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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam Review: Avant Garde, Bold & Quirky

Following Churails success, ZEE5 Global and their channel Zindagi team up to present another feminist series, Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam (QHKN). The show unites major faces from Pakistani cinema comprising of Sanam Saeed, Sarwat Gilani, Mehar Bano, Faiza Gillani, Beo Raana Zafar, Eman Suleman, Samiya Mumtaz, Saleem Meeraj, Ahsan Khan, Osman Khalid Butt and Sheheryar Munawar.

Co-written by Farjad Nabi, the anthology is set in the timeless lanes of ‘Androon Sheher’ – a mythical neighbourhood. Each story from the anthology depicts the fearlessness of women and their determination to avenge the dece.

The series begins with the murder of doctor Zehra (Suleman), the mistress of influential Peer (spiritual guide), Naji Shah. The mystical wife of Shah, Mai ji (Mumtaz) is asked about the ordeal. Her allies Munniya and Anarkali (Bano) are seen cutting meat in the background.

This entire incident forms the hook of QHKN. From there on, we see six episodes exploring different women who are pushed to the edge and take drastic decisions. Societal themes like domestic violence, misogyny, mental health and homosexuality are explored. There are also subtle hints to class and age disparities with many of such concepts neatly weaved into the narrative. Twist endings make one reminiscent of classic shows like Tales Of The Unexpected and The Twilight Zone.

Director Meenu Gaur adds spice to the noir genre. Be it UV lights or objects like an arcade in a warehouse location, the zaniness adds to QHKN‘s enigmatic story. Geographical locations like narrow alleyways or palatial mansions help to maintain the sentiment of claustrophobia. The costumes and actor outlooks too have an edgy feel. I must say that the camera work is captivating. At times, the low and worm’s eye shots remind me of Vishal Bhardwaj’s filmmaking in 7 Khoon Maaf and Haider.

This year we’ve had a plethora of Femme Fatales impress us – be it, Lady Gaga, in House Of Gucci or Anya Taylor-Joy in Last Night In Soho. Performances by the leading ladies in this show are lethally beautiful. Suleman and Mumtaz’s characters add a Shakesperean feel. They remind me of the Witches from Macbeth, who foreshadows the narrative through their poetic dialogues and mysterious antics. All roles are explored well during their segments and the killings are never glorified.

In fact, it is refreshing to see how the film does not interpret ‘feminism’ to be male-bashing. Rather, it delves into how gender inequality is horrifically rampant and how deep-rooted it is within contemporary Pakistan. In creating a cinematic yet real appeal, a special mention also goes to the phenomenal music by Ali Sethi. The mix of jazz and other modern genres with folk music enhance the atmosphere. The OST matches with the idiosyncratic visual appeal.

The length of each episode is quite apt, ranging to a maximum of 45 minutes or so. However, the bleakness and kitsch appeal of the series make it tough to ‘binge-watch’ per se. I feel that watching it at one go might not be enjoyable. Best to take this slowly and gradually.

Furthermore, I feel that there is a lack of lucidity within certain stories. For instance, the second episode doesn’t end on a complete note. Given that a person mysteriously disappears, there is a lack of closure as to how his family have reacted. I get that it’s an anthology, but clarity in such cases would’ve polished the series as a wholesome narrative.

Having said that though, QHKN is a brave work of art that cements the ‘noir’ genre within South-Asian entertainment. These femme fatale narratives also address thorny issues within our society in a delicate manner. Incredible to see some of Pakistan’s finest actors assemble for this path-breaking content. Certainly worth the stream

⭐⭐⭐.5 (3.5/5 stars)

Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam streams from 10th December on ZEE5.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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