Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Best Dramas of 2014

Alright, I know, this is legitimately 2 months late.  Haha.  However, not only did this require some serious thought (as last year was a little dim on the "great" shows), but it also required some time.  Finally though, here is my list of the best shows of 2014!

1)  Pyaray Afzal

There can be no question or argument that Pyaray Afzal was the most popular drama of 2014.  So much so that the final episode of the drama was screened in theaters (in Pakistan).  That's a huge feat for any television drama.  But all the craze for the show and Hamza Abbasi aside, the show actually does live up to the hype that it garnered.  This was a show that did not come with expectations greater than that it was being directed by Nadeem Baig and had a nice OST (though unoriginal).  The show managed to surpass all expectations and touched the hearts of each and every viewer.  The character of Afzal, while forever etched in our hearts, was not the only character to resonate with the fans.  Each and every character created a place in the hearts of the viewer.  Maulvi SubhanAllah and his love for his wife Ruqaiyya and the beautiful relationship they shared was a huge highlight of the show.  Sheikh Sahab and his wife's frustration towards their daughter's antics was a sight most people could relate to.  Lubna's awe at Farah's unexpressed love and Farah's denied insanity somehow created the best of sibling relationships.  Arifa's love for her brother, Afzal's love for Farah, Yasmine's enduring love for Afzal - you name it, these relationships stuck with the audience.  At heart, Pyaray Afzal is a love story - but not simply between two lovers, rather a love story between families, father & son, mother & son, father & daughter, brother &'s simply a story of love!  The true testament to the impact these characters had is simply that I didn't have to even look up a single character's name.  What made Pyaray Afzal the gem that it truly is was in its simplicity and ability to win its viewers over with well-written characters that you not only loved, but understood.

2)  Bunty I Love You

Bunty I Love You can be described as experimental television at its best.  When the show first began, I thought "What kind of warped, closed off, gothic branch of society are they trying to portray?"  However, as the show progressed, so did my interest.  Bunty I Love You tells the story of a widow, Mrs. Patel, the betrayal she faced in life and how that betrayal pushes her to pursue the young, naive Bunty.  At the onset, Bunty I Love You may seem like an odd watch with "weird" characters and an unbelievable storyline, but as the show progresses, you're transported into a world where deception, greed and insecurity lurk at each corner.  More than anything, this show depicts human behaviors and human psychology at its darkest.  Do not miss this one!

3)  Pehchaan

Poetry in Motion.  If Talkhiyan was the neglected gem of 2013, Pehchaan was the underrated, diamond of 2014.  As with any Khaled Ahmed drama, the viewer knows to expect a show that starts off slow, but slowly delves you into the world of the characters, pulling you to be invested in their lives and their outcomes.  Pehchaan is no less than exactly that.  Laila, Kuku, Mrs. Khan are women that you root for and while Mansoor is your typical male chauvinist, he's balanced by the intelligent, self-confident Saadi.  Pehchaan is a complex story about the trials and tribulations of marriage, the expectations society places on Pakistani women and the behaviors women are trained to overlook in order to "save their marriage."  Without being a blatant show of feminism, Pehchaan touches upon the double-standards of society and leaves the viewer reeling with the after effects.  I am unable to sing the praises of this drama any more than simply to say it's a must-watch.

4)  Mere Humdum Mere Dost

"Oh no, Adnan Siddiqui again?  Romancing a younger actress again?  Why doesn't this guy realize he's not lead-hero material anymore?"  These were my initial thoughts leading up to Mere Humdum Mere Dost.  I'll be honest, there were only two reasons I decided to give this show a chance.  #1:  Sanam Jung is a near and dear cousin of my near and dear friend, so I watch all her shows.  #2:  Urdu 1 has a reputation for airing only 1-2 Pakistani dramas at a time and they are usually quality shows.

Urdu 1 did not drop the ball on this one either - Mere Humdum Mere Dost, while on air, was easily my favorite show and one that I waited for with anticipation each week.  The relationship between Haider and Aiman was one that slowly developed naturally week by week and never once took the audience for a fool.  The age gap between the lead actors was the basic premise of the storyline and not only did we as viewers recognize it, the characters acknowledged it as an issue themselves.  The story of Mere Humdum Mere Dost is essentially the story of Aiman reconnecting with her father, his family and discovering a strong friendship with Haider, her father's close friend.  The situations, feelings and relationships in this story are realistic and that's what makes them so endearing.  Mere Humdum Mere Dost is a show about human relationships and emotions and is a show not to be missed!

