Saturday, July 29, 2017

Baaghi: Episode 1 Thoughts

Baaghi is a huge project, a drama that was so highly anticipated that there was controversy surrounding it the moment it was announced.  Why a drama based on Qandeel?  Why not one on Amjad Sabri or Edhi?  Why are we promoting such a terrible human being?  Why are we allowing our daughters and mothers (excuse me...?) to watch such shows, inspiring them into "beghairti"?  HOW TIRED am I of those comments!  Why Malala for the nobel peace price?  Why not Edhi?  Why Qandeel for a drama?  Why not Edhi?  Why Leonardo DiCaprio for the Oscar?  WHY NOT EDHI?  Jeez.....people.....stop.  Why would one make a drama on Edhi?  There would be no.....drama.

My stance on Qandeel has been stated time and time again - while I didn't agree with her actions, I truly believe that she had every right to live her life the way she wanted to.  If she had a bad marriage, a bad time growing up and a bad past that caused her to rebel, that was her path and her life to live.  She had a right to live how she saw fit.  And THAT is the point of representing Qandeel Baloch correctly - she does stand for something.  She stands for the fact that women in Pakistan do not have control or a right over their own lives.  They become someone else's "honor," a symbol of "hayaa" and decency and are taught to behave in a way that will not bring shame to their families.  A girl has to be pious and of a "clean image" in order to be considered good. Why?  Why are men allowed to do whatever they want and women are made to be judged?  That's the problem with our society and that's what Qandeel Baloch stands for.  Call it feminism or just call it simple, plain old human rights, that's your choice.

Coming back to the drama, some of the most talented names of the industry are associated with this drama.  From Saba Qamar playing the lead role to Ali Kazmi, Sarmad Khoosat, Osmaan Khalid Butt, Khalid Malik all playing vital characters and being written by Umera Ahmed, this is a powerhouse ensemble that carries huge expectations with it.

Episode 1 started off with a bang. We got to see Fozia (Saba Qamar) living her life in a village with her family.  A free spirit, she lives her life with spunk and does not shy away from confronting those who trouble her or her loved ones.  With big dreams of living life on her terms, we already see how her small village upbringing will curb those dreams and her attitude.

The first episode was refreshing and entertaining to watch.  The casting of Sarmad Khoosat as Fozia's brother is brilliant casting, as is Ali Kazmi's casting as Fozia's future husband.  Saba Qamar is a natural in her role as Fozia - initially, I doubted how well she'd be able to pull off this role, but she really seems to have gotten into the skin of her character and I'm excited to see how she will progress.

Baaghi is off to a great start and I'm really excited to see how the story plays out - and how true to Qandeel's life it will actually be (though I'm aware that it's a tribute to Qandeel AND other girls like her, so I'm not expecting it to be exact).  Let's see!  Happy watching!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Alif Allah Aur Insaan: Overview Episodes 1 - 12

When Alif Allah Aur Insaan first began to air promos, I was fairly excited about it - lavish sets, a great star cast, a nice OST, it had everything going for it.  I watched episode 1.  It looked interesting enough, though highly over the top in the case of the "hijras."  I watched episode 2 - again, still interesting, but very over the top.  Likewise with episode 3.  I was interested, but not hooked.  I was enjoying the show, but it hadn't reeled me in just yet.

Then something happened that distracted me and I stopped watching the show.  Cut to a few days ago. I picked it up again and started it all over again from episode 1.  This time?  I loved it.  The appreciation I didn't have for it initially has been replaced by nothing but appreciation.  This show has been catapulted to number one on my list of dramas.  It is, by far, the best show on television right now.  The star cast, the production values, the acting, the storyline - it's all nothing short of (Bollywood) movie quality.   The pace with which the story moves is gripping, exciting and eventful.  I have watched all twelve episodes so far and I have yet to be bored for even one episode.  There aren't any "filler episodes" (as of yet).  Each episode carries the story forward in a way that keeps the viewer wanting more.

The story focuses on six characters, which are all connected in a chain.

First, we follow Shamu (Imran Ashraf), a transgender who falls in "love" (sort of) with Rani, a beggar, one day when she saves him from a group of men insulting and bullying him.  Rani teaches him to defend himself, consider himself an "insaan" (human) and earn respect from others instead of dancing and singing (something she considers haraam practice and beneath her).  Shamu takes her words to heart and follows her teachings to create a life for himself, despite being shunned by Rani herself.  He finds success, but is success worth it when you are unable to help the one you love?

