Dhanmalhi is a 1993 made for television drama which was written and directed by Reeko Moosa, who also plays the lead character.
The Cast and credits
Idhrees, the husband / protagonist - played by Reeko Moosa.
Fareedha (Faree), the wife / antagonist - played by Lilian.
Hafsa (Hafu), the co-worker / mistress - played by Suneetha.
Husseinfulhu be', the older friend / nosy neighbour / sexist bastard - played by Koyya Hassan Maniku.
Fareedha's mother, the matriarch - played by Aarifaa.
Solih, the boss - played by Shakir.
Zakariyya be' - Fareedha's father, who is not shown on screen, yet unlike her mother has a name.
Sato - also not seen onscreen, appears to be the friend / love interest whom Fareedha is always on the phone with.
Mohamed Rasheed (Thuttey)
The film takes place over five locations; the home, the office, Husseinfulhu be's house, Hafsa's house and the city.
The Home (Idhrees and Fareedha's house)
This is where the majority of the film takes place; it is where it begins and where it ends. It is mostly a stage for the conflict between Idhrees and Fareedha.
The Streets of Male' City
The city acts as a transitioning point; and Idhrees is often shown cycling between destinations. Despite not featuring as heavily as the other locations, several important plot points occur here.
The stage for several flirtatious scenes between Idhrees and Hafsa. Their boss, Solih, is only seen here. He seems to encourage the budding romance; probably as he seems to see Idhrees' tardiness as a result of some sort of failing by Fareedha.
Husseinfulhu be's House
This is Husseinfulhu be's temple, the place where he educates fools like Idhrees on how to be a man. In the one and only scene to occur here, Husseinfulhu be' lures Idhrees in with some tale about needing help with a letter, only to start berating him about how he is completely failing at controlling his woman.
Idhrees and Hafsa continue their office romance here. Idhrees is at first reluctant to go but when he finally does, he has such a good time that they chat away until almost midnight.
Plot Summary - The story of Idhrees
To write a plot summary of this drama is to write the story of the progression that Idhrees' character undergoes. The only people who change in this film are Idhrees and his wife, Fareedha. The movie begins with Idhrees being late to work. Fareedha's character is introduced when he returns home. Apparently ill, she is seen lazing around watching television. She is shown as deceptive, lazy and manipulative. She even makes Idhrees sleep on the floor on a mattress. This is how her character is presented throughout the drama until her transformation at the end. Idhrees himself is shown as being timid and subservient; something which only begins to change when he is caught red handed trying to clean a cooking pot by his older friend Husseinfulhu be'.
Idhrees tries to explain it off by saying he was checking for leaks but Husseinfulhu be' sees right through it and invites Idhrees over his house where he begins to "educate" Idhrees about what marriage is "actually" supposed to be like. He explains how Fareedha is never going to change and how she was completely failing at her "duties" as a wife. He really stresses the point that any domestic chores are beneath the level of a man and sounds like he is embarrassed by the state of Idhrees' marriage. He even criticizes Fareedha's widowed mother for "going from house to house" every day instead of moving in with Idhrees and helping out with the housework. Husseinfulhu be's role throughout the film is both of patriarchal mentor and creepy stalker; and he is of often seen spying on Idhrees. There is one scene where Idhrees is forced to bring some refreshments by Fareedha when her mother visits (the horror!); at first he brings in the drinks without any glasses and Fareedha berates him about this, telling him to go back and get some; all the while Husseinfulhu be' is seen staring at them through their window, shaking his head disapprovingly. Despite this, the film never presents Husseinfulhu be' in a negative light. His nosiness and stalking is somehow justified because of his "wisdom" that he himself proclaims he came about by "no accident".
The movie contrasts Fareedha's gloominess and apparent laziness and failings as a wife with Hafsa; who is shown as doting, caring and cheerful. When she is flirting with Idhrees she often questions why he is with her at all; asking several times if the reason Idhrees puts up with Fareedha is because she is somehow incredibly beautiful.
Calling over the office intercom, Hafsa invites Idhrees over to her house after work, claiming that it's her birthday and at first Idhrees refuses. However he does go there the next day (complete with shot of Husseinfulhu be' spying on him as he travels there), where he is spoilt with tea, short eats and Hafsa's affections. In this setting Idhrees is positively beaming - a stark contrast to the gloominess his face betrays at home. Hafsa once again asks why Idhrees bothers with his marriage; and he explains that he is from a poor rural family and that he moved to the city when he was quite young, and says that even if he were to divorce Hafsa, he'd be the one who'd suffer as he'd be without a home. They chat away until almost midnight.
The late return of Idhrees angers Fareedha who accuses him of being up to no good. Idhrees denies it all. This cycle continues for a few scenes until Fareedha and her mother catch Idhrees travelling between houses. Husseinfulhu be' is also seen in the background spying on all of them. Why Husseinfulhu be' has so much time on his hands and how he knows exactly where all of this is going on is never explained. He is quite the creep.
