October , 2014


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Firaaq Episode 2

Posted by RB On September - 14 - 2014 34 COMMENTS

Maa-jee say darti ho.

Nahi, unki umr say darti hoon. Betay kay baad agar beti bhi apni manmaani karnay lagi to woh nahi sahe paayen gi. 

Moments - beautiful, everlasting, painful, striking, filled with love, and maybe even anger. We all have them.

Firaaq's second episode gave me quite a few of these moments. I saw the initial curiosity between two strangers somehow tied by fate, circumstance, and familial bonds, as I saw Paiman and Sara. Then, there was the banter between Amroze and Roomi, which is somewhat telling of things yet to come. I felt Sara's unease and Shams' withdrawal at Maa-jee's revelation. Momentarily, my heart went out for Paiman as she sat gardening with her sautala-Abbu, only to be suddenly shocked by Tabassum's fit of anger.

In fact, I'm still reeling from that shock! Phew!

As I sit here typing, there's a funny thing I just noticed, for an episode that had so many moments, the story is still held captive by Maa-jee. Kyun? Well, Paiman is still stuck in that house. From last week's promo, I thought Sanam Saeed was supposed to leave suitcase in hand with bhai-ji, yet, we end with these stern words: "Tum yeh kamra chood kar nahi jaa sakti, bas."

Maa-jee, mera ek mashwara maanay, hooni ko koi nahi tal sakta.

Even though I'm slightly disappointed at the stilted progression of the narrative (we all know Paiman is heading out, then, why the less than cliffy cliffhanger?!), there is enough in this week's episode to keep me temporarily satiated.

As much as the narrative focuses on Shams and Sara's relationship or Maa-jee's crazy antics (really with that danda?), which are important to the overall structure, this is undoubtedly Paiman's story. We see how she acts and thinks, we are made to feel for her, for her situation. Our voice resonates with that of Haider, "Iss ghar mein tum murjha jao gi." Sanam Saeed breathes life into Paiman, and I know some may disagree, but her expressions especially her eyes convey far more pain than they are meant too. Paiman is a sad, quite, demure, and reclusive creature not by choice but by circumstance. And Saeed's big glasses, scrunchie-d hair, printed suits coupled with the dialogues and her acting present a character that is at once conflicted by right and wrong, by perceptions and desires, and most importantly, by a question: should she live for herself or for someone else.

Sixteen years of living like a prisoner, no matter how beautiful the cage, can take a toll on anyone and Paiman is no different. She is bursting at the seams to leave, to explore, to experience, to make mistakes, to fall in love, to be heartbroken, and maybe even find herself. Experiences, as Haider rightly notes, she's being denied by a mother who's lived her life. Ironic isn't it?

The source of Paiman's earthly misery, Maa-jee, is an enigma (and not the good kind). Why is this woman so hateful, so insecure, so angry? If there's anyone in need of Amroze's services (and desperately at that) it is Tabassum. I still haven't gotten over her danda antic (and this is just the beginning), I'm not sure whether to laugh, be horrified, or maybe feign disgust? Either way Uzma Gillani is a formidable powerhouse of acting in Firaaq, because this story needed a villain like her.

In many ways, Maa-jee is a warped and twisted version of Farida from Humsafar, which is why, I think, Shams left. His "betrayal" of mother and sister had nothing to do with Haider, in fact, Haider served as a ready and easy excuse for escape, but I could be wrong. Shams is a character full of anger, which bursts forth on occasion such as when Sara goes to the park or decides to visit her saas (of course, thanks to Dr. Amroze). Seeing Junaid Khan being every bit as dark as his Adam from Mata-e-Jaan Hai Tu, as he waited quietly for Sara and then just stood there looking at her: goosebumps (no, seriously!). Let's hope HUM TV has insurance lest the character get into Juni's head.

Getting into heads, though, is Dr. Amroze's forte. After all, that psychotic couple is still in therapy. Waise, HUM TV nay itnay paisay kharchay, location par, kapdoon par, cast par, thoda paisa extras par bhi kharch laitay, baat yahni choodon ga, as they say, akalmand ko isharaa kafi. I have yet to see Mohib Mirza truly woven into this story, he seems (as of now) to be an outsider looking in, which is why seeing him in a rather candid conversation with Roomi was a tad bit revealing. These two have an odd friendship, they sit around while one paints the other, talking about tanhaai and women in their lives. Could this be yet another love triangle with both Amroze and Roomi falling for Paiman? Triangles or not, the boys looked good together, be it Roomi and Shams or Amroze and Roomi, their interaction wasn't stunted but rather natural and impromptu (what with Noor Hassan laughing through his dialogues?!).

