Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ruling the Roost Series: #5 - Pakeeza

Pakeeza brought Aamina Sheikh, an actress who refuses to be repetitive with her roles and strives to bring something new to the table, back to our TV screen after a gap, her last being Jackson Heights.  Her name is synonymous with quality and we are definitely on the receiving end of that with Pakeeza.

Pakeeza tells the story of a woman, Pakeeza (Aamina Sheikh), trapped in a loveless, abusive marriage where she is both physically abused and verbally belittled on a daily basis.  Her sole shining star is her daughter Kiran (Iqra Chaudhary).  Jibran (Ali Khan) may be a poor husband, but dotes on Kiran as well and she is the center of his world.  Pakeeza's escape from her life of chaos is her gallery, which she co-owns with her sister in law Naima (Angeline Malik), her support system, as she's not just her sister-in-law, but her best friend who sees the evil toll their childhood has taken on her vindictive brother.  We also have Azeem (Adnan Siddiqui), who is Naima's brother-in-law and also part-owner of the gallery, a man who has loved Pakeeza for as long as he can remember and continued loving her post her marriage.

The story truly began when Jibran, in a spate of anger, divorced Pakeeza.  At this time, with talk of Kiran's "rishta" in the works and Kiran's poor health, Jibran and Pakeeza continued to live under one roof, living in separate rooms and pretending all is well. 

This is the basic storyline for Pakeeza, but in recent weeks, new developments have pushed the story in a direction that left the viewer wondering "How will this end?"

Pakeeza is a show that, despite having a very slow pace and incredibly slow, uneventful and repetitive episodes.....somehow it simply works

I think we can attribute that to the powerhouse of talent that this cast is comprised of.  With Aamina Sheikh at the helm, playing the lead role of Pakeeza, I did not expect to be disappointed.  However, her being supported by Adnan Siddiqui, Angeline Malik and Aly Khan is no small deal and these four actors really deliver with each episode.  

Last we saw, Pakeeza is now happily, joyously married to Azeem, Kiran has gotten married to Saif, Pakeeza has moved out of Jibran's home with Naima's blessing and has finally told Kiran that she will never go back to her father (though she has not told her of her relationship with Azeem and the already-happened divorce).  As a viewer, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Finally, Pakeeza was going to be happy!  But wait........

At the end of the last episode, Azeem awakes to admire his beautiful bride and finds her......dead.  I am actually heart-broken at this turn of events and wonder why Pakeeza couldn't have been depicted as having a happy ending.  Why?  Sometimes I wonder what message these shows project to viewers.  HOWEVER, this does make for an interesting story and I assume the show will now go into "Whodunnit?" mode.  How the show continues and carries itself to the end without the character of Pakeeza will be something to wait and see.....

That's the last write up for this series.  I've tried to give so much positivity to each post, haha, but alas, it has to come to an end!  I'm ready to go back to my ranting about horrible shows and also ready to talk about some new, promising shows - which come right on time, since all 5 of these ruling shows are nearing their end.

Until next time, happy watching!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ruling the Roost Series: #4 - Tum Kon Piya

Initially when Tum Kon Piya was announced, I was so excited for the simple reason of seeing Imran and Ayeza together - Plus a Yasir Nawaz direction!

Once the show started, however, after about 3 episodes, I lost interest in a huge way.  "Just your regular rich vs poor, stuck up vs down to earth love story, complete with nagging, evil in laws."

I was wrong.  As the show progressed, the beauty of Yasir Nawaz's direction grabbed hold of me.  The simplicity of Ramish's (Imran Abbas) love won me over in his desire for nothing but to see Elma happy.  Elma's (Ayeza) heart yearning to speak to Ramish and confide in him by having in-depth imaginary conversations with him brought me to tears.  

This show is melodramatic, sure, but it also paints some harsh realities that girls go through.  While the feminist in me says "Screw this, Elma, leave your stupid husband and go to Ramish," the reality of the situation is not that simple or easy.  I appreciate Elma's growth as a woman and how she's slowly finding the backbone to defend herself against her terrible in-laws.

On the other end, it's nice to see a character like Ramish - that Prince Charming in real life, at least for Elma. While he may not be perfect regarding his fiancée, he still tries to do right.  But his love for Elma makes him downright angelic and his love and respect for her family even more so.  I'm sure girls everywhere are swooning for a man like this in their lives.

