Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Dark Day for Pakistan

I haven't written in a few days and today should've been my day to put up a new blog post.  Unfortunately, today has been an incredibly heavy day emotionally.  While it's been a difficult day for all of Pakistan, today was particularly bad for my husband and I and our families, as we're from Peshawar.  While we were fortunate to have all our loved ones and family members home and safe, news continued to pour in all day of friends grieving the loss of their family members, acquaintances losing children, mothers and fathers and all-round chaos.  Today was not only a day where I did not watch a single show, it's also a day where the last thing on my mind was to write about any form of entertainment.

Pakistan is going through a rough time, namely Peshawar.  Please keep these grief-stricken families in your prayers tonight.  Hold your children tight and kiss them goodnight.  This could've been any one of us.  These victims were young, lively children.  These victims were great educators and parents.  These victims were all innocent human beings, 140 + of them.   Keep them in your duaas and prayers today.

That's all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shanakht - Random Thoughts Up to Episode 17

When Shanakht first began, my mind, of course, immediately assumed that "end-game" would be Annie & Hashim.  Looking at the drama's posters, that's what most would think.  However, after 17 episodes have passed and we see the track on which this show is headed, we know this is not the case.

"Shanakht" - for those who don't know, this word roughly translates to "identity."  While throughout the drama, we've seen Annie (Maya Ali) struggling not only for the right to whole-heartedly embrace her identity, but to have it embraced by her own family and in-laws.  We see Rohan (Fahad Mirza) struggling with the same situation, which instantly makes Rohan and Annie the "perfect" fit.  But this perfect couple faced their own share of problems.  While Annie's family was completely opposed to accepting her, Annie's family was not happy with having a "maulana" as a son-in-law. Both Annie and Rohan won over their in-laws and own families by displaying their good virtues and displaying that being religious did not need to translate to being "judgmental."

Our "perfect" couple of Rohan & Annie, however, do not overly display notions of being perfect.  They fight like a normal couple.  We see Annie's annoyance at Rohan's reluctance to attend family events.  We see Rohan's irritation at Annie ditching work to attend "silly" events with his mother.  But despite this very normal marital issues, we see that both parties mutually respect each other, are honest with each other and respect the families of the other.

Then on the other end, we're left with Hashim (Noor Hassan).  Hashim has yet to come to terms with his "shanakht."  While Hashim initially rejected Annie, shunning her for her beliefs, he now finds himself confused and looking for those beliefs in his UK-raised wife, Faryal (Kanza Wayne).  Faryal and Hashim's marriage is the polar opposite of Annie and Rohan's.  Despite caring for each other, Faryal and Hashim find themselves unable to respect each other.

Faryal's situation mirrors that of Annie's after marriage - her in-laws are unhappy with Hashim's choice and are not willing to accept her.  Each person has their own personality and way of dealing with things and, obviously, Faryal's is not the same as Annie's.  Hashim's mother (Shamim Hilali) is still hung up on the fact that Hashim didn't marry Annie and salt is further rubbed on her wounds each time mention is made of how successful Annie is in the workplace and in her own home.  This negatively affects her attitude towards Faryal further and we see Hashim's mother playing the "let's compare"game, something that completely irks Faryal.  Not only does her mother-in-law's attitude hurt Faryal, but it also seems to have an affect on Hashim, who seems to do everything he can to have Faryal mirror Annie's ways.  And logically speaking, what sort of wife would stand for that comparison?

The problem is that with Hashim's current work situation, working with Annie & Rohan, he consistently has the image of a "perfect wife" thrown in his face on a day-to-day basis.  Instead of seeing that his own family (namely his mother) are equally responsible for his hostile home environment, he begins to put all the blame on Faryal.  This is where the show is open for interpretation, of course:  Is it necessary for a daughter-in-law to tolerate the incredibly rude behavior of her mother-in-law?  Or is it her job to quietly listen to what her MIL has to say and silently change her perception (as Annie did)?  Does one way have to work for different people?  

In my personal opinion, Faryal is not a negative character.  Hashim accepted her in the UK as she was, with her own distinct personality.  She's a nice girl, but a girl who was not prepared to live in Pakistan with her in-laws and had the situation thrown at her.  Not only was she expected to simply "deal" with that situation, but her husband fails to understand how uncomfortable her mother-in-law makes her, constantly putting her down and criticizing her.  I do appreciate that the show is doing a great job of showing ALL sides here, not painting any particular party as negative.

After episode 17, we're left with Hashim and Faryal at bitter loggerheads in their marriage.  After repeatedly having Annie's name thrown in her face, Faryal has inherently learned to dislike Annie (despite initially loving her).  In an outburst, Faryal tells Annie that she's tired of hearing everyone praise Annie at her own expense, something which thoroughly embarrasses Hashim and leaves Annie miffed at what's happening in Hashim & Faryal's life.  Annie's feelings are understandably hurt, as are Faryal's.

What is refreshing to see from the promo for episode 18 is that, as usual, Annie is honest with Rohan and seeks his help in guiding her next move.  

Shanakht has proven to be a beautiful show to watch, neither coming off as preachy or unrealistic.  I think everyone at some level can connect to this show, whether it's in the marital aspect or the religious aspect.  Hope everyone else is enjoying this one as much as I am!

Happy watching!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Great Dramas, Beautiful OSTs

Just for a change of pace, today I thought I'd focus on the OSTs of some particular dramas.

While Pakistan's music scene has gone from being once-spectacular, in the past several years, it has landed completely flat on its face.  Coke Studio and Nescafe Basement aside (which both put out brilliant music), we have very little scope for good mainstream music in Pakistan.  What we do have are some excellent composers and singers who work for the drama industry (Waqar Ali being one) and put out incredible songs for these dramas.

Today, I just wanted to post (and discuss) some really wonderful drama original soundtracks that are currently on air.  We know that each OST is made with the intention of the drama itself, keeping the situation and feel in mind when writing lyrics and composing the music.  However, these songs are so  beautiful, they could stand alone without the drama!

