Friday, January 31, 2014

The Best Dramas of 2013

January 2014 has come and gone and I’ve mulled over how to compile this list.  Was 2013 a great year for dramas?  No.  Was it a bad year?  No.  It just wasn’t highly eventful.  Add to that, we were given dramas with a lot of potential that ended up being disappointments, such as Numm, Dil-e-Muztar Darmiyan, Silvatein and Khoya Khoya Chand.  After a lot of thought, I finally managed to compile a list of the 10 best dramas of 2013.

So let’s begin:

1)  Zindagi Gulzar Hai
I don’t think it can be argued that Zindagi Gulzar Hai was the best drama of 2013, popularity-wise and story-wise.  This show gave us two perspectives on unsatisfied youths.  While from completely different backgrounds, both Zaroon and Kashaf came from dysfunctional families and hoped for something better in their future partners.  Zindagi Gulzar Hai not only told a tale of two different individuals coming together and working past their differences, but also emphasized the importance of communication in a relationship.  Zindagi Gulzar Hai was not only a “cute love story” – it gave the viewer a strong message of love, compromise and trust.  ZGH left us wanting more each week.  This is why Zindagi Gulzar Hai is my favorite drama of 2013.

 2)  Aunn Zara
“Oh great, here’s another over-the-top comedy with overacting from Osmaan and Maya Ali.”  This was the first reaction of many people when I repeatedly recommended Aunn Zara to them.  Unfortunately, many people failed to look past the comedic outlook of the show and notice that this show is so much more.  Aunn Zara is a story of two individuals coming together by chance – and in the process, bringing together their crazy, but diversely different, families.  Aunn Zara is a crazy, mildly frustrating, cute love story.  It is also a story about jealousy, compassion, loneliness, family unity and understanding.  Aunn Zara may seem like a comedy at first glance, but is truly a family drama at heart.  Aunn Zara kept me hooked from the first episode to the last – and left a void once it ended. 

3)  Kankar 
If any show stirred up controversy and debate this year, it would be Kankar.  The premise of Kankar was simple:  What may seem like a perfect marriage on paper may not be so in reality.  The pair of Sikander and Kiran is one that seems like a match made in heaven – until Kiran faces the ugly side of marriage and the expectations of society.  As the show progressed, I found that people were split – suddenly, it was “Team Kiran” and “Team Sikander.”  While I couldn’t believe “Team Sikander” actually existed, it did and that was our society speaking, the very society that Kiran had to face in this drama.  What I loved about this drama was that nothing was black and white.  Every action had a back story.  Every reaction had a reason.  There weren’t any “bad” characters and there weren’t any “good” characters.  Everyone had shades of grey.  These characters were “real” – these were people you could relate to.  If you couldn’t relate to them, you could, at the least, sympathize with them.  Kankar also churned out the most memorable dialogues of 2013 (in a drama).  The writing cut through our hearts and stayed in our minds.  A huge round of applause to Umera Ahmed (and Aabis Raza) for giving us an amazing show that challenged the Pakistani mentality and brought a taboo subject into the limelight. 

4)  Tanhaiyan Naye Silsilay 
“What’s the point?!”  “I hate this show!  How can they kill off such a main character?!”  “Haseena Moin has lost it!  I’m boycotting this show!”

After the first episode, I heard these exclamations from my fellow Tanhaiyan fans.   Sadly, some of these fans really did boycott the show after the loss of a beloved character.  Given, initially, I was really upset about this farewell  to Zara, who was more or less the main character of Tanhaiyan.  But for those who stuck with the show, we were soon happy to realize that the heart and soul of Tanhaiyan was retained with Tanhaiyan Naye Silsilay.  At the end of the day, TNS had all of the sincerity and heart that made us fall in love with the original.  All of the returning characters were featured prominently and the new characters added to the show, rather than taking away from older fan favorites.  Nothing can be said of Tanhaiyan Naye Silsilay other than this:  it’s a beautiful, naturally-scripted, honest effort from Haseena Moin.  Not only would I highly recommend it, but if you haven’t seen the original, I would also highly recommend you rewind and watch that one first!  =)