5)  Ranjish Hee Sahi

Initially when this show started, I considered this show to be background noise - you know, something you watch while doing chores and tasks.  Gradually, however, it turned into one of my most awaited shows each week.  Ranjish Hee Sahi tells the story of a widow, her two children and how she, ultimately, becomes the dreaded "other woman."  In this story, however, the other woman is shown as a living, breathing, gentle, caring human being with problems of her own and her own valid reasons for choosing to get into such a situation.  Ranjish Hee Sahi changes tracks several times during its course, yet always sticks to the basic ideal of family importance.  Kamal Hassan and Yumna are played perfectly by Samiya Mumtaz and Faisal Rehman, bringing their conflicted characters to life, showing that age holds no bar on unrequited love.  Maya Ali and Sana Javed excel at playing Yumna's daughters and depicting their own turmoil as a consequence to Yumna's actions.

More than simply the story of unrequited love, Ranjish Hee Sahi is the story of two families brought together due to unforeseen circumstances, the story of two sisters and their relationship, the story of a married couple at odds with one another and the story of a father and his sons.  This drama not only gets a recommendation from me for having a unique storyline, but also comes highly recommended due to the power-packed performances from the entire cast.

6)  Shukk

Oh boy.  It's hard to put Shukk into words, as it was such a heavily debated drama.  Were you team Sehrish or team Sania?  Was Ehtesham a "bad husband" or was he a man burned by his wife's antics?  Did Sehrish deserve to be forgiven?  Did Sania play homewrecker?  Was Ehtesham's decision fair?  These were all points that were talked about from all sides, by women of all ages and on all sorts of platforms, whether it be on the internet or sitting in the middle of a party.  This is where Yasir Nawaz succeeded the most - he captured the interest of his audience.

Shukk depicted a story that struck a chord with each and every woman watching.  Why?  Because each and every woman, regardless of her opinion of the show, was able to put herself into either Sehrish or Sania's place and imagine what they would feel if in the place of these characters.  It's this point that made Shukk such a heated discussion point.  Shukk, as a story, explains itself clearly in its title:  SHUKK.  What happens when a white lie or omission of the truth is revealed in the worst way to a spouse?  What happens to a marriage when suspicion enters the home?  How can a man clear his wife's mind of suspicion when she refuses to trust him?  How can a wife defend herself to her own husband when another woman accuses her of having an affair with her husband?  It's these questions that create the basis for Shukk and the occurrences in the drama.  The highlight of this drama is that the emotions depicted by each character are real.  You can imagine experiencing the betrayal, the anger, the disbelief, the frustration that each character goes through.  You can put yourself in the position of each character and sympathize with their situation.  Regardless of team Sehrish or team Sania, neither of these women are black & white.  What this show ultimately left me with was this:  Don't ever feel so comfortable in your marriage that you begin to take your spouse for granted.  Trust each other, because without trust, there is no relationship.  That's the power of Shukk as a drama and this is exactly why the show was so successful - and why it should be seen.

7)  Marasim

"Watta satta AGAIN?  Haven't we seen enough of these storylines and enough of the crying?"  These were my first thoughts towards Marasim.  Refreshingly so, I was forced to eat my words.  Marasim ended up being one of the best shows of 2014 with great performances, a realistic storyline and characters that were well-etched.  Marasim tells the story of Geeti Aara (Saba Hameed), a mother unable to forget the abuses and mistreatment she suffered at the hands of her in-laws.  Marasim tells the story of Dawood and Momina, childhood lovers unable to let go of their love for each other, even as society deems it inappropriate for their relationship to continue.  Marasim tells the story of Nayyab, an orphan lacking confidence and unable to stand up against her mother-in-law and husband's mistreatment due to her circumstances.

Marasim, more than anything, brought to light the plight of the "evil mother-in-law."  Was she really evil or were her past circumstances the cause for her bitterness?  Are rigid women born rigid or are they created by indifference and lac of compassion?  Saba Hameed and Urwa Hocane are the stars of this drama, each creating a great impact with their characters of Geeti Aara and Nayyab.  If you want to watch a great show with fabulous performances, this would be it.

