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!