Thursday, August 28, 2014

Random Thoughts on Chup Raho, Daraar, Koi Nahi Apna and Izteraab

Sometimes it's just not worth it to write lengthy essays on certain dramas.  A few lines to get the point across can be more than sufficient.  After watching my batch of dramas on Tuesday and Wednesday, these were the thoughts I was struck with.  This will be short and to the point!

Chup Raho:  What started off as a promising drama quickly began to tailspin in episode 2.  Are you seriously telling me that Numair is so egotistical and unafraid of God/the law/his in-laws that he practically attacked Rameen in front of her own father?  And then after causing his father-in-law to have a deadly heart-attack, he stormed out of the room?  This is not a rapist at this point, but rather a murderer.  Flaw #1.  Now onto Flaw #2:  Rameen's THICK MOTHER.  When your daughter is trying to tell you something, what's with the "Saaf saaf baat karo" crap?  How empty headed do you have to be to understand that your daughter is terrified of her brother-in-law and doesn't want to stay there?  AND now Flaw #3:  Rameen herself.  OK.  Numair took you to his flat.  Then what?  You forgot to tell your mother about what happened to cause your father's death?  INTERESTING.

So at this point, Chup Raho has turned my brain mildly to mush after episode 3.  Disappointing.  But I'm holding on to hope that it will look up.

Daraar:  There are some dramas that carry a lot of expectations with them - and any Umera Ahmed drama instantly carries that burden.  That being said, I cannot FATHOM how this drama is so terrible.  I'm hoping it will pick up SOMEHOW and hit realism at some point.  But with such an unlikable lead character with the world's most ANNOYING family full of matlab and greed, I'm having a hard time getting on board with this one.

Koi Nahi Apna:  Only one episode left here.  The biggest flaw with this otherwise nice drama is the character of Alvira (Sarwat).  Definitely an Akele Hum Akele Tum remake, this drama has fared well in all regards.  But with Alvira, it hasn't been realistic.  Alvira felt neglected, misunderstandings were caused by her father, she went to court, she won, she had a confrontation with Hamza's lawyer who clarified everything and then two seconds later, she's waving teddy bears and all sorts of cheap junk at her parents, talking about all the expensive shopping she's done for Shiza.  The character itself is a bi-polar one and also very unlikable.  The other downside is Hamza's mother, who he should literally just kick out of his house.  She wasn't nice to his wife, wasn't even nice to her own granddaughter and is nasty to Hamza.  The worst kind of mother in all regards.  Otherwise, I have liked the pace and story of this show.  But I'm looking forward to the last episode, as it's definitely time to end.

Last and definitely least, we come to Izteraab, possibly one of the most irritating dramas on air in a while.  Each and every character had shades of grey in almost an annoying way.  The highlight of the drama was the character of Duaa, who despite being the other woman was a very positive, good person.  On the other end, Shahzaib and Zara were very strange, twisted people.  The only thing I can give this show plus points for is not going the expected route.  I was expecting to see a sick Zara pass away, leaving Duaa to care for Shahzaib and their children.  Instead of this Stepmom ending, we saw more of a "Judaai" (Bollywood - Sridevi) ending, with Duaa peacefully and willingly stepping out of the picture to make way for this now happy family.  While I didn't necessarily agree with the ending, at least it had some shock value.  I'm glad this show is over though.  It was a thorough waste of a good cast.

On that note, I'm going out of town for the long weekend, so there won't be any posts from me until next Tuesday or Wednesday.  Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Happy watching!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pehchaan: A Whirlwind of Emotions

Some dramas can go on air and continue airing and are completely neglected by the general audience throughout its run.  Pehchaan falls into this category.

With a not-very-popular cast (barring Alishba Yousef) and the fact that it's airing on A-Plus, a channel which I feel gets ignored despite airing some real gems, Pehchaan has managed to make very few waves with the audience (at least from what I've seen).  This is strange, because like Talkhiyan, Khalid Ahmed and Bee Gul's last joint venture, Pehchaan is equally as deep, moving and powerful.  Like Talkhiyan, Pehchaan hits the audience in the stomach repeatedly, yet the viewer feels the need to come back for more and more pain.  I can't claim to fall into a different category: I only recently stumbled across this masterpiece and indulged in a back-to-back marathon of 18 episodes, spellbound.

