Warning: Slight spoilers included
“Tauheen” is a Pakistani telefilm that aired on TV One. Written by Saaji Gul, directed by Mohsin Talat and starring talented actors like Resham, Sonia Nazir, Ali Tahir and Ibrar Lodhi, Tauheen tackles the concept of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a type of harm that can take many different forms. Whether it’s physical abuse or verbal abuse, both tend to leave deep scars. The word “tauheen” roughly translates to “insult” and the story focuses on the insult felt by women when mistreated by their husbands, even if those scars are not visible to the world.
Zuni (Resham) and Rafay (Ali Tahir) are a married couple that are disconnected. Rafay cracks hurtful jokes consistently at the expense of his wife, not only hurting her, but often gaslighting her regarding her mental stability. When her college friend Ramis moves in next door, Zuni finds in him a confidant. Zuni’s maid Suraiyya (Sonia Nazir) is married with a physically abusive husband (Ibrar Lodhi). While she earns for the family, he stays at home and has affairs behind her back, silencing her with his hands when she dares to speak up for herself.
While Zuni’s abuse is verbal and, in her husband’s own head, is not visibly harmful, the scars of Rafay’s verbal abuse weigh heavy on Zuni’s heart and psyche. In her need to be heard, Zuni begins to confide in and share her marital issues with Ramis. While Ramis is well-intentioned, it must be noted that Ramis is a single man with no experience in matters related to commitment, marriage and romantic relationships. In her innocence, Zuni unknowingly begins to follow advice that ultimately leads to her entrapment in a marriage now much worse than it initially was.
Simultaneously, Suraiyya, inspired by Zuni, heads home only to find her husband with his mistress. While tempted to confront the two and burn the house down, she instead maturely confronts the two and takes the woman aside for a moment to inform her that if she wants to be with her husband and her husband’s only way of displaying love is physical abuse then Suraiyya will no longer be on the receiving end. If she would like to be with her husband, then it’s now her turn to take the abuse. True to her prediction, her husband begins beating his mistress almost as long as it takes Suraiyya to step out the front door.
What seems ironic about the story is that Zuni is the one who gives Suraiyya support and advice. It’s through Zuni’s constant advice and support that Suraiyya finally musters up the courage to leave her husband and stand up for herself. Despite Zuni’s great advice, something not only shown through Suraiyya, but also stated by Ramis regarding Zuni’s life guidance in his life, Zuni falls prey to her own circumstances. While following the same advice she bestows upon Suraiyya, Zuni underestimates her own husband and not only becomes a victim of domestic abuse, but also finds herself now trapped in a marriage that she does not have the luxury to leave.
Resham is a natural as Zuni, enacting Zuni’s worries and confusion regarding her marriage in such a way that the viewer can feel her discontent. Resham steals the show in every scene she’s in. Ali Tahir plays the arrogant, self-obsessed Rafay and does a good enough job playing him in that the viewer wants to physically harm him almost each time he opens his mouth to speak. Both Sonia Nazir and Ibrar Lodhi are believable in their roles as a couple in a toxic relationship. Special mention to the actor who plays Ramis, as he has a likable presence about him. Saji Gul has done a great job with the screenplay and story – the characters, namely that of Zuni and Suraiyya, are written so well that the viewer feels a connect with their predicament. To witness Zuni’s thought process from beginning to end and how it evolves is engrossing to watch and credit for this not only goes to the acting, but also to the writing. Directed by Mohsin Talat, the story is given life on screen with focus on detail and crisp, concise scenes which keep the flow of the telefilm fluid.
Ultimately, what is depicted in “Tauheen” is a story of domestic abuse, whether physical or verbal, and how abuse is not a concept relegated to only one class. Abuse is not something only a particular type of person can fall prey to, rather it can affect anyone and everyone. While Suraiyya is a sweeper and is shown as a victim of domestic abuse, Zuni is a well-off woman with a comfortable lifestyle and an education; however, this education does not protect her from the verbal abuse and gaslighting she receives at the hand (rather, the mouth) of her husband on a daily basis. While this thought is unsettling, it is a reality of Pakistani society – whether poor or otherwise, marriages are not safe from abuse.