Dastaan (Urdu: داستان) is a Pakistani drama serial dramatized by Sameera Fazal, and based on the novel “Bano”, by Razia Butt. It is based on the Partition of India (and the eventual creation of Pakistan), and takes place between 1947 and 1956. The drama depicts the story of Bano, a girl from a close knit Muslim family living in Ludhiana (located in the state of Punjab) in the pre-1947 era. The story follows Bano and her fianceè, Hassan, as they face the trials and tribulations caused by the 1947 partition.
Dastaan is the first project of its kind taken up by the Pakistani media. Director Haissam Hussain stated in an interview that production for the drama began months in advance, and that the filming itself only took a little over 2 months. The show was broadcast on Hum TV.
Based on the novel “Bano”, Dastaan begins with the wedding of Suraiya (Saba Qamar), Hassan’s aunt and Bano’s soon-to-be sister-in-law. She is engaged to Saleem (Ahsan Khan), Bano’s eldest brother. Hassan (Fawad Khan) and Bano (Sanam Baloch) had not seen each other for years and had no relationship whatsoever prior to Suraiya and Saleem’s wedding. They slowly begin to develop feelings for each other, with Hassan visiting Ludhiana every now and then. Hassan is in his final year at the Islamia College as an engineer student. He is an active supporter of the All-India Muslim League, and the leader of the Ludhiana Branch. He strongly believes in the establishment of Pakistan and is an avid follower of Qaid-E-Azam, leader of the Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. Meanwhile, Bano’s brother and Suraiya’s husband, Saleem, is an active supporter of the Indian Congress, with all his friends being Hindu, and believes that the establishment of Pakistan will not help, but rather lessen the position of Muslims in India. The political debate between Saleem and Hassan begins as friendly competition, but intensifies as conditions worsen throughout India for Muslims. Saleem, hot-tempered and rash, begins to bring political debates into family life and eventually forbids Suraiya to visit Hassan or his mother Rasheeda, her only sister. But Hassan is not dissuaded. He continues to spread the message of Pakistan throughout Saleem’s family, causing Saleem’s anger to explode on many occasions. Other than Saleem, his entire family become strong supporters of the Muslim League, especially Bano, who makes posters and signs for the Pakistan Movement.
Hassan and Bano eventually become engaged, and Saleem decides to leave behind his rivalry with Hassan for Bano’s sake. Soon, Hassan gets a job in Rawalpindi and has to leave immediately. He and Rasheeda leave Ludhiana, with the promise that they will be back 5 months later for the wedding. Meanwhile, Suraiya is pregnant.
During this time tensions between Hindus and Muslims escalate dramatically, and violence outbreaks all throughout India. Hate crimes against Muslims become common, and the fighting spreads all across India states, getting threateningly closer to Ludhiana every day. As the fighting becomes more pronounced, Muslims retaliate, leaving nobody safe. Saleem seems to be under the impression that his Hindu friends and families will be able to protect his family from rioters, but upon trying to get this assurance from them, they say, “What will we say to them? Why would they listen to us?” Saleem begins sensing a cold distance his Hindu friends have developed towards him and, while on his way home, encounters a sobbing Muslim man who lost his entire family and home. He begins to realize the importance of the creation of Pakistan and rushes home, telling his family to tightly lock up their doors and gates and to be ready for any kind of attack.
On a fateful night, a group of Sikhs and Hindus attack the family’s home. All of the men, which includes many other Muslims who sought refuge in their house, stay on the bottom floor with their swords and knives intending to fight. All the women–including Bano, Suraiya, and Bibi (Bano’s mother)–are huddled on the roof of the house. Saleem and all the men brutally murdered in a terrible massacre. A pregnant Suraiya, upon seeing her husband stabbed, throws herself off the roof to be with her dying husband. She lays next to him, trying to move her bloodied hand to be with his when a Sikh rioter brutally stabs her womb, killing Suraiya and her baby. Other women also throw themselves from the roof while others are carried away to be raped and killed. Bano’s other brother, before being killed, shouts to his mother, “Choke Bano!” Bano’s mother, with Bano’s tearful consent, tries to choke her to death to protect her from losing her honor, virtue, and religion from the Hindu and Sikh rapists, but two of Saleem’s Hindu friends arrive claiming to save them.
