March 7, 2012

Tanhaiyan: Sound of Loneliness

Marina Khan and Shehnaz Sheikh portraying the sisters, Sanya and Zaara in Tanhaiyan

Growing up in Oman and with no significant Hindi (or otherwise) television programming to speak of until Zee TV arrived in 1994, our source of TV entertainment were Hindi film videos (which explains my penchant for terrible Bollywood from the late 80s/90s:P), popular Hindi television epic, Mahabharata, and Pakistani dramas. Over the time, though, I only had vague memories of Pakistani drama cult-classics such as Dhoop Kinare, Tanhaiyan, Chand Grahen, and Sona Chandi (actually, that was one of my most favorite dramas ever - the lead characters were simply so adorable!)

It was funnily enough when I heard last August** that Dhoop Kinare was being remade as a Hindi soap, Kuch Toh Log Kahenge that I found myself re-visiting the dramas, especially Tanhaiyan and Dhoop Kinare. I must confess that I found myself instantly taking to Tanhaiyan and saw all the episodes in a short period of time but I still need to finish Dhoop Kinare though...

Revolving around two sisters, Zaara and Sanya and how they deal with life after an unexpected twist of fate, Tanhaiyan, or Loneliness, is also essentially dealing with the solitary figure that Zaara cuts through life. Yet, it is all very much about her family,  intimate world, and the city that Zaara inhabits and through which we engage with her. This is a drama without frills or pretensions, whether in its sets, performances, dialogue or the overall atmosphere. I think what I most liked and appreciated about the drama were the characters: each character is so lovingly and interestingly detailed that you cannot help but become absorbed in their individual story arcs as well as the way they fit into the overall narrative. Duty-bound, perpetually three piece suit clad and chaste Urdu spouting, Qabacha and his hate-crush-love relationship with the ebullient Sanya adds much lightness of spirit to a drama that often hinges on being melancholy while Zaara and her relationship with her childhood friend and confidante, Zain evolves and grows over time, their conversations and interactions laden with so many layers. Sanya and Zaara's aunt, Ani, her landlord and future husband, Farhan, his dominating, irrepressible older sister, Begum Apa, and her butler, Buqrat may have seemingly less significant roles to play and yet their involvement in the drama is simply a treat to watch.

Behroz Sabzwari provides comic diversion in form of Qabacha

In this post,the blogger says that he very much appreciates the fact that Tanhaiyan embodies Pakistani's unique cultural identity  and I personally found that very fascinating.  For example, there are references to songs and rituals that I was not otherwise aware of  - for example, when Farhan surprises Ani with a rather unexpected marriage proposal, the sisters' nanny sings a particular song about the groom coming to the bride's house. And of course, my fashion eagle eye could not help but appreciate the dramatic 80s sharp angles and lines in the joras that the women wear in the show. Even though I could not follow the Urdu at all times, I nonetheless enjoyed listening to its particular dialect in the show, making me wish nonetheless that I had further knowledge of the language.

Incidentally, I would love to hear from Pakistani readers as to how they personally perceive Tanhaiyan and other Pakistani dramas...and of course, Indian readers and viewers such as myself:)

**I watched Tanhaiyan for the first time in the last week of August and several months have passed since then; naturally, in that interval of time, much happens and you grow as an individual and it's interesting how I perceived certain scenes differently to the time when I first watched them. It reminds me of many who ask me as to how can I reread a book or re-watch a film? I find it curious and fascinating that whenever I re-read a book or re-watch a film, I find myself discovering and paying attention to a new nuance as a result of whatever I have experienced since I last read/watched the book or film. The way I see it, my personal experiences are enlarging the extent of my engagement with the book, for example, often making me feel as if I am reading the book once again for the first time.


  1. We could do a re-enactment of Tanhaiyan. :) I didn't know you watched it too. I grew up on those Pakistani TV shows, most of which I can't remember too clearly. I need to go back and watch them again.

    1. Ooooh, a re-enactment of Tanhaiyan, yes please:) I would happily audition for Begum Apa's role, lol. Or failing that, Ani!

      But yes, we watched many Pakistani TV dramas - I have only written down the ones I most clearly remember. YT has most of the episodes but I think you can buy DVDs in Pakistan as well. I stopped watching DK halfway so have to catch up on that - and as for its Indian remake, oh god, they have totally massacred the spirit and poetry of the original!

  2. Tanhaiyan is a cult favourite in pakistan.

    Try watching ankahi-hilarious. And from the contemporary time Humsafar


    1. Can absolutely imagine Tanhaiyan's cult status in Pakistan!

      Yes, I meant to watch Ankahi - I think it also stars the actor who played Buqrat? I especially enjoyed his performance in Tanhaiyan! Will also check out Humsafar. Thank you for the recommendations!


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