The story is simple, so there's not much to write about technically.  A rich guy falls in love with his poor cousin - families oppose it.  Girl marries into the worst family, complete with initially-sincere-but-now-cheating-husband who is a total mamas boy (said mama being pure evil).  Girl's dad dies.  In-laws are awful, only Ramish repeatedly comes to her rescue. And now Ramish has taken in her younger sister, Neha, because Elma's crazy in laws didn't want Neha in the house.

It's exasperating but the direction and dialogues really make you feel vested in theatre of these characters.

I only need it to be a happy ending!  Let's hope!  This one was short and sweet. BOne more to go in this series and then I have a huge spate of new shows to write about.  Happy watching! 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ruling the Roost Series: #3 - Udaari

Udaari is a show that not only tells a compelling story, but also sheds light on the issue of sexual abuse in Pakistan - a "taboo" subject that so desperately needed to come to light.

After weeks on air, PEMRA pushed to ban Udaari for inappropriate content.  "Humaare bache kharaab hojaayenge."  "This is not our culture."  The stupidity police was on a roll with that one, because #1) I don't believe Pakistani dramas with their realism and depressing themes (or even themes of love) are meant for children.  And 2) Culture?  Come again?  So two wife shows depicting men being dishonest and house-hopping is culture, but showing an accurate depiction of relationships and how abuse occurs....isn't?  Fail.  Regardless, that was dismissed quickly and fans are happily continuing to watch Udaari.

What is great about Udaari is how the show has balanced happy, endearing themes with the heavier one.  While Sajjo (Samiya Mumtaz), Zebo and Imtiaz (Ahsan Khan) carry forward a heavy story of child abuse, Meera (Urwa Hocane), Rasheeda (Bushra Ansari) and Arsh (Farhan Saeed) have a lighter story arc about the acceptance of "mirasis" in society.  The way the two stories are woven together is brilliant and the entire cast has put forth a great effort to make this show what it is.

Coming back to the storyline with Zebo, Sajjo and Imtiaz, I just want to take a moment to discuss how brilliantly this storyline has been carried out.  Sajjo married Imtiaz and things seemed too good to be true until.....they were.  Sajjo was not brainless for a moment and when things started going wrong, she picked up on them, slowly but surely.  Her suspicions were slowly confirmed and to her horror, she was completely taken back by what her daughter had been put through and was going through emotionally.  I HAVE to give due credit to all three of these actors.  Samiya as Sajjo is perfect - I cannot imagine anyone else playing this role as well.  The role of a hardworking household cook with a daughter who suffers at the hands of her step-father transitioned to a confident businesswoman is carried with such ease and natural finesse, you can't help applauding Samiya for yet another role well-done.  On the other end, Ahsan Khan has taken up one of the most hated, slap-worthy characters on television in years.  Imtiaz literally makes the viewer want to strangle him and vomit at the same time, he's such an intensely horrible human being.  However, that's what made this role such a great one for Ahsan Khan - it's not only the chance of a lifetime for an actor, but also one that is so very important for people to see.  He has done an amazing job as Imtiaz, the man who married a woman and earned praise for being a caring husband, only to take advantage of her young child.  Kudos to the little girl who played young Zebo - absolutely brilliant the way she makes you cry for Zebo and want to simply hug her for what she's been through.  You have to wonder what the dictation is to child actors when they're told to act out these scenes though?

And then we have the lighter arc, the one dealing with the incredible, amazing, fantastic Bushra Ansari as Rasheeda.  Rasheeda and her family are "Mirasis," musicians and entertainers by profession.  Pakistani society tends to look down upon this group of people and this show depicts the injustice created by this mentality so well.  Rasheeda, her daughter Meera, her son Ejaz and her brother are a beautiful, thoughtful, kind-hearted family that come through for Sajjo and Zebo over and over again.  The way their transition from village to city has been shown is heart-warming, because they didn't try to make it a quick change.  At heart, they are still from their small village, but their lifestyle has changed with Meera's discovery and singing success.  Bushra Ansari has a panache for taking up roles that other people may not even be able to pull off.  Rasheeda is such a character - loud, but lovable, she instantly puts a smile on your face in the comedic scenes, but is fiercely loyal and protective of her loved ones, showing that spark when dealing with Imtiaz and his crooked ways.  Bushra Ansari deserves applause.  Urwa Hocane is sweet as Meera and has played her role so perfectly that I am having a hard time remembering her in any other role!  She has become Meera.  Farhan is good as Arsh, but his role doesn't demand much of him - and this is a trend with him.  He is not a great actor, but just manages to get by on the shoulders of others.  However, this time, he had a little more ego to display, a little more anger, a little more insecurity, so the role of Arsh has been a step in the right direction for him.  Well done.