When the drama began, the pace felt slow, sluggish....but knowing the path Talkhiyan took, I knew this pace would not last.  What transpired before my eyes ended up being a beautiful story of societal norms, expectations and the price of being "independent."

Each and every character is flawed.  They are human.  With each episode, I found my eyebrows furrowed, sometimes out of horror, sometimes confusion, sometimes extreme irritation.....but the power of this story is that you feel connected to these characters.

Laila, a once independent, young, smart woman who had dreams of pursuing her education is bullied into marriage by her mother, despite the protests of her supportive father (Qazi Wajid).  Laila is married to Mansoor (Sohail Sameer) and does everything she can to make her marriage work, despite Mansoor's neglect, disinterest and distant personality.  The two have a child together, which further ties Laila to Mansoor.  Laila is an intelligent woman and inwardly realizes that there's another woman involved, yet society has taught her to keep silent and endure.  "Sabar" and compromise are words that are always thrown at girs, taught that it's their job to make a marriage work.  But what if the marriage has no hope, no respect. no love?  Laila's mother has fallen into the social trap of "What will people think?" and it is this trap that she uses to try to control Laila, keep Laila glued to her marriage and that she falls into, turning a blind eye to every bad habit of her son-in-law.  It has to be said that the father-daughter relationship between Laila and her father is a beautiful one and you find yourself wishing that every Pakistani woman could have such a father.  If they did, fighting societal pressures would be made so much easier.  Alishba Yousef is doing a wonderful job playing the role of Laila and making her feel like "the ordinary girl."  This could be you.  This could be me.

The character of Mansoor, played by Sohail Sameer, is neither one of "pure evil" nor is he anyone the audience can possibly have a soft spot for.  He does, in fact, play the role of the perfect male hypocrite that is so common in our society.  No, this is not a role meant to trigger male-bashing nor does this show promote female superiority.  It does however highlight some double-standards that our society plays up to.  We see Mansoor carrying on a relationship with Kuku, despite having a wife and child.  Yet when his wife finds out about it, he is "relieved" at no longer having to hide the sham and continues chasing Kuku under his wife's nose.  Yet when Mansoor realizes Laila is accompanying her friend Saadi on a trip, he begins throwing words like "Izzat" in her face, telling her that he will be shamed by her actions.  Kuku points this out to Mrs. Khan during a discussion:  Why is it that when a man acts inappropriately, his wife's "izzat" is not affected, yet when a woman is "shamed," the man's honor is damaged?  Why does our society carry this double-standard?  What is bad for one should be bad for the other.

We come to Kuku, who is in theory nothing but a home-wrecker......but is she?  She's the image of what the "modern, independent woman" is supposed to be.  But we witness that Kuku has had her share of struggles, bad relationships, a bad marriage, conflicted emotions and hey!  Kuku even has a strong conscience!  Iffat Omer has done a great job of making the character of Kuku lovable, relatable and making the audience feel as though "This could be any one of us."  Kuku is a victim of circumstance and society.  She knows right and wrong, yet her life doesn't allow her to live a squeaky-clean existence.

On the other end Mrs Khan, played by Anita Camphor, plays up to the obedient wife image.  Her husband wants her to have a particular hairstyle?  She will get that particular hairstyle.  Anything to please Mr. Khan....but what about Mrs. Khan's opinion and desires?  They play no part here.  What's interesting about this character is that Mrs. Khan serves as the eyes of society.  She's a friend to Laila and Kuku, but she keeps them in check by providing them insight to what others will think about their actions.  Even more interesting is how Mrs. Khan evolves while spending time with these women.  The once obedient Mrs. Khan is slowly heard spewing rants against Mr. Khan, her angst being released.  It'll be interesting to see how this character continues to progress.

At this juncture, after episode 18, we see that Laila has finally left Mansoor, Kuku has finally rid herself of her childish husband Khurram and both women are struggling to live life on their own terms.  What did rub me the wrong way in episode 18 though was the character of Laila's mother.  Not once did the woman ask her daughter "What happened?  Why did you leave your home in the middle of the night?  Why can you and Mansoor not get along?  What has Mansoor done?"  Instead, we see the blame falling entirely on Laila, while Laila silently accepts it all.  Why?  Up until now, we've witnessed a strong woman.  But what kind of strong woman is this that doesn't even vocalize the pain inflicted on her?  A woman who silently accepts blame and accusations?  A woman who willingly signs over the property her father left in her name over to her bullying brother?  WHY?  This is a point that really did bother me.

