To say that there was quite a bit of hype surrounding the first episode of Ashk in particular, and the drama serial in general would be understating the whole round of excitement and for a lack of better word, baytabi, with which the audience was looking forward to the next "Fawad Khan starrer". Now don't get me wrong: I definitely do not believe in centering the entire marketing campaign around Fawad Khan and ignoring the rest of the very talented cast, but after watching all the "hours to go" banners on Ashk's official page feature Fawad Khan, I had a pretty good idea that he is this serial USP!
Anyway, so I just around to watching the first episode. I must say it was quite an interesting one. At this stage, I can't really go all ga-ga over it as the overall pace of the episode was mellow, and the focus was to give the audience an insight into the characters. By the end of the first episode, we know that Mehru (Resham) is the lady of her father's (Captain Mansoor's) house and has apparently taken over all the responsibilities of her late mother. Zaibu (Neelam Munir) is the carefree, bubbly younger sister. We are given a detailed glimpse into their lives in the village (Where exactly are they?)
In Turkey, we discover the lives of Rohail (Fawad Khan) and his mother, Kulsoom (Seemi Raheel). Kulsoom (in a typical Baseerat-Hussain-fashion) immediately offers her son's hand for Mehru the minute her brother mentions that he wants to see his daughter happily married. I had to smile at that scene, as well as the one in which a distressed Sarah - oops, I mean Madiha (Mehreen Raheel) is berating him for accepting the proposal without batting an eyelid. (No, I DON'T have Humsafar hangover but the first episode struck the Humsafar chord at least twice, which is saying quite a lot).
The very striking thing about this episode (hope it continues throughout) was the excellent chemistry between all the characters: Mehru and Zaibu, Rohail and his friend, Bedi Singh (Tipu Shariff), Captain Mansoor and his two daughters, Mehru and the character played by Sohail Sameer (although they had just one brief scene) and so on! The entire cast totally owned their characters, and all the extras did a commendable job as well. The cinematography of the entire episode was breath-taking, with the scenic views of the village as well as of Turkey.
That said, I must mention a few eye-brow raising moments throughout the episode. Firstly, why was Zaibu behaving as if she was coming to the Mazaar for the first time? I assume this is a routine for both the sisters! And is it really advisable to brandish an expensive cell phone camera in the face of strangers? (I have some strong objections to the Mazaar-sequences in our drama serials in general but I will leave this for another post.)
Secondly, Mehru counsels one of the women to hit back her husband when he hits her - nothing wrong with the advice, but there were small children all around her. Would you really give such advice in the presence of children? Moreover, Rohail and Bedi Singh were apparently drinking 7-up so why did they BOTH seem drunk in that scene (Bedi Singh more than Rohail)? Then Mehru came to admonish Zaibu for dancing in the middle of the night - and Mehru is all dressed up with full makeup. Wasn't she sleeping at that time?
Eyebrow-raisers aside, I must say this was a "happening" episode and thankfully, there were no dragging moments (especially over the proposal). Rohail and his mother will be in Pakistan in the next episode, and I am definitely looking forward to what transpires between Rohail and Mehru (and of course, Sohail Sameer!). For now, the hard work of the entire team is apparent. Well done!
Written by Drama Buff (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PS: A special shout-out to the writer, Zafar Mairaj, for the scene where Capt Mansoor asks his sister how she can propose Mehru for Rohail when Mehru is older and she replies that a couple of or years older does not make a difference. Excellent! Now this is the kind of "showing not telling" that we need in our dramas in order to subtly put the point across instead of doing it distastefully.
PPS: Did anyone see the entire credits?