A friend and I recently saw Tanhaiyan after a long time. Per my request, he has offered to share some of his emotions and thoughts about the play with you guys as well.  Please see below for this brilliant contribution to ‘Chasing Thoughts’.

I recently saw the Pakistani drama series called Tanhaiyan again and have been unable to get it out of my mind. The series has the best of Pakistan’s talent including Marina Khan (Sanya), Shahnaz Sheikh (Zara), Baddar Khalil (Aanie), Asif Raza Mir (Zain), Qazi Wajid (Farhan), Azra Sherwani (Apa Begum), Durdana Butt (Bibi), Behroze Sabzwari (Qutbudeen aka Qabacha), Jamshed Ansari (Buqrat), Yasmeen Ismail (Veeda) and several other great artists. This beautiful play, first aired in the early 1980’s, was written by the extremely talented Haseena Moin and directed by Shahzad Khalil. 

The story starts out with Sanya and Zara losing their parents in a car crash and moves through the next phase of their life as they go to live with their Aunt Aanie. Having lost not only their parents but also their house and financial stability, the sisters struggle to adjust to their new, vastly different life in their own unique ways.  Sanya, the out-going, vivacious sister, never loses her optimistic, cheery stance on life and keeps all those around her entertained through her hilarious antics.  Meanwhile, Zara becomes increasingly withdrawn and bitter, focusing solely on building a successful career and earning enough money to buy back her parents’ house which symbolized their dreams and aspirations as a family.  Zara and Sanya are joined in their journey by a cast of colorful and unforgettable characters such as Bibi and Qabacha who make their story a memorable one. 

Tanhaiyan is not just the tale of two sisters or the story of ambition and its trappings. It is the story of love, loss, relationships, friendships and surviving against all odds. Through their ups and downs Bibi, Baba, Sanya, Zara, Buqrat, Qabacha, Aapa Begum, Farhan and Aanie teach us about life and the various lessons we learn along the way. 

The magical thing about Tanhaiyan is that every viewing leaves you with a different emotion. What remained me with me after I saw it (repeatedly) as a child was the humor and the insanity of some characters. Watching it several years later I was struck by the grief and struggles of the family as well as the subtlety and purity of the love story between Zain and Zara.

In addition, while I’m a self proclaimed Bollywood addict (and not ashamed to admit it either) I now appreciate how Tanhaiyan represents Pakistan at its best. There is nothing borrowed and no imitation of the art from across the border. The language, culture and values portrayed in Tanhaiyan represent our own unique identity and remind me of the things I love about home even when I’m away. 

After finishing the final scene, I went on somewhat of a research frenzy on Google to find out more about each and every actor that was a part of this production. I was deeply saddened to find out that we have lost some of these gems. The artists playing the roles of Apa Begum, Bibi, Veeda and Buqrat have all passed away. The loss of these talented actors is undoubtedly a tragic one to the Pakistani entertainment world and to all of us who will always remember and cherish their characters as part of our childhood.

Tanhaiyan is filled with powerful and sentimental moments from start to finish, but here are some of the scenes I found most memorable:

– Zara’s initial scenes with her father and the special bond she shared with him. Their conversation in the opening scene of the play illustrates the depth and strength of the relationship Zara had with her parents. 
– Sanya and Zara arriving at Aanie’s house for a vacation only to find out that their parents have been killed in a car crash.
– Zara coming home when the entire household is in tears only to find out that the ruckus is because Aanie has agreed to Farhan’s proposal.
– Qabacha’s nonstop antics and attempts at impressing his beloved Miss Sanya.
– The continuous bickering between Buqrat (kehnay main kya harj hai) and Apa Begum (mujhse burra koi nahin hoga).
– Zain’s (aka King Kong) reunion with Zara, his childhood sweetheart.
– Zara going back to her family home only to realize the difference between a house and a home.
– Zara regaining consciousness in the hospital and Qabacha’s poetry recital which makes her laugh for the first time.
– Veeda’s confrontation with Zain and her acknowledgment of his love for Zara.
– Zara, with encouragement from Zain, learning to walk again after months of being confined to a wheelchair.
– Lastly, Zara’s return home from her near death experience and the inner conversation she has with Zain.

This drama has brought back a lot of memories for me and I hope it’s done the same for the readers that visit this site. Tanhaiyan has been uploaded on youtube and I hope everyone enjoys it (for the first or hundredth time) just as much as I did. For now, I’m moving on to Dhoop Kinaray, Pakistan’s (much earlier) version of ER & Gray’s Anatomy.



  1. Ah the Oldies! Such pleasure to see you and your friend reminiscing about those. I just canNOT get over Ankahi, Tanhaiyaan and the major addiction of my life Dhoop Kinarey. Rahat Kazmi still does for me what Patrick Dempsey simple scratches the surface of!
    The plays had a feel to them. They were not larger than life. They were simple, straightforward human lives. It was the fact of them being so relate-able (yes I make my own words, don’t bother complaining) that would just tunr them into Magnetrons for anyone with an ounce of a heart tissue
    Thanks a lot for this post
    You just made my day 🙂

  2. Btw the director of the play is Aanie’s real life husband. He passed away a few years ago too. He was very close to Marina.

    Also, Shahnaz Sheikh completely disappeared after doing Tanhaiyaan. She hasn’t acted in anything else and never does any interviews.

  3. That’s not true – I saw Shahnaz Sheikh quite a few times on TV in the past few years. She hosted a few talk shows and was a guest on other shows as well. She has aged a bit with gray hair but still looks the same.