That said, I do hold on to hope for better things to come and future character development.

While we witnessed an engagement of sorts between Saadi & Laila, it's hard to hold on to hope for a happy future for Laila, knowing the twists the show has taken so far.  Let's see!

This one comes highly recommended!  Happy watching!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mohabbat Ab Nahi Hogi - Episodes 1-5 Overview

Looking at the cast, I had zero expectations for this drama.  To be honest, I didn't even give it a second glance initially, especially looking at Syed Jibran Ali and Ali Rehman Khan as the two male leads, as I am not a big fan of Syed Jibran Ali at all and almost hold a grudge against Ali Rehman Khan after "Rishtey Kuch Adhoore Se."

However, while watching one of my many dramas on TV one day, I saw a promo for the 4th episode of the show - and was not only intrigued by the promo, but was also excited seeing Armeena Rana Khan.  While she may not be the best actress, I developed a fondness for her during the course of Shab-E-Arzoo Ka Aalam; plus, the girl is incredibly striking.  So of course, I instantly put it on my list of shows to catch up on.

I spent the day today catching up on the five aired episodes.  Was it worthwhile?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes.  Mohabbat Ab Nahi Hogi projects what can happen when polar opposites are brought together in a marriage and one of the pair is incredibly immature - misunderstandings.

Fiza (Armeena Rana Khan) is thrown into an arranged marriage with Ahmer (Jibran).  While Jibran is a serious, silent yet nice type, Fiza is childish and could be described as silly.  While initially, the pair seem to be getting along rather well in a case of opposites attract, things begin to go haywire.  Jibran's leave ends and he has to go back to Dubai for work, leaving his new bride of one week at home with his family.  It is during this time that she begins to cause trouble for his family at home, the fuel to the fire being provided by Ahmer's older sister (ZQ).  And then of course, we also have Fiza's harmless flirtation with Ahmer's brother, Azhar (Ali Rehman Khan), which is slowly being looked upon with suspicion by family members.

It's interesting to see a once lively, friendly, innocent girl slowly evolving into a trouble-making vamp type right before our eyes in the most natural way.  She isn't purposely trying to cause trouble, but her childish behavior, lack of understanding and tantrums are causing her to ruin her own image and reputation in her sasural.

It'll be interesting to see where this drama is heading.  I know it's based on a novel, but as usual, I haven't read it, so I'm definitely going in blind.  The story and the performances are making this one show that I look forward to though!

Happy watching!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chup Raho - Sinister Beginnings

It's a hard challenge to meet, taking the spot of the beloved Pyaray Afzal.  Looking at the cast, I was doubtful about how great this show would be.  What did pull me in were two things - Arjumand Rahim and the fact that the show is directed by Yasir Nawaz. as I always enjoy shows these two are associated with.

Coming to the first episode, as soon as the show started, I was overcome with a feeling of dread.  The show depicted a family - a set of parents and their daughter (Sajal Ali) - on their way to their son-in-law and daughter's house (Arjumand Rahim and Syed Jibran Ali).  As the couple had been living in Dubai and had just moved back to Karachi, the family was reuniting after a gap of five years.  They are also heading to Karachi for Rameen's engagement to Aazar, Numair's cousin.  Despite the light-hearted, sweet nok-jhok between the family, the overall feel of the show set its audience up to constantly feel that something bad was going to happen.  What was going to happen?  No clue.  At many points, I felt as though Abba jaan was going to have a heart attack, there would be an explosion on the train while Rameen (Sajal Ali) was on the phone with Aazar (Feroz Khan), the train would be derailed, leaving Rameen orphaned.....fortunately, none of this happened.

What did happen, however, was much worse.  The family safely reached Karachi.  Rameen spotted her brother-in-law Numair and playfully played a prank of being a stranger - unfortunately, he was instantly attracted to this "stranger" and was shocked when he realized it was his sister-in-law.  And so began his evil intentions.