Genuinely, I love this show and what it stands for, what it promotes and what it seeks to do in educating the masses against these atrocities.

That being said, the current arc is not settling well with me.  With only two episodes to go, I am relieved that the show will not be drawn out or dragged unnecessarily, keeping it straight to the point.  But the return of Imtiaz, though amazing for ratings and excitement, is heart-breaking as a viewer.  It only goes to show that an already mentally and physically tortured woman and sweet, innocent child are still being put through unnecessary grief.  I found myself yelling "HOW MUCH MORE CAN  A PERSON TAKE?" with Imtiaz's return and the following episode.  I hope for a positive ending with a positive message, one that makes the subject of abuse less "taboo" and opens the door for discussions and honestly dealing with the subject.

Kudos to Udaari.  I'm expecting great things from the next two (and last) episodes!  Happy watching!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Teri Chah Mein

I have to temporarily revert to my bashing ways.  The praise will continue tomorrow, but I simply can't let this one slide.  

I was at the APPNA conference in D.C. this past weekend, where Pakistani celebrities were hanging out left and right.  I tried my best and despite my stalking capabilities, I was unable to hunt down Ahsan Khan for a picture! Haha.  I did, however, meet Jawad Ahmed and Todd Shea, so that was nice.

Maria Wasti was one of the celebrities at the venue and she hosted the entertainment night on Friday, where she referred to herself as a "dumb blonde" (her words, not mine).  I so desperately wanted to bump into Maria afterwards so I could ask her WHY she signed a show like "Teri Chah Mein."  Was it a "dumb blonde" moment (someone definitely needs to inform her that she's not a blonde, so that joke was probably not politically correct)?  I can't think of any other reason why she would've signed this awful, moral-less show.

I consider myself to tread the line between conservative and liberal pretty well.  Live and let live.  I can generally wrap my head around all sorts of themes.....but this one?  It's straight up classless!  The "based on a true story" is what captivated me. 

This is how the story goes (was about to break into the "Waqt" rap - E.P., haha.....anyone? Anyone?  No? Ok....):

Mariyam (Maria Wasti) is married to Salman Shahid, obviously a man much older than she is.  She was emotionally blackmailed into marrying him at a young age to "Chuka" some ehsaan done for her brother.  They have two children, Zara and Kashif. Kashif is a bit conservative and doesn't want Zara to talk to her fiancé (Farhan Saeed - I can't remember his character's name).  Farhan is the son of SalmanShahid's younger brother.  Salman Shahid has always cared for his family and been a man to love and respect, though his wife never really seemed to have soft corner for him.  Farhan also has another younger brother, just a couple of years younger I suppose.

Farhan is basically the douchebag of the century, because while Zara (Saboor Ali) is in love with him, he's busy lusting after......wait for it.....her MOTHER.  Cue the gagging noises.  He takes this further though.  While the entire family is together, setting the date for Farhan and Zara's nikkah, he TELLS Mariyam that he can't marry Zara because he is in love with her (Mariyam).  BAM!  Salman Shahid (ahem, his Chacha!) overhears his prize of a nephew's love confession to his WIFE, has a massive heart attack and DIES.

The family is in mourning and then finds out what caused Salman's heart attack - or at least an appropriate version of it....Farhan doesn't want to marry Zara.  Farhan's dad throws a fit and kicks Farhan out of the house.

In the meantime, Mariyam's family has stabilized a little after Salman's death.  So re-enters Farhan to shake things up a bit and......convinces Mariyam to marry him?!  Yeah, yeah, I know, I had a hard time digesting that one as well.  Was there no other man on earth that Mariyam Could've married other than her husband's nephew and daughter's fiancé?  I guess not! 

Now Mariyam and Farhan are sneaking around as husband and wife, but surprise!  Farhan's dad finds Farhan's nikkah papers in a file and confronts him - but hadn't Farhan already been kicked out?  Did he sneak back in to place his nikkah papers in that file?  Mmmhmm.  Anyways, the scene gets tense, because Kashif has just arrived and is standing in the doorway listening to the commotion.....when Farhan reveals that the nikkah was done with Mariyam and she's now his wife.  Yes, this is all as icky as you're feeling reading it.