Saleem’s friend, Ram, tries to rape Bano, but his other friend saves her by killing Ram out of guilt. Bano, alone with her mother, manages to escape Ludhiana, where they seek shelter in a refugee camp for Muslims. The Muslim refugees are headed by a young brave Muslim man who lost his entire family. Thirsty and hungry, they try to walk to Pakistan, encountering poisoned wells along the way. Eventually, Hindu rioters attack this caravan. Bano is separated from her mother and raped. It is presumed her mother is raped as well; Bano crawls toward her mother’s now lifeless body, seeing her Ta’wiz necklace next to it. Bano, grief-stricken and in shock, wears her mother’s necklace and lays next to her body.
A Sikh man (Bilal Khan) stumbles upon Bano and her dead mother, and he helps nurse her back to health after her first rape. He then boards her on a train heading toward Lahore and leaves. It was common for trains to arrive in Lahore full of dead Muslims with only a few survivors, and this train was no exception: it is attacked by Sikh rioters. Basant Singh (Babrik Shah), a rioter, chases after Bano on the train. She turns around and shouts, “Do it! Do whatever you want to do! Your Guru (God) will never forgive you! I’ll ask him myself if he taught you Sikhs to do this to girls.” She then falls unconscious, and Basant Singh kidnaps her, bringing her to his home. She awakens in his home where he and his mother live. At first, she refuses to tell them her name, and so Basant Singh calls her Sundar Kaur, meaning “beautiful princess,” in Punjabi. He gives her the impression that he will take her to Pakistan himself once the dangers are gone. He also tells her she can write to Hassan and he’ll deliver the letters. Bano believes his lies and cannot wait to go to Pakistan.
Throughout her time there, they constantly try to convert her to Sikhism. They take her to the Gurdwara to pray, but she sneaks off and prays the Muslim salah. Basant’s mother also forcibly teaches her how to recite Sikh scripture and forces her to wear the silver bracelet Sikhs wear. Bano says to his mother, “I can forget everything in this world. I can forget that I am Naseeruddin’s daughter, that I am the sister of Faheem and Saleem, and that I am Hassan’s fiance. But I can never forget that I am first and foremost a Muslim. I will never bow down to your Guru Granth Sahib!” Nearly a year later, Basanta has not lived up to his promise, claiming that the roadways are still blocked and that traveling to Pakistan is too dangerous of a venture. Eventually, Bano learns of his plans to forcibly marry her and convert her, and she attempts to run away again. This time though, when Basanta catches her, he doesn’t treat her gently as with the first time. He tries whatever method he can to break her; beating her, raping her, forcing her to become a Sikhni (in vain), marrying her, and in the end, having her give birth to his child.
After many years, Bano manages to escape and finally make it to her beloved and Pakistan and back to Hassan, but her worries don’t end here as she sees how radically different Pakistan is to the dreams she had seen about it.
Bano turns mental because of everything shes been through, Hassan marries Rabia who is very grown up now, but they always come to meet her in the hospital.
Sanam Baloch as Bano (Urdu: بانو)
Fawad Khan as Hassan (Urdu: حسن)
Mehreen Raheel as Rabia (Urdu: رابیا)
Other cast and characters
Saba Qamar as Suraiya
Ahsan Khan as Saleem
Babrik Shah as Basant Singh
Saba Hameed as Rasheeda
Qavi Khan as Naseeb Bhai
Samina Peerzada as Saliha or “Bibi”
Affan Waheed as Nadir
Daniyal Raheel as Faheem
Humaira Abbasi as Kaamini
Seemi Raheel as Maami
Anita Fatima Camphor as Jameela
The serial takes place at a number of locations. It starts out at a neighborhood of Ludhiana, India, and changes locations every couple of episodes as the story corresponds. Other locations include Karachi, Pakistan, Lahore and Patiala, India. Notable locations include the Islamia College and the famous Badshahi Masjid in Lahore, as well as the Pakistan Railways Station.
The Dastaan theme “Aasmanon Se” was composed and sung by Sohail Haider, who also composed the theme to fellow Hum TV production, Parsa (drama), and was written by Sahir Altaf. A frequent background music on the show, played during scenes asserting Pakistani independence or Pakistani pride is based after the tune of Aye Watan Pyare Watan by Ustad Amanat Ali Khan.
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