5)  Talkhiyan 
Based on “God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy, “Talkhiyan” was a drama highly ignored in 2013.  If Sanam Saeed worked in a commercially lovable “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” in 2013, her “Talkhiyan” could only be described as “art.”  These two Sanam Saeed dramas aired practically alongside each other, but were vastly different.  One garnered immense appreciation, while the other had a niche audience. 
When I first began watching “Talkhiyan,” I wasn’t sure what to expect – but it wasn’t this.  The first episode threw me off and almost turned me off.  I decided, after the first episode, that this was not the show for me.  Fortunately, several weeks later, I picked it up again out of boredom.  While the family initially seems completely insane, you become emotionally invested in their world.  This drama that revolves around Bibi, Jaanu, Zoya, Jugnu, Mama Ji and Appu seems slow at first glance, but has emotional highs and lows that can pick you up and bring you crashing down in an instant.  For the first 10-11 episodes, you’re left wondering “What’s the point?” – but when it dawns on you, you realize there are many:  The expectations parents have from their children, the infamous double standard our society holds with men and women, how indifference from parents can affect their children, what effect words can have on another person.  We see through Zoya and Jugnu how children imitate and recreate the words and behaviors of adults.  These people are emotionally scarred and always searching for meaning in their lives.  Appu’s lost love and her resentment towards those who are happy registers with the viewer.  We see Jaanu’s male chauvinist behavior that triggers bitterness in Bibi’s heart, even towards her own son.  We see Mama Ji’s heartbreak at her dependency and her disappointment in her children.  When Bibi finally finds love, the viewer almost wants to start crying, knowing it won’t end well.  Each character connects to the audience in some way.  There’s something about Talkhiyan cuts through you, makes its mark and leaves you scarred.  While emotionally draining, I would whole-heartedly recommend this one.

6)  Coke Kahani
If you spent this year complaining about the lack of new and innovative ideas in dramas, you were not watching Coke Kahani.  This drama is not only a great change from the depressing love stories and in-law issues, it is also aimed at family audiences.  This is a show that families can sit together and watch.  Coke Kahani not only has a mesh of great storylines, it is light-hearted, sweet, endearing and full of lovable moments.  Every actor contributes and plays their part, but Shamim Hilali Syed Mohammed Ahmed deserve a special shout-out for being the cutest representation of an older couple on screen.   To describe Coke Kahani in one word:  Refreshing.  Highly recommended.

7)  Rehaai
When Mehreen Jabbar and Farhat Ishtiaq come together, you expect nothing short of greatness.  Rehaai is nothing less.  When the show first began, it threw people into a state of shock at the unexpected subject and realistic cruelty depicted.  Many people stopped watching the show out of rage; however, those who stuck with the show witnessed one of the best shows of 2013.  Noman Ejaz, Samina Peerzada, Maria Wasti, Danish Taimur and both “little” Kulsoom and “big” Kulsoom were all amazing in their respective roles.  Rehaai not only boasted of a great ensemble cast, but also featured these actors in roles worthy of their talent.

The show was true to its nature as a social drama, presented by the Kashf Foundation, but was continuously gripping and engrossing.  More importantly, it reinforced the belief that women need to be self-sufficient. 

8)  Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahi
If there was one drama in 2013 that mentally made me feel unstable, sent chills down my spine and shook me to my core, it was Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahi.  With an incredible ensemble cast, including Nauman Ejaz, Saba Qamar, Irsa Ghazal, Yumna Zaidi and Noman Maqsood, this drama offered more than just power-packed performances – UBFN offered insight into a different world.
We’ve seen many dramas over the years, and a handful simply in 2013, about havelis and the lives of landlords (Noor Bano, Dil Diya Dehleez, Numm, Aseer Zadi, etc.).  What sets this drama apart is that UBFN focused on the plight of women in these areas, whether it be daughters and sisters of the haveli, the female servants or the local civilians. 

The problem with dramas like UBFN is simple:  There’s nothing simple about it.  The characters are complex, the relationships are complex, the storyline is complex – If I’m to be honest, I had a hard time grasping the goings-on until around episode 12, where I was suddenly terrified by Irsa Ghazal (Aapi) into focusing.  But episode 12 onwards, I was transfixed to the screen during each episode.  This drama has everything – revenge, hatred, love, remorse, resentment, the supernatural, urban legends, murder, abuse.  What can be said about this show is that it requires focus.  It is not light-hearted.  When this drama finally ended, I was left with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart.  That said, UBFN offered one of the best storylines of 2013, incredible performances from the entire cast and a show worth remembering for years to come. 

9)  Shab-E-Arzoo Ka Aalam 
Every once in a while, a drama comes along that is so subtle that it can be seen as “slow.”  What we fail to realize is how powerful the performances are and how powerful of a message that drama is presenting us with.  That is the case with “Shab-E-Arzoo Ka Aalam.”  This show left such a powerful impact on me without my even realizing it.  The characters weren’t falsely idealistic or overly “vamp”-like.  These characters were human with human emotions and desires. 
 The relationship portrayed between Dawood and Kiran naturally progressed over the course of the show – we saw attraction turn into a connection and that connection turn into the strong bond of love.  The characters are written in such a way that the viewer feels for them, their trials  and tests and anticipates their reunion. 

