Mystery series Dhund’s uniqueness was being foreseen before its release. However, the first episode made us realise that it is a project that is unique far beyond our imagination. Watching it was like reading a book having magic realism in it, every chapter of which is to be meticulously read so that all the dispersed stories can be well-connected and the amalgamation of fantasy and reality can be well-perceived when the time comes. Commercial breaks, a necessity, did cause one to lose the string, but the curiosity to know every detail was so much that the thought of leaving the television and walking away did not come across the mind even once.

The character of Maria, played by Maria Wasti, is of a woman who can communicate with dead people. What we call necromancy is what Maria is capable of, but it must be known that neither has she learnt the art, nor does she want it, but is afraid of what she envisions, except for her Nana Syed played by Mohammed Ahmed with whom she shares every problem of hers. The important fact is that this ability of seeing the dead has in no way made Maria’s life comfortable or an idealistic one. There is a constant pain she is suffering from, that of the disappearance of her husband and son. It is not known where they are, but what is interesting is that since Maria does not envision them like she envisions other dead people, it is affirmed that they are alive. Similarly, her Nana Syed who cannot see people who are alive except for Maria does not see them, which re-affirms that they are not dead. The case is being probed into by inspector Uzair Ahmad performed by Hassan Ahmad who has procured the secret of Maria’s necromancy, and is ready to solve her case on the condition that Maria would help him solve certain cases by talking to people who were murdered or died a mysterious death.

This ability, which most people are desirous of, or take a fancy after, is shown to have resulted in nothing but perpetual misery. One recalls Doctor Faustus from western literature who had achieved command over every branch of knowledge, and the last thing he desired was the ability to evoke the dead. But like the tragedy he faced, Maria’s life is also full of complications. When she refuses to communicate, terrible things happen. People die. They commit murders.

The second important theme in the episode was that related to restless souls. Running in parallel is the story of an editor named Waqas, played by Asad Siddique who has been given the task of editing a play based on the life of a girl named Raunaq Aara (Sana Askari) who committed suicide about 150 years ago. The editor expresses vexation at having been given such an old story and probably believes that it is an unimportant, fake story. The girl, agitated at the insult being hurled at her life story, starts disturbing the boy by suddenly appearing on his laptop screen in a manner of talking to him and at times, by making an out of the blue appearance at the edge of his bed. We get to know the reason of her restless soul when she says that neither a funeral was held for her, nor anyone prayed for her forgiveness, while that is all she yearns for. Waqas satisfies our religious instinct by saying that this is what serves well the people who commit suicides, but Raunaq Aara’s response strikes like a hammer on our hearts and makes us jump out of ourselves. She says:

‘Chaahe who khudkushi apni izzat pamaal hone se bachaane ke liye kee jaaye?’

This sentence and the fact that Raunaq Aara killed herself in 1857 (the year of the mutiny) makes us sympathetically think of all those women who in such riots were raped, abducted or mercilessly killed. Why a woman has always been the target of such boisterous acts is not a modern question arising in the current era, but for us orientalists, has been left unanswered since the days of Hindu-Muslim riots. How many women were raped? How many of them committed suicides in order to save themselves from these inhumane acts? The real mystery that remains to be solved is that what happened to the souls of those females? Were they not forgiven? Are they still restless?

Is it about Raunaq Aara only, or about every single woman who was made the subject of sexual violence amidst riots taking place between the men of both sides?

Moving back to the play, Raunaq Aara being one of the dead with whom Maria can communicate, does try to convince Maria to talk to her, but her refusal to do so results in the death of Waqas who is locked inside his room and terrified to death by Raunaq Aara’s ghost. At the end of the episode, Waqas’s ghost comes to Maria to make her realise that her refusal to make use of her ability resulted in his death. He curses her that she may never able to find her son, like Waqas’s mother will never be able to find her son.

What will happen now? Will Maria remain in eternal loneliness? Will this mistake of hers really create problems for her? This will be revealed in the coming episodes, but what we learn from this episode is that it is good to talk. It is good to listen to others. It is good to be there for them. Otherwise, good happenings may not take place.

No one listened to Raunaq Aara.

No one listened to Waqas.

Almas Fidai through her tablo had already promised a piece of art. The artistic touch reinforced itself in the first episode when we encountered a piano, classy lamps, wooden shelves, hardbound books and vintage bedsteads. The use of incense pot in the hands of Raunaq Aara and the scenes from the graveyard depicted how all the happenings are related to our very own eastern culture.

Dhund is all about our people, the ghosts of our people, the miseries of people who died in this very part of the world. They are the ghosts of indigenous people of the oriental world, who died terrible deaths owing to the brutal acts taking place here, whom no one listened to.