Goya OST

This one just has to be mentioned, because it is completely, totally my obsession these days.  I can put this song on repeat over and over again and not tire of it.  The singing by Ghazal Ali and Shujat Haider is brilliant, the composition by Shuja Haider and the "feel" of the song are not only foreboding of what's to come in the show, but also contribute to how beautiful the song is in itself.

Dusri Biwi OST

This Ahmed Jahanzeb composition sounds like something that belongs on his own private album.  It's musically on par with his past works and his singing here does not let his fans down.  Beautiful.

Chup Raho

Alycia Dias is a favorite of mine when it comes to OSTs, because regardless what the situation is, she always hits the right notes, understands the mood of the composition and just "gets it."  While Chup Raho as a drama is not completely winning me over (I have my issues with it), this song is just perfect for explaining Rameen's predicament, turmoil and her problems with life.  What could've been a depressing, slow soundtrack is instead elevated by electric guitars and Alycia's vocals in a high-energy composition!


In both the male and female versions of this OST, the listener is completely won over.  While Sara Ali Khan's singing is absolutely flawless and heart-wrenching, Waqar Ali's rendition is soul-stirring and romantic.  This song not only conveys the feelings of Iqra and Hamza in the drama perfectly, but also makes it to the list of Pakistani OST gems.

While there are other great OSTs out there right now as well (Sadqay Tumhare, Jackson Heights, etc.), these four are the ones currently making a loop on my playlist.  Hope you love them as much as I do!

Happy watching! 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sadqay Tumhare and Goya - Equally Beautiful in Different Ways

If there are two dramas that have pulled me in, hook, line and sinker, it's Sadqay Tumhare and Goya.

"Jaan de dunga par Shano ko kisi aur ka honay nahin dunga."

There's something so beautiful about the dialogues in Sadqay Tumhare.  Generally, while I'm watching my drama-lineup, I'm usually cooking, cleaning or doing something else while watching.  Let's be honest - most shows these days don't require 100% of your attention.  However, with Sadqay Tumhare, it's as though a dialogue missed is like losing a gem.  It's a loss.  So while Sadqay Tumhare is on, it receives my full, 100% attention, my face in my hands, giggling and squealing like a schoolgirl.

It's been a long time since a drama has made me react like that - probably not since the Humsafar, Durr-e-Shahwar, Zindagi Gulzar Hai days.  That said, I have to commend the entire team for this beautiful show, at least so far.  9 episodes and not a scene (or even a dialogue) missed!  That's a feat for any drama these days.  When each episode ends, I'm left wishing it had been longer.

In episode 9, we see Shano clean Khalil's wounds.  Khalil is proud to have injured Fayyaz and his accomplices more than was dealt out to him.  Even Rashida seems distraught looking at Khalil's wounds and seems shaken by the extent to which Fayyaz went.  Regardless, "Khala and Khalu" are not heartless, but are simply unwilling to allow this alliance to occur.  They try to explain to both Shano and Khalil that they need to let this love affair go, as they will never allow them to get married.  Shano and Khalil both believe in one idea:  It doesn't matter if they get married, but neither will marry anyone else.

I have to commend the entire cast on their work (so far) on this drama.  It's not only Mahira and Adnan carrying this on their shoulders, but also the supporting cast.  Samiya Mumtaz is excellent as Rashida.  She's not an "evil" woman, but a woman who has made bad choices in life at a young age and those choices have left her bitter, resentful and spiteful.  Her acting in the scenes when she sees Khalil's "taqleef" is incredible - she's torn between her humanity and her vengeance.  Qavi Khan is a stand-out performer, as always, as the Maulana Sahab.  And who can't help but love Shamil Khan and Saniya Shamshad as Shano and Khalil's dear friends?  I'm waiting for more screen-time for Farhan Ali Agha, but I can't say I'm disappointed by the pace of the show at all!

Moving on to Goya, episode 4 aired today and what an episode!

It's nice to see a show where there is no clear-cut, concise lines of "good" and "evil."  Rather, these characters are human beings.  They have their beliefs, their societal norms, their ideas, values and concepts of social ranking in place.

In what could've been a stereotypically irritating scene between Umer & Zaara (Hira Tareen), we're treated to a sincere discussion between two people with different problems.  While Umer doesn't want to get married, Zara reveals that she also does not want to get married.  She desires to spend the next year in rehab, as she's been struggling with a drug addiction for 6 years and doesn't want to ruin the life of another person by getting married.  It was nice to see a character that could've otherwise been "negative" actually be a realistic human being.

When Umer came home from his dinner, it was interesting to see him plead with his stepmother to talk to his father about canceling the wedding.  Umer's disdain for his stepmother was clear and she didn't bother beating around the bush and asked him straight out why he behaved this way with her - and he replied that he didn't want her to take his mother's place.  Umer's issues came to the surface in this scene, displaying the amount of neglect he must've received from his father through the years (despite the strict controlling) and how he blamed that on his stepmother (who seems to be innocent, guilty only of trying to keep the peace between father & son).

Umer has a discussion with his friend Atif about his feelings for Mohini and how he plans on pursuing them.  He also pays Asmaa a visit in the office, asking about Mohini and how she's doing.  Asmaa is well-aware of Umer's interest in her daughter and finds it hard to dismiss him, admitting to Mohini that she thinks he's a great guy.  She tells Mohini that she wishes things were different and that Mohini could marry him.

The scene we've all witnessed in the promos finally came today - and it was such a cute scene!  Umer and Mohini get into a fight over Mohini's reluctance to accept Umer.  Umer makes it clear that he wants to marry her and that's it.  When Mohini tries to resist, he says that he doesn't want an answer right away and she has time to think and discuss it with her mother.  This scene was cute in that it was nice to see how understanding and patient Umer is in regards to Mohini.

On the other end, we see that Mrs. Imtiaz and Stepmom Hashmi are informed about Umer's whereabouts by his security team.  Stepmom Hashmi pays Mohini a visit and explains to her that their relationship (and Umer rejecting his engagement) will cause great problems for both his family and Mohini's.  She says that she has no vested interest, but would like to spare both families the pain, again showing that she's a good human being.