8)  Meri Beti

Meri Beti was one of the underrated shows of 2014, rarely spoken about.  The show touched upon the sensitive issue of remarriage with a child involved.  In Pakistani society, is it easy for a woman with a child to be accepted by a new family?  Divorced women face difficulties with remarriage, so having a child makes the situation even more difficult.  This is the basic premise of Meri Beti.  The show focuses on the three generations of women in one family - grandmother, mother and daughter - and how these true relations to each other are ultimately revealed.  The show was not only gripping, but also thought-provoking, putting it on the list at #8 of best shows of 2014!

9)  Mohabbat Ab Nahi Hogi

Arham, Azhar, Azhar, Arham, Arham, Azhar, Azhar, Arham.....what on earth is happening here?  No, this was not only the plight of the audience, but also of the main lead protagonist and self-created antagonist Fiza.

Mohabbat Ab Nahi Hogi started as a show that few people had any expectations from whatsoever. With Jibran Ali as the lead, a relatively new face as the 2nd male lead (Ali Rehman Khan) and Armeena Rana Khan, generally a non-actress, as the female lead, no one exactly expected this show to be a masterpiece.  However, good writing, good progression and well-written characters escalated this show into something highly entertaining, action-packed and very memorable.

Marriage is not an easy relationship for anyone - it requires trust, compromise and understanding.  It is increasingly difficult when a marriage is conducted between a mentally mature man and a young, childish girl full of fantasies.  This is the problem Arham (Jibran Ali) and Fiza (Armeena Rana Khan) face once they are married - and when lack of compromise leads to misunderstandings, a marriage can go sour very quickly.  Throw in a fun-loving, good-looking brother-in-law Azhar (Ali Rehman Khan) and his wife Urooj and you have the perfect mix for disaster....and yet, a great story!

While Mohabbat Ab Nahi Hogi cannot be classified as a work of art, it is a drama-lover's field day with action, fast-paced story and good performances.

10)  Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai

Last, but not least, we come to Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitaara Hai.  What was expected to be the best drama of 2014 due to the writer (Umera Ahmed), the production house and a visually pleasing cast somehow managed to barely wiggle its way onto my list of top 10 shows.

Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitaara Hai starts as a story about a girl in unfortunate circumstances who meets the right man at the right time and is elevated into a much better, happier life - let's call it the modern-day Cinderella story.  However, her happiness is short-lived and she is quickly plunged back into misery.  The story had great potential and with such a brilliant cast, the show should've been ranked at #1.  So where did the drama go wrong?  Unfortunately, the character of Rumaisa (Sanam Jung) was far too timid, far too naive and far too closed off to garner much sympathy on any level during the progression of the show (and her life).  This is not the fault of Sanam Jung however, as she did play her part to the best of her abilities.  The character was written in such a way that it was difficult to understand her.  While Nabeel & Rumaisa's love story felt natural, very realistic and was all-around adorable, it was the relationship between Rumaisa and Zeeshan that got the short end of the stick.  More compassion and understanding was needed to build their relationship and I feel that we as the audience were not given a window into those moments.

That being said, Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitaara Hai did have its beautiful moments, its heart-wrenching moments and told an incredible story of a naive girl's progression towards becoming a grown, sensible woman.  Mekaal, Sanam Jung and Adeel all gave fabulous performances and made this show worth watching.

That's it, folks!  That's my top 10 dramas for 2014.

I do want to give special mention to Ru Ba Ru, Koi Nahi Apna and Kahani Raima Aur Manahil Ki, as these three dramas were also very good shows from 2014.  While Koi Nahi Apna lost points for lack of originality (Kramer Vs. Kramer/Akele Hum Akele Tum remake), it tells a very beautiful story about a marriage gone sour and how a child gets caught in the middle.  Kahani Raima Aur Manahil Ki was definitely overlooked this year and I want to make special mention of it, as it not only had a great cast (Vasay Chaudhary, Mehreen Raheel, Sajal Ali, Shehroz Sabzwari), it was also a complete laugh-fest and had great comedic writing, as well as great performances.  And last, Ru Ba Ru was a show that I had zero expectations from, but emerged as a sheer winner with a completely unexpected story involving dark characters, surprising situations and even more surprising outcomes.
That's all for now!  Hope you all will share your favorites from 2014 with me as well.  Recommendations are always welcome!

Happy watching!