 I’d recommend this drama whole-heartedly.  Subtle, yet beautiful. 

10)  Halki Si Khalish
Halki Si Khalish told the story of two sisters, Rabia and Rania, and their fate after marriage.  While the show tackles some heavy subjects, it’s presented in a light way, so the audience doesn’t feel bogged down.  This is a drama that flows in an interesting way and makes for an overall enjoyable experience.  Each relationship is shown with a natural progression and the emotions are realistic, whether it be Kamaal with his long lost wife, Khurram with Rabia, Khurram with his mother, Rania and Aamir or even Mamoon and Mumaani.  This drama avoids melodrama and instead relies on solid storytelling.  A nice, breezy watch!

And that’s it, folks.  Those are my top 10 dramas for 2013.  Yes, I enjoyed several others this year, such as Sari Bhool Humari Thi, Silvatein, Aik Nayee Cinderella and Bari Apa, but these dramas were lacking in places, which prevented them from making the list (though still enjoyable).  There WERE, however, many disappointments in 2013 coming from dramas with high expectations, so keep your eyes open for “The Worst of 2013,” coming soon.  =)
I have not included any presently running dramas, such as Shakk, Pyaray Afzal, Ranjish Hi Sahi, Kabhi Kabhi, etc. as they are still running into 2014.  Maybe you’ll see them on the list next year! 

But for now, happy watching!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Laugh Out Loud Moment - Aasmanon Pe Likha Episode 19

So I've been finding most episodes/dramas/storylines boring these days, hence the lack of writing.  Obviously still watching my massive handful of 15-20 dramas, but other than Shakk, Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai and Pyaray Afzal, most are failing to hold my interest.

That said, I was watching "Aasmanon Pe Likha" today and almost died laughing after a completely "What the hell?" moment.

Auntie presents Natasha with her test results.  Big surprise:  PREGNANT.

Natasha's reaction is, of course, as any expectant mother's reaction would be.

ORRRRR....maybe not exactly.

Natasha:  "Oh no.  Yeh kya bakwaas hai?  Maine Aaliyan se kaha bhi tha ke mujhe baby nahin chahiye.  Aaliyan!  I hate you man!"

It's at this point that you're left wondering whether Natasha actually understands how babies are conceived.  

Natasha, our ultra-modern, super sophisticated, street smart career-oriented woman who doesn't want to have babies, because she doesn't want to ruin her figure.......has apparently never heard of using contraceptives.

AALIYAN TRICKED HER INTO IT!  What a conspiracy!

That's it.  That was the most exciting moment of episode 19.  Natasha's ridiculous reaction and incredibly bad writing on the part of the powers that be.

Oh yeah, in this episode, Aaliyan also meets his mother, confronts his father and discovers Natasha's plan to abort their child.  And yes, Natasha's reaction was more exciting than all of the above.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ranjish Hi Sahi - A Summary of Thoughts

I have been consistently behind on this drama for the last month.  I finally had the opportunity to catch up to the latest episode (episode 11).  Before we get into that, I just want to talk about what makes this drama worth watching.

When this show first began, I watched episode 1-6 on a week-by-week basis, wondering what it was that would make Samia Mumtaz and Faisal Rehman sign this show.  Not only that, but also Saba Hameed and Maya Ali, who were playing "supporting" roles.  What about this show seemed so great to them that they wanted to be a part of it?  The relationships were so timid, characterizations were so awkward (especially the extremes in the daughters), the dialogues were mildly unnatural.  Honestly, I didn't understand it.

However, as the show progressed, I slowly found my questions being answered.  Was this a show worthy of the talents of these actors?  YES.

Ultimately, what we're seeing in "Ranjish Hi Sahi" is the story of "the other woman."  So often, we see the other woman as a villainous, manipulative creature who has an aim of money and prosperity, giving no thought to the feelings of others.  In this drama, we're given the rare opportunity to see our "other woman" as a good, decent human being with her own responsibilities, dreams, desires, hopes and problems in life.  And Samia Mumtaz plays this role perfectly.  Not only is our other woman an upstanding citizen in society, she is also a loving mother, a working woman and a woman battling illness, leaving her to worry about her daughters well-being and what will happen to them after she's gone.  "Yamna" is a sincere woman who finds herself wanting love and support at a time when society frowns upon it.