The highlight of the episode for me was the beach trip.  Umer and Mohini, accompanied by friends, take a day trip to the beach.  Umer's fiancee, Zara, also happens to show up with another friend.  It's here that Zara discusses with Mohini that Umer is a good guy and that she should stop fighting her feelings for him.  She makes it clear that she's not interested in marriage at this time and Umer deserves a good girl - and Mohini is a good girl.

This causes Mohini to give the situation serious thought and she heads off to discuss things with Umer.  She tells him that she's unwilling to marry into a household that won't accept her, to which Umer replies that he won't take her into such a household and will leave his family and wealth behind for her.  Umer asks her to support him in his life's first "stand."  

The episode ends there, but leaves room for a lot of excitement in future episodes.  The pace of this show is natural and the characters are realistic, which makes it a nice change!  

That's it for now.  If you aren't watching Goya and Sadqay Tumhare, you're missing out!

Happy watching!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eeeeee. Eeeeee. Eeeeeee. What's that ANNOYING NOISE? Oh, just the latest episodes of these dramas!

When I talk about shows, I generally speak about them as a whole.  "Oh, ____ is  a great show," or "____ is really interesting right now" or "_____ is performing really well in this drama."  However, some of these shows either had 1-2 bad episodes in recent times OR some of these shows have just consistently had bad episodes for a while now.

Shows like Sadqay Tumhare, Goya, Jackson Heights, Shanakht, Digest Writer, Firaaq and even the newly started Dusri Biwi are not the shows I want to talk about.  These shows have been moving at a consistent pace and have been putting out the quality expected of them.

The shows I am going to speak about are.....well, it's a large list.

Warning:  This may seem more like a rant than a logical blog post, so I apologize in advance.

Day Ijaazat Jo Tu......- Episode 14
What. Happened. Here?  What started off as a nice, sweet, refreshingly different drama with a cute pair and a good pace has turned into a sob fest with very little left to care about!  What is this?!  Now Sarmad is gone and Ayla is left to fend off "the monsters" of the world.  This is NOT the story I signed on to watch.  Watching Ayla's co-workers conspire against her is more irritating than anything else, because what ever happened to the simple concept of "She's the boss"?  They clearly seem to have forgotten that little bit of information.  Meanwhile, Sarmad's "friend" is doing everything in his power to make Ayla look incompetent so he can take over.  If I wanted to watch a show about business deals and the woes of a woman in today's society.....it wouldn't have been this one.  With Farhan Saeed gone, the show has definitely lost its charm.

Aik Pal - Episode 2
Affan Waheed is doing a good job as Musaf.  Sumbal Iqbal is doing a good job as Noor Fatima.  Ali Safina is doing a good job as Imran.  So what's the problem?  Well, it's simple.  These three actors are not given nearly as much screen time as the "nails on a blackboard" characters of Bareera (Arij Fatima) and Umair (Danish Taimur).  These characters are not only LOUD, they also have more ego than a normal person would ever have.  In real life, a person like this would not only NOT have any FRIENDS whatsoever, their family members would also not wave off their bad behavior as "bachpana."  It's not bachpana - it's badtameezi.  And it's horrible to watch.  The show is also lacking any clear-cut direction.  The viewer is unable to get a sense of where the show is headed, what the overall "mood" of the show is and even how and why these characters will become connected with each other.  The bottom line is that after only 2 episodes, this show is more background noise than anything entertaining.

Chup Raho - Episode 14
Chup raho.  CHUP raho.  CHUP RAHO!  No, I'm not repeating the name of the drama over and over to you.  I'm asking the actors and characters in this drama to please SHUT UP.  "Baaa baaaa baaaaa," it's literally non-stop bleating that's beginning to hurt my ears!  How hard is it for Azhar to put two and two together?  Is he that dense?  Numair is everywhere, always trying to control situations and Azhar can't even realize that Rameen tried to call off their wedding and was visibly disturbed at that time?  He didn't wonder why?  Rather, he's now thinking that his wife and cousin are having an affair?  WHY?  What he overheard wouldn't even lead a person to come to that conclusion.  Now let's move on to Rameen's mother.  MORE BLEATING.  WHY?  Why did she send Azhar away?  Now he thinks badly of his own wife.  Is that what she wants for her daughter?  That she stay married to a man who hates her?  Sick.  Her entire mentality is so WRONG.  Numair just says "blah blah blah" and everyone falls under his spell.  I want to give kudos to Jibran though for playing this part SO WELL.  He's convincing - annoying, but very convincing!  And then we come to Manal, the most "jaahil" of all these people.  She purposely has tied this weird blindfold on her eyes, despite doubting her husband.  She believes everything he says and doesn't trust her own family.  It's painful!  Anyways, this show has been heading in a downward spiral for the last 5-6 episodes and I'm still waiting for it to somehow, magically pick up!

Khataa - Episode 12
I'm just struggling here.  Rabiya's mother-in-law and sister-in-law are legitimately the worst human beings on earth.  What makes this hard to digest is that in the first two episodes, we see them as mildly normal, sensible people.  What's even harder to digest?  RUMI.  This child-of-a-man is the only one other than Rabiya who knows that Rabiya did NOT run away with him - rather, he forced her along with him to save  HIMSELF from being KILLED.  So why on earth is he throwing that ridiculous "taana" of Rabiya being a "ghar se bhaagi hui ladki"?  Does he not have ANY shame WHATSOEVER?  It makes me want to root for Saad "Bhai" all the more!  Rabiya should ditch the crazies and start her life over.  And my final gripe:  Rabiya told her mother what Rumi said and that he's accusing her of having a chakkar with Saad......NOW that your mother is listening to you, WHY aren't you telling her what actually transpired when you "ran away"?  This information is important, no matter what the situation is in the present!  But these are technically minor gripes and I am still happily watching this show, because hey, it's interesting.