While the rest of the family is having a shock fest at Farhan, Kashif bolts towards home, really not knowing what to do with himself.  He goes home, confronts Mariyam who is sitting with Zara and, in anger, pulls out a gun to shoot her.  She tells him to go ahead and do it.....and he shoots himself.  

I actually can't make any sort of mockery of that scene, because it was actually heart-wrenching.  I was in shock with tears in my eyes for a solid 5 minutes afterwards.  

So now at present, Mariyam and Farhan's relationship has killed two people.  They are off to a great start!  Also, we were treated to a scene where Mariyam's bother confronts her over the whole mess - and she blames him for the mess her life is in, because he emotionally blackmailed her into marrying Salman all those years ago.  She also more or less says that she deserves happiness, excusing her bad behavior and marriage to Farhan.

It's really hard for me to understand where this show is headed.  Is Maria's character supposed to evoke sympathy? Is she supposed to be negative?  Am I supposed to hate Farhan?  This show has dived headfirst into all this drama, but has not given the audience the slightest indication to what we are supposed to feel!  

At this point, this is not a show I enjoy watching.  I feel like I need a shower afterwards.  If you're watching, please leave a comment below!  I'll be back to my positivity posts tomorrow! Happy watching!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ruling the Roost Series: #2 - Dillagi

Every once in a while, a show comes along that is sheer magic.  Dillagi is what Mann Mayal promised to be (and failed).  Dillagi may not be receiving as much attention as Mann Mayal, but it delivers so much more in quality, content, heart and soul!

I went through a long phase where I refused to watch anything with Hamayun Saeed as a hero (as he went on a spree of terrible shows in the mid-2000s like Ana and Riyasat).  When he shifted to production, I heaved a sigh of relief (despite some great shows like Uraan and Ishq Gumshuda).  But....what a comeback!  Hamayun has not only done a great job, but has actually gone a step further and created Mohib into a heartthrob character! 

A show about an unrelenting lover, Mohib (Hamayun Saeed), and the object of his affections, Anmol (Mehwish Hayat), quickly evolved into a game of wills - will Mohib's love win or Anmol's ego?  

This drama boasts of women empowerment.  We have strong female characters at every turn, whether it's a single mother, a mother fighting against injustice towards other women, a mother fighting for her child to be born, a woman fighting for her right to live on her own terms or a young girl trying to find her place amidst the chaos.

Anmol's mother (Asma Abbas) and her sister Mishal (Maryam Ansari) are Anmol's anchors, not only supporting Mohib in winning over Anmol's affections, but in encouraging her to accept her marriage and Mohib's love, not simply because he's her husband, but because he's a good man! Both actors do a great job with their roles, playing then with utmost sincerity and believability.

On the other end, we have Mohib's support system in his mother, Zulekha (Saba Hameed) and Sabiha (Uzma Hassan).  Zulekha is a strong woman, an advisor to the women in her area, fighting against abuses towards women and encouraging women to get their husbands under their control rather than suffer at their hands.  Her daughter Sabiha has fallen victim to this ideology, as her husband had the audacity to strike her in a heated moment, causing Zulekha to bring Sabiha home and forbid her from seeing her apologetic husband.

What's refreshing about the side characters is that they are not simply supporting characters - they all play a heavy role in the story and their scenes move the story forward rather than hinder it.  In fact, their scenes are a treat to watch!

The story involving Sabiha's pregnancy and Zulekha's insistence at her aborting the child was not a wasted story and has, in fact, come back to affect Mohib & Anmol's present, despite Sabiha's current happy state.  This further shows Faiza Iftikhar's power as a writer and Nadeem Baig's brilliance as a director!

Credit has to be given to Saba Hameed, as she is a powerhouse of talent as Zulekha.  She's a fiery character, ruthless and willing to do whatever it takes to protect her children.  Her heart is loving and loyal, her exterior hard and intimidating.  Her nok-Jhok with Anmol is one of the highlights of the show!