We bear witness to Numair having a conversation with his friend (played by Yasir Nawaz), telling him that Rameen is his next "shikar."  His friend chides him, stating that she's set to marry his cousin, to which Numair responds that she's welcome to marry his cousin and it makes no difference to him.  He also tells his friend to keep his mouth shut and go on supplying him with his apartment keys as he always does.  Numair's face is revealed to the audience with this scene as a cheater and a man who preys on his conquests.

Throughout the dholki, Numair has his evil sights set on Rameen, even chiding Rameen and Aazar for secretly meeting on the roof, saying "What will people think?"  The following day, Rameen is set to go to the parlor to get ready for the engagement - to which Numair volunteers to take her.  However, instead of taking her to the parlor, he takes her to the apartment.  What happens next?  I think we all know, though that's where the episode ended.

This show has already managed to send chills down my spine, unnerving me.  Why?  Because what's scarier than a person who has no concept of relationships?  When the person doing the wrongdoing is supposed to be your protector and someone you consider to be a brother, what will ever make you feel safe?

The situation Rameen is in is not an unrealistic one - in fact, what makes it so scary is how realistic it really is.  How many good homes have secrets like these?  And how many times is the girl expected to keep quiet?

The cast is doing a great job in their roles, each character believable.

It's yet to be seen the route that this show takes, but so far, it's incredibly interesting and horrifying at the same time.  But we're off to a good start!

Happy watching!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pyaray Afzal: Expected Yet Unexpected

Finally, after 35 episodes, Pyaray Afzal has come to a close.  While I feel that there was no other way to end the drama, the ending still managed to shock and surprise its viewers.

The episode began with Yasmeen asking Afzal and his family for permission to leave, for their own sake.  She loves Afzal, but knows that Farah lives in the hearts of this entire family and she's the one who will make Afzal happy, so she selflessly breaks off the engagement.  This scene was really emotional, because Yasmeen is such a beautifully written character.  Sohai has done a great job with the role and has brought Yasmeen to life, a character who may have been slightly self-absorbed and "taiz," but completely pure at heart (and madly in love with Afzal).

On the other end, Lubna finally manages to extract a love confession from Farah (for Afzal).  Lubna gleefully informs Farah that Sabtain actually wanted to marry her and the entire engagement between Sabtain and Farah was a sham that both families (barring their father) were aware of.  Lubna runs downstairs to tell "Abba,"  The following scene was absolutely hilarious with Lubna telling Sheikh Saab that "Aap ko acting bilkul nahin aati," the reason for keeping him in the dark about the plan.

We witness a sad moment between Afzal and Farah, saying their goodbyes.  Yasmeen tells Afzal to never visit her if in Karachi and quickly leaves.

Back in Hyderabad, Maulvi SubhanAllah and Ruqaiyya happily plan to visit Sheikh Sahab to ask for Farah's hand in marriage again, finally content with their son and his future.

Afzal finally makes that phone call he's been putting off........and that Farah's been waiting for.  The two begin to talk, but get cut off.  Happily, Afzal gets out of his car, reminiscing about his past with Farah and dreaming of his future with her.  At that moment, a car passes by and Afzal is shot several times.  This is the way of the world and after killing people in Karachi, Afzal was not destined to get off scott free.

Farah calls back and continues talking to Afzal, happily, planning their future and finally declaring her feelings for Afzal.  Afzal tells Farah that he loves her a lot too, the life slowly slipping away from him, clinging on to this happy moment with all his strength.

Farah finally addresses him as what he's been yearning to hear all these years:  "Pyaray Afzal."  And then, Afzal is no more.

The scene was heavy, heart-breaking and beautiful all at the same time.  Some complained that it was too sad, too heavy, too heart-breaking.  Some complained that what was the point of sitting through all 37 episodes when it had to end like this?  But looking back at the show, it has given the viewers nothing short of poetry in motion, beautiful characters and karmic tragedy.  

The Negatives:  I would definitely argue that this show could've easily been 10 episodes shorter.  Also, I feel the gangster track was unnecessary entirely (and would have allowed for a happier ending if omitted) - though what transpired was the only ending that could only be expected with the direction Pyaray Afzal took after Afzal left Hyderabad.  I would've definitely preferred if the show continued with the simplicity that it began with.