Tum Meray Hi Rehna - Episode 13
If the point of this show is to drive home the lesson that love can be horribly FOOLISH, then yes, that point is being made very clear.  Numail and Rania are in love.  That's great.  But was that love worth Raheel's death and Rania's father being sentenced to death?  Was Sumbal's obsession with Numail worth causing such a commotion that it led to the death of her brother-in-law?  The answer is no.  Sumbal's plotting will never get her what she wants:  Numail's love.  Numail and Rania's marriage will never get them what they wanted:  Happiness.  Will they ever be able to look at each other the same way again?  Will they ever feel that "pure love" that they once had again?  I'm not even sure if that's the point the writers were TRYING to make, but that's the point this show has projected on to me.  Family is important.  Without the happiness of your family, what's the point?  I don't know what the right or wrong thing to do in this sort of situation would've been, but what I do know is that the most lovable character on this show is now gone and that makes me very sad.  This was a hard episode to watch.

Daraar - Episode 16
Oh my goodness.  Someone please make this torture stop!  I expected so much more from an Umera Ahmed drama.  Ayla is the most unlikable character I've seen on a show in a long time.  At least a vamp is a vamp, but Ayla honestly believes that she's a good person and supports her good-for-nothing family to the point of it being ridiculous!  She finally managed to get her way and had Annie marry Atif, who barely wasted a week before allowing Annie to see his true colors.  This part did make me smile.  What didn't make me smile?  Ayla's reaction at hearing that "Amma and Abba" are making rotis instead of Annie.  Did you think your spoiled sister in law would cook for your no-good family and be their servant while you're bossing everyone around in her home?  Ayla was also successful in kicking Taabish and Yusra out of their home.  The highlight of this episode was definitely when Sohaib told Ayla that her family problems were starting to ruin their home life.  If there's anything keeping me connected to this show, it's just for that moment where Ayla "gets hers."  I want to see her kicked out of that house!

Dil Nahin Manta
I just have one thing to say about this show:  The entire premise is weak.  Phupo put it in Javed Sheikh's mind that Huzaifa is in love with Sohaina.  Mr. Sheikh repeatedly says he's for this marriage because it's his son's "pasand."  When Huzaifa can see that marrying Shanzay is important to his mother and she suggested it to him before his father had said anything, he should've stepped in and said "But I don't like Sohaina."  The entire mess would've been avoided.  But no - rather Huzaifa is keeping his mouth shut, playing the "I'm so confused" card at the cost of his own parents' divorce.  And then his great mastermind idea?  I'll marry both!!  When it's clear that one girl is good and the other is bad, why is he trying to play this goody two shoes?  This is marriage!  It's not a joke!  And it seems like Huzaifa is well aware of his Phupo's manipulations, which makes it even harder to digest.  Anyway, the storyline still seems like it will be interesting, so I'll stick with it!

OK, that's it!  The rant is over.  These shows managed to disappoint me in one way or the other recently, so I just needed to get that out!  Haha.

As always, thanks for reading!  Happy watching!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dusri Biwi - Interesting Concept, Great Presentation

Straight off, this show has gripped viewers through promotions.  To say the show used innovative ways to captivate the drama audience would be an understatement.  Whether it be heading to public places and asking women their thoughts on men having multiple wives, roping in Ahmed Jahanzeb for a beautiful OST, the show being Fahad Mustafa's last "acting-in" drama or the overall production value quality of the show itself - all these factors made "Dusri Biwi" a show worth looking out for.

While the expectations weren't colossal, they were still existent.  And boy were they met! The subject is interesting, because we as viewers know from the on-set that Maha Warsi's character of "Farah" is set to become Hassan's 2nd wife (Fahad Mustafa).  How and why this will happen and at what cost is what we're looking forward to watching.  Disclaimer:  Throughout this entire episode, I never managed to catch Hareem Farooqi's character's name!  Haha.  I believe "Hassan" refers to her as "Aashi" at one point, so that's what I'm referring to her as.

We see that Hassan & Aashi are a married couple with a daughter, Saman.  They are not only married, but absolutely besotted with each other.  Aashi is a perfect wife who lives for her husband, but Hassan also dotes on Aashi and does everything in his power to make her happy.  They give off the impression of being the perfect couple and instantly, the audience falls in love with their pairing.

Personal life apart, we see that Hassan is successful in his field and attends a 3-day conference, which he is leading.  It is there that he meets Farah (Maya Warsi).  This meeting is not shady, nor is it one of instant attraction.  Rather, it's an innocent meeting of employee and boss, a relationship of kindness and respect, nothing more.  We are also introduced to Farah's overbearing, scene-creating, horribly orthodox fiance, Aamir.  Aamir is your typical "educated jaahil," a man who wants his wife under his thumb and cannot fathom that she may want to work - nor will he tolerate it.  Farah and Aamir argue over this point several times, after which Farah agrees to stop working after marriage, but not before then.  Aamir and Hassan get into a fight or two over his behavior at the workplace (Aamir does not work there, yet insists on showing up for no good reason).

Hassan is open and honest with Aashi, repeatedly declaring his love for her, helping her with housework, serenading her with love songs.  He does not hide phone calls from her, nor does he stop her from answering his phone - which she does not do out of respect and on principle.  He shares his concerns about Farah with Aashi and discusses the toxic marriage she's getting herself into.  It's refreshing to see this honest, sincere relationship on screen.  What will go wrong?  That's what I'm waiting to see!

At this point, there aren't any negatives to this show.  The acting is natural, the chemistry between Fahad & Hareem is captivating and the situations are realistic.  Let's see how this story shapes up!  So far, I'm in love!

Happy watching!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Na Maloom Afraad: A Movie Review

Despite living 1.5 hours away from NYC, when I heard that Na Maloom Afraad and Dukhtar would be screened at the South Asian International Film Festival, I had to be there.  Unfortunately, we were only able to choose one movie and my husband's disinterest in anything "depressing" made Na Maloom Afraad the clear choice.

So off we went to NYC yesterday (Sunday November 23) to watch this movie.  First of all, I have to nitpick just a little about the venue.  No. Stadium. Seating.  Despite the fancy lobby, the free food and free drinks (which seemed really "off" to me at the screening of a Pakistani film - but I'll leave it at that), the theater itself was incredibly "old-school."  The cramped seats and the irritating heads blocking my view of the screen were instant draw-backs, so it did prematurely cloud my mood and put me in an overly critical mind-set from the get-go.