We follow Rani's story.  Rani, played by Ushna Shah, is a beggar girl who dreams of something bigger, something better for her life.  She sees Nigar Begum (Sana Fakhar) in the streets often and is told of how wealthy she is (as well as beautiful and talented).  She runs away from home to ask Nigar Begam for a job, which Nigar gives her.  But Nigar's life and the lives of those touched by her and her profession is not what it seems.  For behind the glitz, glamour, beauty and wealth is a life that treats women as animals rather than "insaan" (humans).

We follow Nigar Begum, played by Sana Nawaz, a "tawaif" who has fallen in love with Shahzeb (Mekaal Zulfiqar).  Shahzeb came to her "kotha" with his friends against his will and while performing, Nigar falls in love with Shahzeb's decency and dignity.  When she expresses her love for Shahzeb, he rejects her outright, saying he respects women and does not agree with what she is doing.  Heartbroken, Nigar Begum becomes bitter and angry with life, taking it out on those who work with and for her.  When Nigar meets Nawazish Ali (Farhan Ali Agha), she feels her dreams of becoming a "movie heroine" are finally coming true.  She begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel....but will Rani's presence shatter those dreams?

We follow Shahzeb, played by Mekaal Zulfiqaar, a landlord who falls in love with Nazleen (Kubra Khan) after meeting her at a wedding.  Instantly enamored, he sends a marriage proposal, which her family readily accepts.  Almost immediately after being engaged, Shahzeb senses that Nazleen does not care about him.  He is hurt and finds himself often upset at how Nazleen treats him with complete disregard.  He confides in the local Maulvi Baba (Qavi Khan), someone he deeply respects, about his feelings.  Maulvi Baba tells him to leave things in the hands of God, because God tests "insaan" with what they most desire.

We follow Nazleen, played by Kubra Khan, the daughter of a wealthy landlord who is spoiled, stubborn and lacking in compassion.  One day at a wedding, Nazleen insults a group of trandgenders dancing, including Shamu.  Shamu, hurt, declares that Nazleen will never have a home of her own.  Nazleen wants to pursue her studies, but is instead persuaded by her parents to get engaged to Shahzeb - a great guy and catch - and then leave for the city to complete her education.  She resents Shahzeb and does not care for his feelings, love or affection, making no bones to hide it.  In the city at school, she develops a crush on and realizes that she cares for Basit (Shahzad Sheikh), the son of one of her fathers' workers.  Nazleen's father entrusts Basit to look out for Nazleen, but will Basit succumb to Nazleen's affections and break the trust of her father and, in turn, many societal norms and traditions?

And lastly, we follow the story of Basit, played by Shahzad Sheikh, someone who has always understood his place in his fathers' world - the place of the "servant class," something he has no desire to break.  He cares for his family and does not wish to straddle any line that could bring trouble for them.  When Nazleen, the daughter of his father's boss, comes to the city to study, he is entrusted to take care of her.  But when Nazleen begins to make advances towards him, he finds himself stuck between love and family loyalty.  Which will he choose?

The acting from this ensemble cast, whether it's the main 6 actors or even the supporting cast, is incredible.  Everyone is playing their role so well, but I have to give special mention to Imran Ashraf, who is going from strength to strength in his acting career and it's so refreshing to see him in a role where he's truly shining.

The intensity with which this drama is written is commendable.  The story has yet to lose steam, which many dramas do by episode 10 onwards, rather it has so much scope for growth and the story is only getting stronger.

It's so fascinating to see such a simple concept played out so eloquently on screen.  We are all human beings.  Whether you are from a poor social strata or a rich lifestyle, we all have our happiness, pain, family and all desire to be treated well and with respect.  Regardless of where a person comes from, that struggle can always exist, whether it's outward or inward.

This drama is beautiful, entertaining, exciting and compelling.  I highly recommend everyone to jump on this bandwagon - it's a great one to be on.  Whether that holds true after 2-4 episodes, who knows?  Dramas always have the tendency to screw things up.  But for now, this show is quality.

Happy watching!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Dramas I'm Currently Watching - June 2017 Edition

I figured there could be no better foray into blogging about dramas than simply going over the shows I'm currently invested in.  This is currently my "standing-strong" list of shows that I'm still excited to watch each week, give or take a weak episode here or there.

Phir Wohi Mohabbat

Phir Wohi Mohabbat has consistently been my go-to favorite show over the last two months.  I binge-watched the first 9 episodes initially and have since been keeping up with the show with great interest each week.  The story follows two sisters married to two brothers, their family relationships and their children - Waleed and Alishba.  Alishba was kidnapped as a child and her re-entrance into the famiy fold and entry into Waleed's life forms the crux of the show.  The story is complex enough that the dramatics have not felt forced, the relationships are endearing, the love story between Waleed & Alishba very realistic and natural.