On the other end, Faisal Rehman plays a Kamal Hassan, a man torn between two women down to a tee.  He's a man still in love with his college sweetheart; however, life has moved on and he's now trapped in a loveless marriage with grown children.  When he sees the opportunity to once again reunite with his college sweetheart, who is in need of support, he wants nothing more but to grab that opportunity.  However, his entire financial future and "old age guarantee" is bound to his wife and children.  How will he be able to balance these relationships?

Maya Ali and Sana Javed play Yamna's polar-opposites daughters.  While Hiba (Maya Ali) is enthusiastic, confident and argumentative, Tooba (Sana Javed) is cowardly and timid.  Both girls dote on their mother and are comfortable in their lives.

When the first few episodes aired, it seemed as though the drama would paint Kamal Hassan's wife as an entirely negative character - an overbearing, cold wife.  However, when Bilqees finally made her appearance, we realized that this woman (played by Saba Hameed) was a mature older woman with only the desire to hold on to her husband, her children and to keep her family together.  While her antics seem extreme and hurtful, would any woman in this situation react differently?   As the drama progresses, we see that she is also a victim of this situation.

Coming to episode 11 - the audience is given a huge shock at the turn of events.  For those who haven't yet started watching this drama, I will refrain from giving away any plot twists.  However, after the occurrences in episode 11, the show has taken an entirely different turn and it will be interesting to see how Hiba and Tooba deal with life from here onwards, as well as how Kamal Hassan deals with his first family and his own demons.

When this show first began, I would not necessarily have recommended it to anyone.  I considered it "good background noise" while cooking, cleaning and performing other household chores.  However, now I will confidently say that the writing for this show has progressively become stronger and I would whole-heartedly recommend this to drama viewers.  The acting by Samia Mumtaz and Faisal Rehman is beautiful.  I'm positive that after the recent twist, no matter how upsetting, this show will now deliver some great power-packed performances.

Happy watching! 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai - Episode 5: The Cuteness Begins

Up until now, we've seen that Rumaisa is this timid, naive, super innocent girl who lives with her Khala's family.  As Rumaisa is seen as "manhoos," she is made to do a lot of the household work and is treated as lesser than the rest of the family....though with "love," as the family uses Rumaisa's inheritance to their advantage.

When this drama first began, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of annoyance, wondering why Umera Ahmed would write such a story with such irritating characters.

Boy have I changed my mind.  Yes, initally, I felt a lot of deja-vu, as the storyline felt very similar to that of "Saari Bhool Humari Thi."  But now after 5 episodes, this drama has come in to its own!

Episode 5 showed Nabeel's interest in Rumaisa, who works as his secretary.  Rumaisa is wary of Nabeel, as she believes he's a womanizer, drunkark and incorrigible flirt (courtesy her jealous co-worker).  However, Nabeel does not let this deter him and instead finds that her opinion of him is endearing, as it shows her innocence.

In this episode the highlights were the following: We saw Nabeel take Rumaisa out for lunch, which made for a very cute scene.  We also saw Nabeel declare to his family that he had met the girl he wanted to marry and they were to go to her house with him and ask for her hand in marriage.  Of course, his family proceeded to reel from anger at the thought of Nabeel marrying his secretary.

Mekaal is doing a great job as Nabeel.  Sanam's "innocent" portrayal of Rumaisa sometimes feels cold and distant.  She needs to up her game a little as an actress.  Adeel's doing well in his role so far, shining in his bonding scenes with Mekaal.  The boys share good chemistry as brothers.

Overall, MSKSH is progressing beautifully.  The build up was a bit slow, but here's to hoping for good things to come!

Happy watching!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mujhe Khuda Pe Yaqeen Hai - Thankful for the End!

This will be short and sweet.  Any drama that relies HEAVILY on flashbacks and very little "new" content cannot score in my books as a great drama.  MKPYH consisted of 75% flashbacks - and no, not to bring us up to speed.  Flashbacks of scenes we'd already seen and had little significance!  Not only were were constantly fed flashbacks, they were also disjointed with the present.  At times, I couldn't tell I was watching a flashback until I had a feeling of deja vu and it finally clicked that "Oh, I've already seen this."  Terribly annoying.

The moment we were all waiting for finally came in the last episode - Narmeen was exposed.  But was it really what we were waiting for?  Why did Shaiq spend a full 10 minutes harassing Narmeen about "Qasim" and showing her father her phone records?  Instead of exposing her with a bang, he dragged it on, making it seem like he was accusing her of an affair rather than exposing her!  