Coming to the actual film, the movie began and my instant thought was "Oh wow, the production values seem pretty good."  Fortunately, that initial thought was not shattered.  The movie was shot very nicely.

The movie focuses on three characters, Salim (Javed Sheikh), Farhan (Fahad Mustafa) and Moon (Mohsin Abbas Haider), their difficulties and their chase to make money to pull themselves out of their misery.  Moon and Farhan are tenants at Salim Bhai's home and are equally affected when Salim Bhai is informed that his home is set to be demolished within a month.  Farhan wants to marry Salim Bhai's sister (Urwa Hocane), Moon wants to be able to provide for his family and Salim Bhai simply wants to retire peacefully in his home and start an achaar business.  Their dreams seem to be slipping further and further away when the three concoct a plan:  to be the "Na maloom afraads."  The plan itself is a little tricky and would spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it, so I won't delve into that.

Let's first start with the PROS:

I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  For a Pakistani film, this was a treat for the eyes.  Visually comparable to a Bollywood movie, an interesting storyline and well-etched characters backed up with great performances.  It was "paisa vasool," and complete entertainment.


Within the first half hour of the movie, my husband grumbled "Oh no.....is this a remake of Hera Pheri?"  To which I replied "It seems more along the lines of Delhi Belly to me."  Unfortunately, it was a mix of both.  The storyline was not entirely original and it did seem like the writer/Nabeel Qureshi was heavily inspired by both these movies from across the border.

A part of me also hoped for more "depth" in the movie.  While I completely understood that it was a fun, entertaining sort of movie, I wish the "Na Maloom Afraad" title had been pushed further and put the three in a position where they actually found themselves getting caught up in the mayhem.  I know, I'm expecting a social message from a fun film.  That's just wishful thinking on my end.

And lastly, the biggest flaw.....Kubra Khan as Hina.  Is this Pakistan's answer to Katrina Kaif?  While Bollywood fans are finally breathing a sigh of relief to see Ms. Kaif's career slowly declining, are we as Pakistanis jumping on this bandwagon of allowing pitifully-accented girls to take up prominent roles in films/dramas?  Given, she was not terrible, but that was mostly because her role did not require her to speak more than a few lines at a time and she was mostly just a pretty face.  But the climax/ending sequence caused me to squirm with discomfort at her dialogue delivery.

Alright, that's the end of the cons.  Let's move on to performances:

Fahad Mustafa is a star!  He's always been a great actor in dramas, a great producer for shows and now he's proven that he's "big screen" material.  His performance was effortless and completely natural.  You wanted Farhan to succeed because he was such a likable guy.

Javed Sheikh was adorable as the bumbling Salim Bhai.  A sweet man who deserved happiness, my heart hurt with each "jhatka" his life received.  Javed Sheikh, take a bow.

Mohsin Abbas Haider was something else, in my opinion.  He was the weakest of the trio, though possibly the funniest.  The problem was his overacting.  He seemed to be trying to hard and that didn't come off as natural.  He's not a bad actor, rather an entertaining one.  But standing next to Fahad and Javed Sheikh, it simply skewed the trio a bit.

Salman Shahid was his usual, captivating, hilarious self with incredible on-screen presence.  While he was, more or less, reprising his Ishqiya/Dedh Ishqiya role, it left the viewer in splits nonetheless.  Great performance.

Urwa Hocane did her part well, acting naturally and looking pretty.  Her chemistry with Fahad Mustafa was perfect.

Kubra Khan - I think I already mentioned what I thought of her performance under "cons."  We'll leave it at that.

Amber Wajid is as natural as ever.  She compliments Javed Sheikh well and acts as the supportive wife and Bhabi.

And lastly, let's  move on to songs  Oh boy.  OK, so overall, the movie utilized the songs well and they didn't serve as a deterrent from the story.  The songs were placed and spaced out nicely and were only used in 2-3 minute sequences, not stretching out the run time by much.

I do want to take a moment to talk about.....yup, you guessed it...."Billi."  This was the "item number" for the movie.  And what an item number it was.  I'm not going to knock the song or the video by saying "Oh how cheap" or "Where were her clothes?" or any of that.  Dancers and prostitutes are a part of our society as much as they are in any other society, so I won't pretend and turn a blind eye.  That's fine.  What I do want to say is that "Item numbers" are not a part of our culture or entertainment scene.  They were never relevant in dramas, they shouldn't be relevant in our films.  At a time when Bollywood actors are sitting up and realizing what their decades of item numbers are doing to their society (desensitizing them to the treatment of women), why are we NOW starting this immoral trend?  Food for thought.

That being said, I will say that Mehwish Hayat looks beautiful, dances effortlessly, choreography is good, the song is catchy.....nothing wrong with the song visually, but it's the morality behind it that does nag at me a bit.

OK!  That's it!  The verdict is that this was a great attempt by Nabeel Qureshi to bring back Pakistani films with a bang!  Despite having many "art" type films over the last few years (Josh, Seedlings, Bol, Khuda Ke Liye, etc.), it was a Masala entertainer that was missing and probably needed to seriously kick-start the Pakistani industry again.  So I definitely appreciate the effort and came out of the theater with a smile on my face.

Highly entertaining and I'd recommend it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Batch of New Shows: Goya, Dil Nahin Manta, Khata, Day Ijaazat Jo Tu and Nazdeekiyan

While "Goya" and "Dil Nahin Manta" are essentially the only "new" shows this week, with the end of Bashar Momin, Soteli and Mere Meherban, my drama schedule opened up and left room for new additions.  Therefore, I added on a few already-running shows that I'd been neglecting - and I'm so glad!

The wait is over, the wait is over, the wait is over!  I can't even pin down how long I've been following the updates for this show, reading the cast changes, waiting for the air-date announcement and now here we are!  Osmaan's long-awaited release since Aunn Zara, Sana Javed finally front-and-center and a drama that looks refreshingly different, Did the show live up to the hype?  

