I hardly ever binge-watch a drama series on YouTube. Firstly, the frequently cropping ads make the watching experience less exhilarating than undisruptive hours of OTT. And if you are really unlucky, the uploaded YouTube episodes mismatch, and you see the fourth before the third, revealing something that you had been guessing since the beginning of the series. And that might make you even less inclined to watch the third. Or the fifth for that matter.
But when YouTube suggested the Pakistani series Meray Paas Tum Ho quite persistently, due to some odd reason (lovesick February) I decided to go for it. The hook was almost instant. A middle-class happy family based in Karachi, comprising of the loving husband Danish (Humayun Saeed), his beautiful wife Mehwish (Ayeza Khan) and their cute son Roomi, faces turmoil with the entry of the affluent Shehwaar Ahmed (Adnan Siddiqui) in their lives.
Danish gets the sympathy vote almost immediately. He is the honest slogging husband, one who refuses to abuse his government job by being corrupt. He constantly reminds Mehwish that although he doesn't have a big house, a big car or a big bank balance, he has her and that's enough for him (reference to the title: Meray Paas Tum Ho). Mehwish, on the other hand, is the nagging wife, who forces her husband, time and time again, to take bribes to support his family and their growing demands.
The first episode begins by her pointing out a necklace to Danish, subtly hinting at how beautiful it would look around her neck. Her persuasion tactics manage to do the trick and Danish spends a sleepless night trying to figure out a way to buy the necklace for his pretty wife. He undoubtedly loves his wife, and it's clear that he would do anything for her; the only hiccup being his hesitance to compromise on his morality. He is the stereotypical good guy, and even though his character can sometimes border on being possessive, patriarchal and dominating, you forgive him for all his vices by the middle of the series. Mehwish is the greed-ridden wife, claiming to want wealth for the betterment of her family's future. At first, I admired her strong-headed character. In a largely patriarchal society, she is hardly the dutiful wife, refusing to bow down to Danish's unreasonable feudal demands. She is unapologetic about her wishes, which makes her immensely interesting to watch. The couple has frequent disagreements and Mehwish still stands her ground with élan.
Enter Shehwar Ahmed. The man with the deepest pockets; an answer to all of Meswish's prayers. He is bewitched by her beauty, and despite both their married statuses (yes, Shehwar is married to an absent wife who spends all her time abroad), he pursues Mehwish unabashedly. He makes excuses to meet her along with her husband, pretending to develop a friendship bond with 'Danish Sa'ab' (as he likes to call him). It is no surprise when Mehwish falls prey to his flatteries and superfluous charm. As Danish had pointed out, she lacks a backbone when it comes to protecting her integrity as a married woman. It is frustrating to watch her lie to Danish, who, in turn, is constantly checking himself to accommodate his wife's desires. There are scenes with Mehwish play-acting a doting wife to Shehwar, insisting he not smoke cigarettes as they will harm his health. In contrast, she is the least bothered when her own husband resorts to smoking under stress. Danish's health declines with constant worries, but by then Mehwish has become stone-cold towards him.
It is suffocating to watch the couple together, and finally the impending divorce brings much needed respite. Like in Indecent Proposal, Shehwar offers Danish fifty million in exchange for his wife. But unlike the Robert Redford movie, Danish decides to take nothing, even going so far as to say that Shehwar is a stupid businessman who was willing to trade in fifty million for his cheaper wife. That is one of the few times we see Danish expressing his repressed emotions.
But the drama really unfolds when Danish's character undergoes an arc. With both Mehwish and Shehwar constantly blackmailing him, threatening to take full custody of Roomi, Danish becomes the fearless man with nothing to lose (because he literally has nothing to lose except Roomi). We finally see the six-foot-tall Humayun Saeed standing up to the bullies and using his size to beat up Shehwar in the boardroom of his office in the midst of all employees. With so much sympathy building for Danish, the scene when he punches Shehwar is extremely powerful and cathartic. Taking help from Roomi's teacher Hania (Hina Mani), Danish's passive character finally becomes active, giving full satisfaction to the audience members who were rooting for him (like me). In a twisted stock market fairytale, he is bestowed with all the wealth that Mehwish had been dreaming of since the time they had been married. But Danish is hardly the haughty rich man whose success goes to his head. He is same vulnerable Danish who has reluctantly moved on from his past relationship but is still haunted by its ghosts.
As predictable as it sounds, Mehwish, like her ex-husband, faces the same fate of betrayal at the hands of Shehwar when his rich wife shows up unexpectedly on the day of Mehwish's marriage to Shehwar. Mehwish, with nowhere to go, ends up at the doorstep of her former home. She is determined to win back her old lover with newfound vigour, even using her own son Roomi (who becomes collateral damage in his parents' broken relationship) as bait to get close to Danish again. But the tables have turned: Danish isn't the lovesick puppy he used to be. 'Will he take Mehwish back?' remains the million-dollar question, for which you need to watch the whole series on YouTube.
The controversial drama is full of perceptive statements and dialogues that reflect how different it is when a wife cheats on her husband compared to when a husband cheats on his wife. The comparison seems unfair and even highlights the disparity that still exists between South Asian gender roles for men and women. But the show has stirred a dialogue in society, giving an insight into the scruples of marriage in any religion. The screenplay has a certain depth that is untraceable in recent Hindi dramas or movies. The focus is on characterisation and dialogues, and the plot, although clichéd, still works in making you feel something profound. Humayun Saeed is fantastic at 42; his magnetic screen presence is undisputed. Ayeza Khan is perfect as the stubborn Mehwish; I even see glimpses of Kareena Kapoor at times. The rest of the actors have played the roles with sincerity and dedication. Be ready with tissues at hand, this one is a tear-jerker!