KARACHI: Drama is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words Saas-Bahu. A battle for the mind and the epicenter of family politics were some important features of the relationship between mothers and daughters-in-law. Living in a society that does not give power and control to a woman until she becomes a mother, it is not surprising that a daughter-in-law is seen as a threat – by slowly taking that power away from her husband’s mother. But what if the two decide to put their differences aside and understand the more human emotions behind their behavior? One such perception was explored in Daughter By Law, a short film by Digestive Showtime.
The most interesting part of the film is its cast with three of Pakistan’s most admired directors to become actors for the short film. While Marina Khan is a great actor and has given us some of the most famous appearances on television shows like Tanhaaiyan, Najaf Bilgrami and Aehsun Talish are largely known for directing. Haris Waheed, who plays the role of Adnan, is a given, while Sohai Ali Abro as Sarah embodies the confused, modern daughter-in-law in the 38-minute runner of Digestive Showtime.
So many of us find Abro’s role relatable because of the divide we feel as millennials and the baby boomers. The decade of the latter seems too far away, but if you take a closer look it is perhaps the most colorful. The music, the disco, the fashion and the quick transformation after the great world wars. Khan (as Farah) embodies the nostalgia that is hidden somewhere in the corner. Many of us enjoy the luxury of technology, but deep down we also want to be exchanging old school love letters instead of virtual conversations on WhatsApp that just don’t have the same charm.
In many ways, Sarah and Farah represent the merger of two generations and the will to understand each other. The same is illustrated by Farah’s (Marina Khan) relationship with her son Adnan. She doesn’t quite understand how fast it is growing. In her head she still wants him to be the kid who went to bed at 10 p.m. On the other hand, Adnan wants to bring Farah into the new age by giving her a smartphone and often correcting her behaviors. He wants to show her in a subtle way how she can no longer control everything.
Armughan Hassan, the film’s creator and director, keeps the flow as organic as possible, especially when it comes to the role of Neetu Chacha. None of his dialogues feels very embellished. They don’t feel out of place like they do with televised dramas. Similar to the 80s, the strong understanding of Urdu is coming back and is also justified. Why does he speak such decorated Urdu? Because Neetu passed on letters from an Afsananigar (writer) to the man Farah loved. Later, when Farah is married to someone else and turns out to be a good insider tip, Neetu is sent along with her dowry. Soon widowed, the only person Neetu now socialises with is Farah. He learns her ways, her speaking style, but adds his own sense of humor – a small part of himself.
Rizwan Shirazi’s cameraman and Nauman Kashif’s artistic direction go hand in hand. Pastel colors film the frame with a soft golden sheen. Everything feels cozy, warm and comfortable. During the day, most of the footage shows the golden hour, a time we associate with comfort, birds returning home, people leaving work. During the night, soft lights with warm color temperatures illuminate a comfortable reading room. Things in the house may be formal, but there is a sense of relaxation there. Some comfort and reliability in the routine that the whole family follows.
Exploring the love between two people who feel their life has slipped assures many that it has not yet been. Their feelings for one another are as strong as ever. And what they do about those feelings, like looking up each other on social media once they get into technology, is no different from two young people falling in love today. Your life isn’t over yet, and it’s okay to write new stories with new people, and not just with a typewriter.
Daughter By Law is definitely a win for Digestive Showtime. Its natural actors, strong female characters and vibes culminate in a carefree exploration of old world romance, colors, and a family life where everyone looks like a strange goose.