When the "group" of servants finally made their appearance, Narmeen was "exposed."  We were treated to YET ANOTHER flashback of a scene we'd already seen that cleared up nothing.  Slowly, the facts were put out there to prove that Arham was NOT guilty.  Arham's father cried and hugged Arham, announcing to everyone that he was ashamed of not trusting his own son.......


What?  What happened to Narmeen?  Did she get a divorce from Shaiq?  Did she learn her lesson?  Did she continue to cause trouble?  WHAT HAPPENED?

Your guess is as good as mine.  Apparently we aren't supposed to know.  That's what makes this show such a fail with such a terrible ending.  RIP Mujhe Khuda Pe Yaqeen Hai.  I hope you weren't hoping to go down in the books as a classic, because you were really an epic fail.

Happy watching!

Monday, January 6, 2014

As 2013 Ended, So Did These Dramas

With the ending of 2013, some of my dramas also finished off.  While Kankar, Sari Bhool Humari Thi, Qarz and Ek Kasak Reh Gayi had ended earlier, the year ended with Halki Si Khalish, Darmiyan, Numm and Khoya Khoya Chand coming to their natural conclusion as well.

I'd  like to take a minute to talk about the plus and minuses of these shows.

Halki Si Khalish - With the exception of some tepid scenes with Rabia, Khurram and Kamaal in the past, this was a drama that "flowed" in an interesting way.  There were very few moments where I felt that the show stagnated.  Overall, it made for a very enjoyable viewing.  Each relationship was shown with a natural progression and emotions were realistic, whether it be Kamaal with his long lost wife, Khurram with Rabia, Khurram with his mother, Rania and Aamir or even Mamoon and Mumaani.  The ending was beautiful and, fortunately, happy.  Halki Si Khalish goes down in my books as a good drama for 2013.

Darmiyan - Here we have a drama with a great cast, great acting, a great OST, a great concept and......a horribly slow pace.  That was the downfall of Darmiyan.  Each episode seemed to mirror the next.  Aleena was so "evil" that she more-or-less killed Raheel's mother.  Yet after Raheel spills his guts about a past "mistake," she forgives instantly and becomes apologetic.  The entire character of Aleena was not "torn" enough to make her escapades believable.  We can chalk this up to Syra's acting OR the writing - or possibly a combination of both.  Either way, there was a lot lacking here.  Adnan Siddqiui and Sania more than made up for Syra in the acting department, but even they could not cover up what the writing lacked.  The audience was bored.  That's the bottom line.  The last episode was BEAUTIFUL and a viewer's dream, full of several different confrontations we'd been waiting to see.  And they were not a disappointment at all.  If only the rest of the drama had been like the initial 5 episodes and the last episode, this could have been a classic remembered for years.  But was not.

Numm - Oh Numm.....where do I begin?  As a Fawad Khan fan since the beginning of his career, this show was my nightmare.  It went wrong on so many levels.  I felt like the writer was on LSD while creating this.  Family tradition, crazy attitudes, an unlikable female lead character, another lead female character that did nothing but sulk amidst the beautiful OST, a lead male character that you couldn't quite figure out, etc.  The torture that was "Numm" became my weekly dread:  "I can't NOT watch Fawad's drama.  Oh God, how do I get through this next episiode?!"  But....and this is a HUGE but:  If the previous 15 episodes of Numm had been ANYTHING like the last three episodes of Numm, this drama would've been a sheer winner.  The last three episodes were full of drama, mystery, intrigue, some beautiful scenes of love....where was all this in the first FOUR MONTHS?!  Seeing everything come together in the last episode was nice, but bittersweet, since the writing had been lacking for so long.  Overall, this was a disappointment of a show for me personally.

Khoya Khoya Chand  - I won't lie.  From the moment episode 11 happened, I had been waiting for this show to end.  The baseless killing off of a main character really was a slap across the face.  Sohai was the life of this show for me and for her character to be replaced by Maya's character ,who was SO INTENSELY UNLIKABLE, was torture.  When the ending finally came, I didn't say "Awwww."  I said Good riddance to all these foolish characters, ridiculous story, dumb writing and pathetic acting.  The actor that played Farooq and Sohai's chemistry with Ahsan were the saving graces of this drama.  Oh and I did like the OST.  That's it.

Alright!  Thanks for reading, friends!  Now back to catching up on still-running shows.  Happy watching!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Catch up time!

Sorry guys!  I have been on vacation since November 23rd and it's been a crazy 6 weeks.  I haven't watched any of my shows in at least 3 weeks.  So now I'm finally catching up and will be back to blogging in no time, Insha'Allah.  :)  Just be patient with me, thanks!  Hope everyone had a great vacation and happy new year!