Definitely!  The story focuses on Omar (Osmaan Khalid Butt), the son of tycoon Rahat Hashmi (Usmaan Peerzada).  Omar can be classified as nothing short of the rebelliously obedient son.  While Omar is heavily controlled by his father, he is always hoping to one day muster up the courage to escape his life.  Rahat closely monitors every aspect of Omar's life, hoping that this will curb any onset of bad habits.  Omar also has a stepmother (Tara Mehmood), who is not the stereotypical stepmother.  Rather, though she doesn't share much of a relationship with Omar herself, she is consistently pushing Rahat to stop treating his own son like a stepson and show him affection and leniency.  Omar also has an aayah in the form of Mrs. Imtiyaaz (Shamim Hilaali), a woman who not only loves him (and fears his father) but someone he loves like a mother.  Along with a close friend, Ali (Furqan Qureshi), this sums up Omar's restricted world.

So we are not surprised when Omar has a run-in with journalist and carefree-soul, Mohini (Sana Javed).  Sana's background is entirely different than Omar's.  Mohini lives with her single-parent, Asma (Farah Shah) and calls her mother by name.  The two are less like mother and daughter and more like friends.  They understand each other and care for each other while not interfering too much in each others lives.  This is a woman-oriented household and these women are not helpless or dependent on any man.  

When Omar meets Mohini at an art exhibit she's covering, they instantly feel the friction - and not necessarily in a positive way.  Mohini calls Omar out on his uptight nature, which leads to an argument.  It doesn't, however, come as a surprise when Omar confesses to Ali that he is attracted to Mohini.  

The acting, so far, is fairly natural and believable.  Osmaan is perfect as Omar and one always believes that his roles are written with him in mind.  Sana's role as Mohini is different from her other roles, though her chatter is reminiscent of Lubna in Pyaaray Afzal.  So far, so good!  The supporting cast is good as well.  Time will show the roles Mrs. Inaayat, Rahat and Mrs. Rahat will play.  

How Omar and Mohini end up together will be interesting to see!  Let's wait and watch!

While I am not a fan of either of the cast members, the positive reviews after the first episode encouraged me to give this show a try.  So far, so good!  Huzaifa (Emaad Irfani) and Shanzey (Sara Khan) are cousins and seem to have feelings for each other, something his mother and Khala encourage and support..  However, Huzaifa's Phupo hopes for her own niece Sohena (Amna Ilyas) to marry Huzaifa.  Sohena herself seems to be a very arrogant, over-confident girl who genuinely believes Huzaifa couldn't have eyes for anyone other than her.

The story, after watching the first episode, looks to be a tussle between Huzaifa's mother and father, a story of egos and the decision as to who's niece Huzaifa will marry.

While Huzaifa seems to be the obedient son to his mother in the hopes of making her happy by marrying Shanzey, it'll be interesting to see what twists and turns will come about to turn the story on its head!

Honestly speaking, I am not sure what the overall premise of this show is actually about.  What I can tell you is that "Day Ijaazat Jo Tu" is a light-hearted show with endearing characters and a good pace.  While I was hesitant about seeing Farhan Saeed as an actor, he's proved to be a natural in this role, complimenting Sohai Ali Abro well!

The story revolves around the love story of Sarmad (Farhan) and Ayla (Sohai).  While Ayla comes from a middle-class background with a doting family, Sarmad comes from a rich background but is distant from his father, stepmother and stepbrother.

Ayla's entry into Sarmad's life is a blessing for him and he feels his loneliness disappearing.  Sarmad and Ayla get married, much to the dismay of his stepmother and are forced to move into their own home due to her disapproval (despite having support from her family and his father).

At present, Ayla and Sarmad have a baby girl, but Sarmad's father (Javed Sheikh) has gone missing after boarding a flight and is assumed to be dead.  The show took an 8 year leap.......and has now left me wondering where the show is headed from this point onward?

Despite being confused about the show's direction, I'm happily watching this show, which is a refreshing change from the heavier shows on air these days.  Plus, Farhan and Sohai share great chemistry.

"Ek pal ki khataa umar bhar ki sazaa" sings Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in the OST and aptly so.

10 episodes in and I had very little interest in watching this show simply based on how depressing it looked from the on-set.  But when I suddenly found myself with a chunk of free time, I decided to play catch-up.  I'm glad I did, because while overall a depressing subject, the story actually pulls you in and makes you feel emotionally invested in the character of Rabia.

The story of Khataa revolves around Rumi (Shehroz Sabzwari) and Rabia (Sanam Chaudhry).  While Rumi is infatuated with Rabia, she often openly rejects his advances.  The two live next door to each other and Rumi often tries to meet Rabia on the terrace.  Rabia is highly focused on her education and making her family proud.  Rabia's father is a well-respected man in the "mohalla" and often serves as adviser on the problems of his neighbors.  While preparations for Rumi's sister's wedding are in full-swing, one day Rumi jumps over to Rabia's terrace and grabs her hand - right as Rabia's Phupo comes up in search of Rabia.  When Phupo sees the two together, she furiously goes to inform Rabia's father, but accidentally trips and hits her head, falling unconscious.  Worried, Rumi drags Rabia with him, scared that both will be murdered by Rabia's father.  Rabia protests, wanting to go back home, but is held back by Rumi.  

In a "khataa" that is entirely Rumi's fault and in which Rabia is innocent, Rabia's entire life is ruined.  Rabia is forced to marry Rumi and is labeled "bhagori" (run-away bride), something she has to hear every day from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law (who holds her responsible for her own marriage being called off).  Rabia's family shuns Rabia (despite Rabia's mother trying to reach out to her) and move away to avoid the "mohalla" talk.  Rabia is forced to endure pitiful behavior from her in-laws, despite having a loving husband (who is forever trying to make up for his mistake).

Howver, in recent episodes, Rabia began tutoring some neighborhood children, finding solace and a confidant in their mother and a friend in their chaachu.  This twist has made the show even more interesting.  

While Shehroz Sabzwari is doing a good job as Rumi, Sanam Chaudhry is phenomenal as Rabia.

Looking forward to seeing where the show is headed!

