (played by Kunal Karan Kapoor)we could be seeing a serious challenge to the power of the Alpha male hero on the South Asian screen. Mohan sheds the macho baggage with such ease, no wonder he is acquiring a cult status among the youth. He is the hero who is not afraid to cry when he is petrified to lose the love of his life. Not the token reel tears. He allows his to keep coming, as they flow from a deep emotional space. Each time Mohan sheds tears, he communicates a resilient strength. He is spontaneous in saying sorry to Megha with sincere regret whenever he slips up. No inflated ego stands in the way. When Megha begins to address him with a respectful aap, instead of taking it for granted as the arrogant ‘superior’ partner in a marital relationship he teases her till she relents and returns to the friendlier tum of the past. (My compliments to the writer for the dialogue of the aap/tum exchange , it has such a natural flow).
This new protagonist does not mark his emotional territory in a stereotypical way but confidently allows space for other memories from his wife’s past and comes through as a secure and empathetic partner. The sensitive gesture of giving Amar’s picture prominence is both touching and rare.. (it is difficult to believe that the same author with such an intuitive understanding of her characters could have penned the Riddhima fiasco ). Mohan’s exchange on pink as a popular metro sexual color with his brand new son has to be Kunal’s addition as I have never before seen a writer venture into that territory.
This deconstruction of the macho male protagonist on the South Asian TV screen is both thought provoking and a compelling watch, it has the potential to sensitize the audience to the change and create space for alternative male representation as machismo loses some of its validity.
Kunal Karan Kapoor and Akanksha Singh with their nuanced acting skills hold it all together, without their brilliance NBTNMKK could not have been so convincing.
Karachi based Niilofur Farrukh is an art critic, curator, columnist ( Critical Space, Daily Dawn) and cultural activist. She is the Founder Editor of NuktaArt, (www.nuktaartmag.com). Currently President of AICA ( Int Art Critics Association, Paris) Pakistan, she also serves on the AICA International Commission on Freedom of Expression Commission. Her critical writings focus on art as a tool of societal change. She is the author of ‘Pioneering Perspectives’ and among other shows curated ‘No Honor in Killing, Making Visible Buried Truth’ that toured Pakistan from 2008 to 2010.