When Idhrees once again returns late at night and Fareedha immediately begins to lay into him. They have a violent argument and as it is going on Husseinfulhu be' knocks on the door. Idhrees eventually leaves, telling Husseinfulhu be' that nothing happened. Husseinfulhu be' sticks behind and gives a stern talk to Fareedha about how she should be behaving as a wife and how she shouldn't be jumping to conclusions without proof; saying that Allah gave her the ability to think for a reason. He says that she isn't that beautiful and that she should be thankful that Idhrees doesn't go off with someone else. He says that it's an outrage that she makes Idhrees do domestic chores and that it's practically making him die of shame. All the while gentle music plays; giving the impression that he's giving some kind of enlightened talk. Once again why Husseinfulhu be' is lurking around their place in the dark of the night is not explained at all.
Idhrees returns and Fareedha begins to argue with him - but not for long! The transformed Idhrees slams her onto the bed and tells her how things are going to be from now on. He tells her he is tired of her crap and that she isn't so beautiful or caring that he has to be nice to her. He says that she is no longer going to make him do anything, and that from now on she has to do the cooking and housework and asks if she thinks him mad. Idhrees even literally says that he is the husband (firi-meehaa) and therefore the master (veri-meehaa). He says she is going to just have to live with him and that he won't even divorce her. All the while Fareedha lies meekly on the bed. He leaves for a brief moment, only to return to remove her from the bed and says that he is the one who'll sleep there now. The phone rings. It's Hafsa, who appears to confess to their illicit romance. Fareedha, who is now also transformed, says that she won't believe it at all and asks her to stop calling.
The next morning, a very dolled up Fareedha wakes Idhrees up and gets him a glass of water. She asks him to go shower and says that the days of him being to late are now over. She gives a dopey smile towards him and makes the bed, and then begins laying out his office clothes. Idhrees returns and she helps him with his clothes and straitens his tie. The film ends with a shot of him turning and winking at the camera, doting wife at his side. It's this wink that gives away the true intentions of the film makers - this isn't a sad tale of a broken and abusive marriage; this is the tale of a henpecked husband triumphantly putting his wife in her "place".
The film makers conception of a healthy marriage
So what are the outcomes of this "happy" ending? Fareedha, now knows that she is nothing special and that Idhrees can just dump her for someone else. She now has a clear threat of abandonment and infidelity as a motivator for being a "good" wife.
How the filmmakers define just what exactly a "good" wife is revealed through the dialogue of the various characters. First and foremost she must be beautiful. This is repeated by Idhrees, Hafsa and Husseinfulhu be' when they all question this quality in Fareedha. Hafsa asks Idhrees early on if Fareedha possesses some kind of exceptional beauty; with the implication being that this beauty would excuse her other perceived failings. These failings include not doing any house work, the even worse crime of making her husband have to do any housework, not bringing in tea and treats when guests visit, being generally lazy, not waking up Idhrees on time for work and helping him get ready, not ironing and washing his clothes, not cooking, and generally just being terrible at meeting the expectations that have been set for her as a house wife.
She is also presented as being deceptive; throughout the film she says she claims to be ill - something which Husseinfulhu be' says is an excuse she makes to not do any house work. She is shown spending her time watching shows, some with vulgar English language, and talking to some unknown party on the phone; who is hinted to be man named Sato. He is briefly mentioned in a conversation between Fareedha and her mother; her mother asks what Sato has been upto, and she says that he told her that some mutual friend had gotten married, and that he was wondering if that was in his future too. Fareedha is thus also presented as being unfaithful.
When it comes to Idhrees' infidelities, he is shown as being driven towards it by Fareedha's failings; rather than occurring because of any fault of his. There is not much doubt that their's was a truly loveless marriage. In this way it can be said that it is Hafsa who embodies the characteristics of the ideal woman; and thus the ideal wife. In many ways she is the opposite of Fareedha. She is always smiling, and seems quite enthusiastic about pleasing Idhrees.
Idhrees even tells Hafsa at one point that the only reason he hasn't gotten a divorce is because he would have nothing to gain if he went through with it; in particular the fact that he did not own the house. Idhrees reveals this with a yarn about being a poor boy from the islands who had moved to Male' at a young age with barely anything to his name. Despite his earnest appeal, the implication seems to be that he'd readily divorce Fareedha if he were to somehow get the property.
It is perhaps because of this that later, during his transformative scene, he stresses the fact that he is not going to divorce her. He was going to be her husband, and in his words her literal master, and there would be nothing she could do about it. Could it be that what he really desired was her property? In that same regard, could it be that Fareedha's "failings" were part of a plan to get Idhrees to divorce her; all a man has to do is utter the words and later get his claim verified by the court. A woman, on the other hand, has to deal with a whole lot more bureaucracy.
Whatever the case, divorce was now unnecessary, with Fareedha being transformed into a perfect wife virtually over night. The new and improved Fareedha is now unquestioningly loyal, and wakes up earlier than Idhrees to makes sure that he can get to work on time. She has his clothes at the ready, and even assures him that he won't be needing to use his alarm to wake up on time anymore.
This whole issue of Idhrees being late to work is a major plot point, with the movie beginning and ending with its introduction and resolution. So is this a movie about being late to work? Or is it a movie about the responsibilities of women?
Part two and conclusion next month.