I love Vasay Chaudhary.  A lot.  I also have a soft spot for Affan Waheed.  Maheen Rizvi is a good actress.  OK, so the only not-so-strong selling point of this show for me personally is Maria Wasti.  When she wants to be good, she's GREAT.  And when she wants to be bad, she can be the most irritating thing about a show.

As soon as this show started and I heard Maria Wasti's screeching, I knew where this was headed.  I was filled with deja vu of her performance in Qarz.  I was overcome with the feeling of "Oh no, she's going to ruin this show."  And 4 episodes later, I feel I have already, more or less, abandoned this show.

The story of watta-satta is interesting, but unfortunately, it has rarely translated into something interesting to watch on-screen.  Rather, we are confronted with overly evil characters (the case of Phupo here), insulting husbands (Vasay's character here), spoiled, unlikable girls (Maria Wasti's character here) and a feeling of "Please remind me why these nice people married into this family again?" (the case of Affan and Maheen's characters here).

If a show doesn't bring about interest, but rather complete irritation, I think it's best to put it on the backburner.  Despite Maheen Rizvi's adorable performance and Vasay's on-point zameendaar act, the show has very little else going for it.

It may simply be that this show is not the sort that you can watch 4 episodes back-to-back, but I'll wait and see if I actually want to continue with this one.  


4/5 shows are great and I'd highly recommend them!  Goya is off to a great start, as is Dil Nahin Mnata.  Khataa is taking an interesting turn and Day Ijaazat Jo Tu is a sweet, breezy watch.  Nazdeekiyan is currently a wait-and-watch situation, so we'll see how that ends up.

Happy watching!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And One More Show Comes to An End: Mere Meherban!

Mere Meherbaan, overall, was a brain-screw with over-the-top acting, black and white characters and irritating situations.  However, something about the show kept viewers tuning in week after week, myself included.

The character of Muskaan stayed true to her nature from beginning to end:  self-sabotaging.  From beginning to end, she refused to take full responsibility for her actions, especially regarding her attitude.  Hence, the "fate" of Muskaan was most fitting - she was left alone.  While I did not agree with the attitude of those around her, Muskaan's arrogance was incredulous right until the end!  Yes, no woman should have to deal with her husband remarrying and then expecting her to "deal with it."  I didn't disagree with Muskaan on that.  But the lack of remorse that Muskaan displayed towards her own role in destroying her home was frustrating.  Even at the very end, when she spoke to her mother about her "haal," she blamed her mother entirely for the state of her life at that present moment.  While it may have been true, it not only burned the now-reformed Shaista, but also the audience!

Moving on to the character of Iraj, I really want to stress THIS point:  Sanam Chaudhry has come a LONG way as an actress!  Iraj was the best, most "reformed" character, because not only was her pain real, her situation was believable.  A lot of this had to do with the way Sanam portrayed Iraj and enacted her role.  What's strange is that, in the past, Sanam's involvement in any drama was almost a deterrent for me.  Her role in "Aasmanon Pe Likha" was the beginning of my dislike-relationship with her, but things have changed!  Not only with her growth as an actress in "Mere Meherban," but also her great performance in "Khata" these days, I've suddenly turned into a Sanam Chaudhry fan.  Iraj's obsession over Shehryar, her confusion over how to confess, her idle behavior in going along with her marriage, her guilt eating her alive inside and ultimately, her grief felt torn between a wife of the living and Sherry's widow.....it was all very believable and the performance itself was great!

Now coming to Hayaa, our goody-two-shoes-taken-for-granted.  A character like Hayaa was a blessing for this show, only because of the way they ultimately ended her story.  While Hayaa was subservient to her once-to-be-in-laws and her own family, Hayaa's outcome and the stand she took made her a great character and a great role-model.  This should serve as a message to women as to what they deserve in life - a huge 180 from the role of Rudaba from Bashar Momin.  Hayaa was self-sacrificing, sweet, loyal, caring - but ultimately, she understood what others inflicted upon her (namely Zeeshan and Shaista) and despite caring about them, she took a decision against them and a decision that would better serve her OWN future.  Watching Hayaa accept Zeeshan would've destroyed this show entirely, therefore the conclusion was absolutely perfect.

Zeeshan made his bed and had to lie in it.  Despite feeling remorse for his behavior towards Hayaa, he was unable to get his way and had to do what was right regarding his wife and child.  What made my sympathy towards Zeeshan deter was in the moment between Zeeshan & Hayaa when, after Hayaa rejected Zeeshan's too-late proposal, we as viewers saw that flicker of anger in Zeeshan's eyes.  Unfortunately, regardless of how sorry Zeeshan may have been, he still failed to recognize how terribly he treated Hayaa and didn't feel any shame in trying to attain her once again.  Therefore, it made it so fitting that Zeeshan would now have to go back to his wife (and child) and actually work on that marriage, rather than falling on his "backup" of Hayaa.

Shaista, despite reforming her attitude and her ways, was unable to completely fit all the pieces of her life and her children's lives together entirely.  While Iraj was able to piece her life together again, Muskaan was left empty-handed and Zeeshan was forced to abandon his mother (albeit temporarily).  It was actually painful to watch Shaista in such a state.  But isn't that the point?  All wrongs cannot be made right!

It was nice to see Falah, Hayaa and Nayaara's entire family at peace at the end.  This was truly a story of "good trumps evil."  And while the "Evil" (Shaista and co.) reformed themselves for the most part, it was a long, painful struggle and one that would continue for them.

Alright, that's the end of Mere Meherban!  I had many more shows to write about, but didn't want to "messily" combine them all together.  Watch out for my next post on a batch of new shows, including Goya!

Happy watching!

(Photos Courtesy Hum TV's FB Page)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

More Endings: Soteli and Bashar Momin!

I know, I know, I know.  I'm definitely a slacker these days and I not only apologize, but applaud you all for putting up with me.  Haha.  I promise to consciously make an effort to improve!

I was incredibly excited to watch the first episode of Goya this week!  However, I will write up my review in a couple of days rather than group it with this blog, as it deserves some attention.  Before I can give it the needed attention, I definitely need to discuss two shows that concluded.