The Positives:  Everything else.  Everything about this show was positive, whether it be the complex yet simple characters, the brilliant acting, the amazing dialogues, the heart-touching relationships, the emotions. the cinematography, the direction.....everything.  It's been a long time since characters have touched me so much and the words they've uttered on screen have stayed with me like this.  Kudos to the entire Pyaray Afzal team for their hard work.

This is a show that I grew to love watching each week and it's a show that will be dearly missed.  But yet another show ends and we look to the future, waiting for new great shows to start.

Happy watching!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shanakht on Hum TV - Thoughts on the first two episodes

Disclaimer:  Religion is a very sensitive topic and is something very personal to each individual.  The following beliefs and thoughts are simply my own and are not meant to offend.

Starting off, I am always instantly attracted to shows with a message of religion.  I consider myself to be fairly religious and really connect to shows like Main Abdul Qadir Hoon, Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishaan, Shehr-E-Zaat, etc.  At the same time, I've been raised in the USA with a good balance of Arab and Pakistani influence, surrounded by people who have always struck a moderate balance between religion and "dunya."  So it is here that I'm finding myself turning up my nose at Shanakht already.

Coming to the show, this struggle that we see Annie facing is real.  In "modern" Pakistan, we have so often seen people turn their nose up at anyone or anything that may resemble a "Fanatic."  Something as simple as hijab can be deemed offensive in such circles.  Even families that are very conservative will draw the line at their girls wearing hijab "at home."  It becomes mildly difficult to embrace religion while still traveling in upper-class society at a marriageable age.  So I'm glad to see this topic touched in a show surrounding a female (as it has been done before with Main Abdul Qadir Hoon from a male perspective).

In the first episode, we see that Annie's friend has influenced her to wear hijab and embrace Islam "correctly."  Annie struggles with her home life, as her mother is disapproving of her decision, feeling that wearing hijab will counter all marriage prospects for her daughter.  She consistently reminds Annie of how lively, well-dressed and cute she was and how her present state is not attractive, especially compared to that of her sister Kashaf.  On the other end, Annie's father is supportive of his elder daughter's decision, understanding that his two daughters are different individuals.  We see a mildly supportive sister in Kashaf as well.

On the other end, we see Annie's extended family members - her Taaya, Taayi Ami and her cousin Hashim.  Everyone feels that Annie's change is simply a "phase," and one that they're hoping she will grow out of soon.  She shares a strong friendship with Hashim, as the two have grown up together and travel to and from college together as well.  However, at school, Annie's friend (and current mentor) Aisha delicately breaches the subject about "mehram" and how it's not appropriate for Annie to travel with Hashim.  It was only here where my personal sentiments spiked a bit, as this seemed to cross that balance of deen and dunya.  Annie actually made a very valid point to Aisha, that she traveled with Hashim in her hijab and within the bounds of decency.  However, Aisha instructed her that she should try to come to school on her own.  In an amusing moment, Annie tries to speak to Hashim about this and he laughs, saying that would it be better that she travel with her equally non-mehram driver (another valid point)?  This sequence of events perfectly illustrated the differences of opinion regarding religion.

Coming to the character of Aisha, I did appreciate that she instructed Annie to avoid causing any disturbances in her own family and guided her to only do her best.

Later, we see that Taaya and Taayi have decided to make Annie their "bahu," and tell Annie's parents as much.  This relieves Annie's parents of the burden of finding a rishta for Annie and they immediately think to buy Hashim a car on his birthday.  On the other end, Taayi breaches the subject with Hashim, hoping for a positive response, but instead Hashim asks for time to think.

Coming into episode 2, we see Hashim struggling with the idea of marrying Annie.  While he likes Annie, he does not believe that they will be able to happily live together with her present "mentality."  On the other end, Annie's mother is determined to rid Annie of Aisha's influence.  She clearly speaks to Aisha and tells her that she is a bad influence on Annie, as she has taught her to rebel against her parents.  Aisha is shocked and leaves, upset.  Hashim tries to talk to Annie in an attempt to see if she would be flexible on her views, especially after visiting Aisha's home with her and seeing the ways of her friend.  He is. however, disappointed to see that Annie is rigid and unwilling to bend her beliefs for anyone else.