Dastageer (Imran Ashraf) and Mishal (Maryam Ansari) are such great supporting roles on this show, giving the audience another great couple to root for.  Imran Ashraf has been given some of the best lines in the show and he proves his acting mettle and impeccable comedic timing with his delivery.  One does wish that Mishal would give more in the sparring with Dastageer, but whether that's Mishal's character or Maryam's limitations as an actress, who knows?  Regardless, I am thoroughly enjoying their scenes, especially with Dastageer going back to school!

And finally, coming to the leads of the show -  I've already spoken about Hamayun's comeback as a heartthrob with this role.  That's quite the feat given his age.  But that's not all his role offers.  In fact, his role is an endearing one with complex emotions.  Mohib is a man fighting to win over his love the right way, but finds himself succumbing to insecurity and sadness, as his wife won't confide in him.  The complex emotions are portrayed so naturally by Hamayun that you can't help but applaud.

Mehwish Hayat as Anmol is perfect.  Anmol is a woman who believes that while everything may not be in her control, who she chooses to love is her choice - a choice that was, in her opinion, ripped away from her by Mohib. Married to him under unusual circumstances, Anmol lives to instill discomfort in Mohib regarding their relationship.  Mehwish is brilliant here, irritating the audience as much as she dumbfounds her own family and in-laws. Yet Anmol is relatable - while she may not be making the best choices, she's doing what we can imagine any headstrong girl would do (though maybe not as extreme), fighting against her idea of injustice.  

While we waited with baited breath this week to see Anmol finally confess her feelings to Mohib, the scene quickly snowballed into something else entirely, bringing forth a whole new wave of drama.  The intensity with which the scene was carried out and the acting from Hamayun, Mehwish and Saba alike was outstanding.  I can't wait for the next episode!

Dillagi has won me over with the simplicity of its dialogues, simplicity that wield real power and leave a lasting impact.  The ensemble cast is doing a great job and I can't recommend this show enough.  Nadeem Baig is fast proving his mettle as a director, while Faiza Iftikhar's name is synonymous with quality. 

Happy watching!

Ruling The Roost Series: #1 - Zara Yaad Kar

There are always drops in interest during every show, but some shows have been doing a great job of holding interest, regardless of how it's being carried out.  For the next few days, I'm solely going to post about great shows and give them the shout-outs they deserve.  So let's start:

Zara Yaad Kar

This drama should be titled "relationships on steroids."  Sana Javed plays Mahnoor, a perfect example of a woman who does not understand the bond of loyalty and the value of true love.  She's a woman who flutters towards the "better" prospect and does not pay heed to her (wise) mother's warnings and advice.  The way Mahnoor has managed to make a complete fool of herself from episode one to the present is such that I, as a viewer, almost feel sorry for her.  Almost.

On the other end, we have Hadi, played by Zahid Ahmed, possibly one of the most dignified, lovable characters in recent times.  His love is pure and unadulterated.  However, he now finds himself struggling against that love, seeing the flaws, wondering if this is actually the life partner he wants?  His turmoil is silent, left between him and his heart - and, occasionally, Uzma.  

Uzma, played by Yumna Zaidi, is a gem of a human being.  Her heart is clean and despite loving Hadi, she strives to do the right thing.  Anything less would make her a different person, though sometimes her techniques of doing the "right thing" are very painful for both her and Hadi alike.

Waqar, played by Yasir Mazhar is a key player and a very confusing character.  He is an opportunist when it comes to relationships, always jumping to the next best opportunity, stringing along several women at once.  But his ideals towards the country, the poor and the neglected are pure - he wants to do right by them.  And then he meets Geti....

Geti, played by Sharmeen Ali, is probably the first and only woman Waqar has genuinely loved.  The problem?  She's a upcoming politician, he's her advisor and he has been threatened with his life unless he stays away from her.  Leaving Geti wondering what has happened to him, he bolts out of her life.....and onto the next woman. 

Saba Faisal is a strong voice of reason on this show as Mahnoor's mother.  Whether she is seen advising her own daughter or Hadi, you know her intentions and feel her pain.  The show would not be as effective without her. 

Rashid Farooqi also deserves mention as Uzma's father, a father doing his best to be both mother and father to his only child.  He sees her heartbreak, but is helpless to do anything about it, despite wholeheartedly approving of Hadi.

These characters on their own might not have been as interesting, but as an ensemble, this show creates magic (and heartbreak).  Special mention to Khalil Ur Rahman Qamar for his powerful dialogues that hit the heart of the viewer.  

I'll hopefully write about the next show tomorrow!  Happy watching!