This week, two of my shows finally came to an end.  Whether those endings were well-written, well thought-out endings or not, that's what we will discuss.

Let's begin with Soteli.

The essential premise of this show was endearing:  A little boy loses his overtly loving mother at a young age and lives his life in the shadow of that love, feeling rejected by his own father, mistreated by his stepmother and neglected due to his step-sister.  Interesting.  The performances by the little boy who played Milkoo was great!  Then, the story took a leap.

Unfortunately, where the story should have taken a turn and leaped bounds, the show moved in the opposite direction.  Rather than seeing how (naturally) Milkoo's relationship with his stepmother progressed, how she turned his father against him and how Phupo protected him, we were treated to........two love stories.

Mishaal's love story was blocked by her own mother, for reasons beyond anyone's understanding.  But then she changes her mind. OK, let's blame it all on a tumor.  Was this tumor there from the beginning?  Is this why Ayesha Khan's character was so horrible to Milkoo?  And if  that's the case, how would a tumor grow SO slowly as to being treatable?

Now if the tumor was NOT the excuse for her bad behavior, why did she have such a huge change of heart?  Milkoo always cared for her, respected her and treated her like a part of the family.  Did a few dreams simply change her mind entirely?  And if that's the case.....how silly.

We see that Ayesha's character discovers the box of Milkoo's letters.  She breaks down after reading them.  But again, why such a huge change of heart?  Was she unaware of all the things she did?  Of course not.  She knew.  The wrap-up was simply too convenient for my tastes.

And lastly, we come to the final "Put in place" moment:  The wrapping up of Milkoo's love story.  Oh my goodness, and what a love story!  The writer took a page from "Mujhse Dosti Karoge" for this final scene, almost ridiculously so.  Why couldn't a logical discussion have taken place between the friends rather than the dramatic scene?  Or was the love triangle necessary at all?  In my opinion, it did nothing to serve the actual story, which was a nice one.  Rather, it distracted entirely from the original story getting the attention it deserved.

To wrap up, Soteli was a show with good direction, good emotional content and great acting.  But unfortunately it failed to capture my interest after the leap due to throwing in too many sub-plots.  Yet another drama knocked off my shortening list of shows!


And now let's move on to the "blockbuster" drama of this year, Bashar Momin.

I can't explain my thoughts towards this show.  I honestly can't even explain why I watched this show from beginning to end without giving it up.  My views towards this show have been blatantly clear in my blogs about it:  The show was generally an over-stylized, dragged-out, prolonged story of a thoroughly bad man who destroyed lives and used his power (and money) to dictate the lives of others.

It was only in the last two episodes that we began to see where Bashar "came from."  What was his past?  What caused him to behave this way?  What made him so hateful?  In fact, the last two episodes may have been the most interesting ones and one is left wondering why the writers and director didn't focus MORE on the back-story, Bashar's true emotions, his scars, trials and tribulations?  Instead, we were treated to 28 episodes of smoke-filled rooms, blue tinges, Faisal Qureshi's barking, Usha's timid expressions and Maheen's crooked smiles.

The episode began with Rudaba meeting Bashar in jail, the two finally connecting and declaring their love and respect for each other.  What?  Why?  How?  I don't know.  Don't even bother asking those questions, because it won't make sense any way you spin it.  When Bashar handed Rudaba that glass of juice, my insides churned and I wondered "HOW can she trust him AT ALL?"  But that logic is not for you and I to understand.  It's LOVE.  Forget that this love has transpired and materialized out of nowhere.  

We then witness a (useless) scene between Bashar and his "friends" (rivals) where he persuades them to let him go that day rather than the next, because his wife gets scared alone.  The sole purpose of this scene was to show that "Bashar Bhai still has it."  That's it.  And of course, Bashar Bhai gets his way and comes home to a waiting Rudaba.  Yay?  Sure.

We also find out that Bashar's servants were sent home before the raid, because Bashar cares SO MUCH about his servants and their well-being.  As an audience, we are supposed to forget how badly he treated these servants previously.

We are also treated to the world's most awkward family reunion!

Saira basically taunts Rudaba for not looking in on Saira and Tayyaba while Bashar was in jail, leaving them in "buray haalaat."  She also taunts Bashar for being a doormat to his wife.  If there was ANY scene in this show worth watching, it was THIS scene, because we finally got to see Saira bearing the brunt of Bashar's anger for her bad behavior.  Bashar's anger when Saira accuses Rudaba of STILL leading Buland on was actually something that was necessary for this show.  Both Saira and Tayyaba needed to hear that they were responsible for their own life situations, regardless of the hand Bashar played!  Adil's SMIRK at Saira's pain was simply the icing on the cake, as we have all seen his treatment at the hands of this family.  

In all the chaos, Tayyaba goes into labor and gives birth to Buland's child (who is completely missing in action).  

It was also nice to see Aadil give Saira and Tayyaba a much needed dose of reality - not only about their misdeeds, but their overall bad attitudes.  To hear Aadil tell Saira how "Full of herself" she is was the best moment of this show.  On the down-side,  Saira's apology and acceptance of Rudaba was completely hurried and very unnatural.  Women like Saira do not accept their flaws that quickly.

The heart-to-heart between Bashar and Buland was actually refreshing to watch, because it tied up all the loose ends and emotions of the show perfectly.  Bashar's plea to Buland to accept Tayyaba and her child for the sake of society was so beautiful to see, as he didn't want another Bashar to be created.  

The show ended happily with practically all problems being resolved and tied up.  The last episode actually provided the viewer with quality content.  If anything, this made it glaringly obvious that the rest of the show had been lacking entirely in this aspect!  One is left wondering why such quality content and writing was lacking in the other 30 episodes!  

Regardless, it was nice to see an otherwise mediocre show pick up and right its wrongs in the last episode.  Bashar Momin was an eyesore throughout for me, due to lack of emotions and content, but ended up being a beautiful, well-written last episode that ALMOST wiped out the negative thoughts I had of the show.

Alright, so now we can retire Bashar Momin and Soteli after their prolonged runs.  Here's looking forward and hoping to add more good shows to the roster!

Happy watching!