Hashim decides against marrying Annie and instead, tells his mother to send a rishta for Kashaf.  His mother is shocked and uncomfortable at this idea, as both families were set on Annie & Hashim's marriage.

That's where the 2nd episode left off.  While I do feel the show is off to a good start, I hope they do manage to show some balance in Annie.  Being religious does not necessarily mean being extreme and Ii'd like to see her character project religion with positivity and influence those around her, rather than see her bullied by others and in return, her preaching to others.

Let's see!  Right now, I'm on the fence about this show.  Though I have to say, the cast is great and everyone is doing a really good job.

Happy watching!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Two Shows Wind Up: Marasim & Bay Emaan Mohabbat

While one of these dramas was definitely high on my watch priority list, the other was something I watched for the cast rather than the riveting story - which is probably why I lagged behind, only to catch up on the last 3 episodes last night, not realizing the show had ended weeks ago.

Bay Emaan Mohabbat - the show definitely stayed true to its name, though ultimately, who was really the one being bay emaan in their mohabbat?  

While initially the Saba Qamar character seemed to be the vicious, scheming one, you soon realize that she's a victim of circumstance and does only what's necessary to keep her family strong.

On the other end, we have Nauman Ejaz's character, a man trapped in his marriage to a woman who was once the love of his life (Samia Mumtaz) - however, after losing her eyesight, among many other health issues, he begins to find his life with her difficult and longs for a "normal" relationship.

And lastly, we have Sania Mumtaz's character, who has become so morose in her loss of vision and so upset with the direction in which her life is heading, she begins to cling to her husband, not realizing she's pushing him away. And once she realizes his betrayal, she turns vindictive.

The positive of this show is that it took three people dealing with very different issues and brought them together.  At first, you struggle to see where Dania (Saba Qamar) fits into Nauman & Samia's world.  However, as the show unravels, you see where the story is heading.  The show has a natural progression.

The negatives of this show is also one of its positives:  natural progression.  Throughout the show, I was left wondering why some episodes even existed.  The show could've easily been condensed from 25 episodes to 20 episodes.  And then the ending came so quickly to a resolution - and while the resolution was nice, it was mildly hard to grasp after all the drama.

Anyways, the verdict on Bay Emaan Mohabbat is that it's a nice show with good acting, but there's nothing path-breaking  here, nor would I rank it as a must watch.

Then we move on to Marasim, a show which has held me riveted throughout, from beginning to end.  The cast has delivered beyond what was expected of them, as none of the leads are necessarily known for their incredible acting skills. 

Coming to the actual last episode, we see Nayyab finally on her own feet, working and independent, happy in her home.  She's no longer the stammering, mouse-like daughter-in-law or wife.  We also see her sharing a loving marriage with Dawood.  Dawood's basically on  his death bed, unknown to his family, but in his last days, he made sure to leave his family with everything they would need, including his love and their own confidence.

What really worked for this episode were the emotional moments, whether it was between Dawood & Nayyab or Dawood and Geeti Aara, each scene left you in tears.  For a wrap-up episode, everything was very nicely done.

Pros:  The cast all did a great job, namely Ahsan Khan, Urwa Hocane and Saba Hameed.  You really felt for what each of their characters were going through and what their insecurities and weak points were.  The storyline was definitely something different and didn't feel ghissi-pitti at all.  It was a new angle to the saas-bahu fights.  Kudos to the writers.

Cons:  Considering Momina was such an integral part of Dawood's life, it was odd that ALL we saw of her in the last episode was Dawood's vision of her smiling at him.  What I Do feel is a con is that this show never had any clear direction.  The ending angle felt like almost an entirely different show.  We start with a love triangle and end with a death angle  It was odd.  Not entirely negative, but definitely disjointed.

The overall verdict is that Marasim is definitely one of the better shows this year and I would whole-heartedly recommend it.

I'm really looking forward to the forthcoming new batch of shows, because I do feel the drama scene is going through an uninteresting, sluggish period.  Here's to hoping shows like Sila, Jackson Heights, Alvida, Daraar and Shanakht pick up the slack!

Happy watching!