Badshah Begum: A story of power and politics

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: After what seems like ages, there is a new wave of dramas making their way onto our screens. Moving beyond domestic abuse and saas bahu politics, our dramas have taken a shot at historical fiction with Jo Bichar Jaye and have also explored power dynamics and age in relationships with Dobara. Hum TV’s new drama, Badshah Begum has also proven to be unconventional. The drama touches upon dynasty politics and a world where women are the ones with real power. If you have not been able to catch up with the drama, here is all that has happened in Badshah Begum up till episode 4.

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The drama is situated in the village of Peerapur, a place where women sit on the throne and are the ones who call the shots. But that in no way implies that the Badshah Begum is soft in any way. We realize that very early on in the drama when Hakim Bi (Saman Ansari), the current Badshah Begum orders a pregnant woman’s legs to be broken. All because she entered Hakim Bi’s den without knowing the sex of her child, who could potentially be a boy. And it seems as though Hakim Bi’s sons are not too far behind in their blood lust.

Pir Shahzeb (Farhan Saeed) comes off as a calm, collected man and is seen leading the prayers in the mosque in one scene but then has a man killed in the very next. His brother Murad (Abdul Hasan) is more untamed. He is power hungry and cunning and even though women are the ones with real power, he still tries to exert his dominance. While Saeed and Hasan fit their roles well, Ansari’s “evil” aura seems to be a bit forced.

We are also introduced to Pir Kaiser (Yasir Hussain). Vying for the throne, his desperation is such that he does not seem to care that his wife died in childbirth. All he cares about is that she gave birth to a daughter. Something he goes to rub into Hakim Bi’s face. It comes as no surprise that Yasir Hussain is able to pull off the role of the villain so well. His entire demeanor, from the way he dresses to the way he talks makes our skin crawl which speaks volumes of how well he’s doing the part.

On the other hand, away from Peerapur, we are introduced to Jahan Ara (Zara Noor Abbas) and Roshan Ara (Komal Mir). Jahan is the elder, more responsible sister while Roshan is a spoilt brat. While Roshan is vying for Bakhtiar’s (Ali Rehman) attention, he is smitten with Jahan. It is hard to gage what Jahan Ara’s feelings towards Bakhtiar are. Is she turning him down because of her sister or is there something else brewing in the background? She hints at it by simply saying there is no possible way for the equation of the two to ever happen. But why not? Roshan, on the other hand, cannot handle rejection, making audiences wonder; will a man comes between the two sisters?

Speaking of Bakhtiar, he is the epitome of a rich “burger” boy. And we use the word boy loosely because it is really hard to picture Rehman as a college student.

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It takes up until episode 4 to really understand what the story of Badshah Begum actually is. We learn that Shah Alam was the head of Peerapur and had two wives. Hakim Bi was his first wife who only gave him sons. His second wife was from the city and gave him two daughters, Jahan and Roshan Ara and a son, Shahzeb. However, Shah Alam decided to leave the village and raise his second family in the city hence leaving Hakim Bi on the throne. Hakim Bi knows that her reign is threatened by Shah Alam’s daughters. Which is exactly what happens when they decide to come to Peerapur. Jahan Ara, it seems, is prepared for the power struggle that will ensue.

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By the end of episode 4, audiences come to realize that Badshah Begum is a slow burn. It is taking its sweet time to build up to the plot. Things could have been sped up if it wasn’t for a few unnecessary scenes like Bakhtiar making his way through the village and collapsing at one point.

But there are also some action filled scenes such as the assassination attempt on Hakim Bi (albeit mediocre action but A* for effort). It seems as though everything that happens in Badshah Begum is happening in sets of twos: the relationship of two sisters and two brothers, Shah Alam’s two wives and two different lifestyles and two feuding families. The dynasty politics and violence has led to the drama being dubbed as a desi Game of Thrones and has left us intrigued wanting to know more.

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