  4. I haven’t seen this drama series, but am really glad that you are shedding light on fantastic Pakistani talent. We make so much fun of our darling Lollywood actors/movies, but we forget the real talent that our TV actors/directors have. These dramas are timeless. Really enjoyed this post!

  5. Shahnaz Sheikh’s a family friend and has been working for Aitchison College being in charge of their extra-curriculars. I’ve never seen her turn down interviews. Yup, like her grey hair. Loads.

  6. “In addition, while I’m a self proclaimed Bollywood addict (and not ashamed to admit it either) I now appreciate how Tanhaiyan represents Pakistan at its best. There is nothing borrowed and no imitation of the art from across the border. The language, culture and values portrayed in Tanhaiyan represent our own unique identity and remind me of the things I love about home even when I’m away.”

    My favorite para – very well said.

  7. That’s great, Hushed. Please pass on this link to Shahnaz Sheikh if you think she would be interested in reading it!

  8. Good to hear that these old dramas haven’t been forgotten. I’d heard about them from elder siblings, and finally got myself dvds on my trip to Pakistan last year.

    I’d totally recommend Ankahi – mamoo has to be my favorite character, despite the fact that i needed a translation for the mushkil urdu phrases he used most of the time! 🙂

  9. Am not a Pakistani… but am a ‘self proclaimed’ Pakistani drama (the one ones) addict :)). Tanhaiyan, Ankahi and Dhoop Kinare are my all time favorite. I totally agree with ‘Hushed’s’ first comment! Now, the only thing remains is to get my hands on a copy of DK and Tanhaiyan! This was a lovely post OUH!

  10. NS, please remind me to get them for you next time I’m in Pakistan. Osman has a copy of some of the dramas so please just get them from him. I’ll e-mail him right now and CC you so you both can coordinate it. I know he doesn’t have Tanhaiyan as he recently saw it on youtube again but I’m pretty sure he has Ankahi and Dhoop Kinaray.

    Also, another recent drama that my parents and brother reccomended to me recently was ‘Doraha’, which is very good and reminds me of the old school brilliant Dramas that we had once upon a time. Check it out on youtube as it’s uploaded over there.

    Bisma, Ankahi is brilliant. Mamoo, Timmy, & Gibran are all great characters. Did you notice that some of the scenes of Ankahi were stolen and inserted in “Chandni” by Yash Chopra – In specific, the scenes of Sana (Shahnaz Shaikh) and Shakeel in the office are all used in Chandni between Sridevi and Vinod Khanna. Well, it’s not a shock that Indian cinema has yet again stolen some of our work without giving us any credit as they have done it with many songs as well.

    1. Salam, I am from across the border and sometimes really wonder why you guys ape us inspite of having the best in your own country. Tanhaiyaan, Ankahin, DK are among the best dramas ever made. If somebody can pass me DVDs, it would be a great favour

  11. Anyone who loves these dramas from the 80s needs to watch DORAHA immediately. Its absolutely brilliant.

  12. As a lot of the commentators said, Ankahi, Tanhaiyan, and Dhoop Kinaray are probably the all time favorites for everyone. You should watch Angan Tera as well – it’s awesome.

    Its so sad that we have lost so many of these great artists…I always wondered what happened to Gibran from Ankhahi? lol…that kid was way too cute…and did an amazing job also.

  13. Ahh, Tanhaiyan..the unforgetable one…I was totally mesmerised even I was just reading your post about this drama and i lost myself in its depth. The true master piece enlighten the relationships and their bonds between them.

    Thanks for the reminder of this sweet play 🙂

  14. Tavleen Kaur · · Reply


    I have watched Tanhaiyan since i was a kid every summer on holidays at my grandparent’s place. I love this show! I was jumping when I saw it again on youtube in my hostel since in India I did not know how to get a hold of the dvds. Its a classic and I wish we had more shows similar to this one to watch.This generation is growing on rotten eggs.

  15. You have made me so jazbati by talking about Tanhaiyan. The most beautiful play that I have seen. Dhoop kinarey is a must watch too.

  16. I am an Indian and I recall having my family watch these three serials for hours together. I was really young, so young that I only remembered Zoya Ali Khan’s hair style but i loved Dhoop Kinaray because all my brothers and sisters did. I grew up and 24 years later a conversation with my Pakistani best friend drew me back to these legendary pieces of brilliant work. In just about a week, I finished my entire DK and Tanhaiyaan series. I now begin with Ankhaee. I realised what a masterpiece Pakistani serials were and still are right now. So beautiful its hard to believe. So natural. So flawless. Sad you guys dont make serials like that. If you do, I would appreciate if you could update me with a list.

    I agree..you fall in love with each character in these serials. So much that it hurts when they are hurt.

    By the way if you were not aware, Dr. Zoya’s hairstyle and dressing was such a hit in India that I remember every girl trying to ape it. So did my sisters. The only benefit they had were they looked like Marina Khan then too…hehehe 🙂

    I love these serials!! BEAUTIFUL to the core!!!

  17. Hi,

    Salaam, I’m of Indian orgin and my introduction to Pakistani drama began with Dhoop Kinaray then Tanhaiyaan and recently watched Ankahi. Beautifully done, all of them and what impressed me the most was the language and deeply philisophical dialogues.

    Urdu (or Hindustani) is such a beautiful language and It is sad that it was slowly pushed out from our Bollywood films.

    I think Pakistani Media Industry should stick to its strengths i.e Dramas, it will eventually find its rightful place in our Industry.

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