However, with the last two episodes (episode 15 & 16), the story has taken an irritatingly unnatural twist with Ramsha's irritating "zidd" to throw Sana back into Waleed's life.  I can understand sibling rivalry, but Ramsha's character has slowly gone from a woman with complexes to a typical Indian serial vamp.  Ditto with the character of Sana, who has suddenly gone from an independent, career-oriented woman with no real emotional connections to being a pathetic, pitiful shell of a character who is now intent on marrying a man who never cared about her and already has a wife!  Now, I'm just waiting for Sheharyar to re-enter as Sana's partner in crime and Ramsha's accomplice.  That's the only ridiculous twist left, honestly.

That being said, this drama is still my favorite for two simple reasons:
1)  I love the chemistry between Hania Amir and Ahmed Ali.  They look beautiful together as Waleed and Alishba and share such a comfort level on-screen that you almost believe they are a real-life couple.
2)  The story has some really great characters, namely Alishba and Samra (Zainab Qayyum).  The character of Samra is a smart, intelligent woman who knows how to handle her family relationships.  Where this character could've been playing into Ramsha's hands, she is not and is instead teaching her daughter how to keep her husband's love.  It's refreshing.  I also appreciate that both brother characters of Ashar and Yasir are strong men who have upheld their relationship despite the issues between their wives.

This show is still #1 on my list of favorite dramas and while I haven't liked the last two episodes, I'm hoping the show pulls out of its Ekta Kapoor style soon and comes back into its own.

Tou Dil Ka Kya Hua

Episode one has aired and I'm left thinking "What on earth?"  Seeing Ayeza Khan and Zahid Ahmed in such blatantly beyond-grey-almost-into-black characters is not only a refreshing change, but also makes this drama all the more intriguing.

Honestly speaking, I can already see the morality police screaming after episode one about the lack of morals and values in Pakistani shows these days.  But honestly, I enjoy seeing things like this in dramas.  It depicts a reality in society -  not every guy or girl gets married and automatically lives happily ever after.  Not every person is capable of adjusting after marriage, not built to make the sacrifices and compromises that are expected of them.

The first episode is really intense and, honestly, pretty bold.  I'm already hooked.  I'm just wondering where the show will be headed from here.  The ensemble cast is really great.  With names like Sami Khan, Ayeza Khan, Zahid Ahmed, Mansha Pasha, Noor Khan, Imran Ashraf, Usman Peerzada, Behroz Sabzwari, etc and produced by Samina Hamayun Saeed, this is a show to look out for and I'm expecting great things from it.

Yakeen Ka Safar

Intense.  Grim.  Painfully real.  Depicts the true reality of our society.  These are the first things that come to mind when describing this drama.  "Gumaan ke baad yakeen ka safar" - so far, there is so much gumaan and I'm still clinging on with my fingernails for some yakeen to begin.

Sajal Ali's story as Zubia is interesting, but I'm waiting for it to really take off.  While I'm glad her once-evil father has had a change of heart, it goes to show that your children end up being a mirror of their parents.  To see her once-loving brother Rehan turn against her thanks to their upbringing (and her evil Bhabi) is disheartening and absolutely realistic.  I'm looking forward to watching her interactions with Asfandyar (Ahad Raza Mir).

On the other end, we've been seeing Daniyal (Shaz Khan) fighting to defend the honor of his client - however, he's taking on the son of a politician and that's put him in a dangerous position.  In the latest episode, we witnessed a huge twist with Daniyal being shot.  Will he make it?  Did he die?  That's what I'm waiting for anxiously.  Shaz Khan's chemistry with Hira Salman is seriously adorable, so I am hoping this isn't the end for the duo.  Things are looking grim though....

All in all, this is an intense drama and not for anyone looking for something light-hearted.  The story is solid though and I'm expecting for it to only get better from here (hopefully).

Teri Raza

One episode in and I'm a little on the fence about this one.  Sanam Baloch is LOVE and I'm so excited to see her on screen again. She's been missing from the scene for so long and she is always associated with quality projects.  On the other end, Shehroz Sabzwari has yet to prove himself as an actor and his pairing with Sanam isn't incredibly appealing.  In the first episode alone, we've heard "istikhaara" and "Wazeefa" mentioned over 1,000 times, so the theme of the show is very clear.  This show will either be very nicely handled or very over-the-top and I fear the latter.

Regardless, I am enjoying Sanam's performance a lot.  She's always a treat to watch with very natural, realistic acting.  I'll be watching this one closely.

Alif Allah Aur Insaan

I am VERY behind on this particular show and I thought, instead of waiting to catch up before publishing this post, I would simply give my thoughts on the show overall (up until what I've seen).  While this show is certainly not the first on this particular topic - Veena with Fahad Mustafa brought it to light years ago and most recently, Khuda Mera Bhi Hai did an amazing job of displaying the real emotions and attitudes attached to the "third gender" to light -, it is nice to see such a stellar ensemble cast working to tackle the issue.  The first episode was almost immediately gripping, pulling the viewer in.  Yes, overall, the show can tend to be melodramatic with exaggerated dialogues and larger-than-life emotions (compared to the subtle performance by Furqan Qureshi in KMBH), but I'm appreciating the narrative regardless.  I am too behind to comment on anything further, so this may get a separate post once I am caught up.


Overall, I really liked this show.  It was light, it was romantic, it had a lot of family drama.  Then this latest cancer angle happened and now I'm completely on the fence about it.  It has taken a very dark turn and not necessarily for the better.  While I didn't agree with the spontaneous, selfish behavior of the lead characters, I at least felt like the situation was endearing in a way, filled with emotional drama and conflict between love and family.  But now, it has simply taken a grim turn, one that feels like yet another case of "OK, we wrote this much of the story, but didn't think beyond that.  Now what?  How do we bring everyone together again?  OH!  ILLNESS!"  I'm not enjoying that.  HOWEVER, the reason I'm still interested in the show is actually - surprise! - the chemistry between Ghana Ali and Faris Shafi (Zara and Ali).  The twist in their relationship actually came as a pleasant surprise and I'm really interested in seeing how that plays out.  Otherwise, I wouldn't rate this show too highly.

Mohabbat Tumse Nafrat Hai

This show is slow.  It has taken 14 episodes for the show to finally begin having a story.  At heart, Mohabbat Tumse Nafrat Hai is a love triangle between Maheen (Aiza Khan), Waqar (Imran Abbas) and Gulraiz (Shahzad Shaikh).  But with all three playing the roles of cousins, this love story has family involvement at every turn.  The show is slow.  The dialogues are slow.  Each sentence is laced with melodrama and heavy, shayaraana dialogue.

That being said, this show has heart.  That's what it really has going for it.  The family relationships are presented so realistically.  Despite the conflict with both Waqar and Gulraiz being in love with Maheen, the drama is kept to a minimum.  The "adult characters" all love their children, so the way their reactions have been depicted is just beautiful.  Special credit has to be given to Sabreen Hisbani and Khalid Malik as Gulraiz's parents (this casting is ridiculous though, these actors are young!).  The relationship they have with their son is such a treat to watch, as is their behavior towards the situation.

It's not perfect, but I'm enjoying the overall feel.  Plus, it has an excellent ensemble cast.

Yeh Raha Dil

I am so on the fence about this show.  I love the actors.  I love the treatment of the show overall.  I love the feel, the way it has been directed.  I love Ahmed Ali and Yumna Zaidi together.  HOWEVER, I lost interest in this show once the two lead females became sisters.  Unbelievable, unrealistic and annoying.  I found that twist unpalatable and very "Rang" (Bollywood movie) to make two sisters fight over one man.

That being said, Ahmed Ali is really coming into his own as an actor and I always love him & Yumna together in any show, so I somehow can't let go of this one - though I had abandoned it some weeks back, I'm back to watching it.  I'm pretty sure this one is close to ending, so I'm just enjoying the last few episodes.

I am EAGERLY anticipating Baaghi with Saba Qamar.  I have previously written about my reaction on Qandeel Baloch and her life and I hope this drama carries a narrative that Pakistan desperately needs to see, understand and comprehend - that women have a RIGHT to live their lives whichever way they see fit, regardless of whether society accepts them or not.  No one has the right to take a life based on "honor."  I consider myself to be a conservative girl - I did not appreciate Qandeel's actions while she was alive.  However, while she WAS alive, I openly stated that considering her life circumstances, I think she has every right to now live her life the way she likes.  And that's what I believe.  That's what I hope this drama carries with it as a message.  I don't want to see "bad girl Qandeel, women this is how you should not be" as the message - though I doubt it will be, considering the names attached to it (Umera, Saba, Osmaan, Ali Kazmi).

I was very interested in watching Muqaabil, but I haven't had the chance to pick it up yet - plus, there's a lot of catch up involved there.  If it's worth it, please do let me know!  I also have thrown aside Rasm-E-Dunya, because despite loving the cast, I could not stomach the melodrama involved.  It was too sad, too miserable and too....pointless.  Dil E Jaanam is also the FIRST Zahid Ahmed drama I have not watched, nor do I have any interest in watching it thanks to the talentless lead actress.

Alright, that's all for now, guys!  This was a huge post for me, especially with playing catch-up.  I will try to be more consistent from here onward.  Until next time, happy watching!