For an episode that had promised us a climax, we were let down, but by no means disappointed. The writing, editing, direction, and acting are in tandem with the overall narrative. The camerawork was equally flawless and the background score never disappoints. But I hope they'll give us some silences (awkward or otherwise) - like they did today with noises of traffic, of the wind, of rippling water - because the story deserves them.

Till next week,

Rab Rakha

This is RB signing off. (Tweet me!)

Firaaq Episode 1

Posted by RB On September - 8 - 2014 22 COMMENTS

Cast: ✓

Sets and Art Direction: ✓

Location: ✓

Costumes: ✓

Background Score and OST: ✓

Director: ✓

Producer: ✓

Just the other day, Sadaf emailed me about an interview with Firaaq's director Aabis Raza, asking if I had any questions for him. After pondering for a while, I sent Sadaf a somewhat long list of questions hoping I'd get some sense of how Raza sahab thinks, if not an outright indicator of how he chooses his scripts. As I started writing this review I couldn't help but go back to that list of questions, and what jumped out at me, as I'm sure for everyone else, was why mental illness? Pagalpan kyun?

If the past is any measure of a successful drama, then, I am sad to say that even with all the checkmarks acknowledged above, Firaaq ostensibly lacks the magic ingredient: a good story. Take for instance, Kadurat, with a revenge hungry Sanam Saeed, or Main Deewani, jahan Saniya Shamshad har booday mard ki thi deewani, even Kankar, for that matter, with its dark and sinister theme challenged our assumptions of what a good drama can and should be. Yet, the former two - Kadurat and Main Deewani - failed to impress, in fact, I'd say they were two steps short of a disaster, and only Kankar managed to send the right ripples across Pakistani television screens, clearly audiences (myself included) wanted more than a sarsari look at revenge, domestic abuse, and obsession.

Having said that, I think, Firaaq has more substance to its characters and more nuance to its story than Raza's previous experiments. A point that'll become clearer by the end of this review.

My next question (more to myself than to Raza sahab) was what did Hum TV expect from this drama. This isn't a romantic, boy meets girl story, which many amongst us crave, then, why the stellar cast, expensive locations, flawless sets, and beautiful costumes. After Laa, Janam Jali, Aahista, Aahista, and not to mention the two train-wrecks above, it is a fair question: Can a drama like Firaaq really change their fortunes?

As I speculate and ponder, I'll leave you with first impressions.

Relationships - broken, turbulent, traumatic, and painful. These are just a handful of adjectives that describe Mustafa Afridi's script.

Tabassum or the rather daunting Maa-jee, played by Uzma Gellani, is the source of many (if not all) these descriptors. From what I can gather, Maa-jee is one unhappy soul, as she constantly berates her daughter, Paiman (Sanam Saeed), insults her husband, Haider (Mazhar Ali), and is unforgiving of her son, Shams (Junaid Khan). In one brilliantly scripted scene after another, we get an insight into Maa-jee's irrational hatred of all things - tangible and otherwise. She doesn't like salespeople (and clearly Panama City is another Pindi), she has a problem with Paiman's maila dupatta, she sees Haider (who happens to be her second husband) as a baagi, an instigator of all things troublesome.

Maa-jee's severe control issues have led Shams to viscerally escape her talons, an aspect that has a significant bearing on not only their relationship but also their psyche. For Shams, it means an incomplete married life after three years of matrimony. Something that is beginning to sink in for his wife Sara (Cybil Chaudhry). As much as I feel for Sara, her accented Urdu, perhaps, that's the reason she got the part, leaves me unsatisfied in some ways. For a character I want to empathize with, the moment she starts talking I can't help but dismiss her as a firangi.

The same can't be said for Paiman. If Uzma Gellani is every shade the Bader Khalil from Marasim, then, Saeed is far removed from her traditional safety zone of an "angry young woman". Here, I see a girl that's meek and timid because of her surroundings, but by no means lost and hopeless because of them. The briefest of interaction with Uncle Haider is testament enough. There is (and this is something I have always felt about Ms. Saeed's abilities as an actress) an inner strength to Paiman that is visible even as she in the clutches of an overbearing mother. The manner in which she gets up mid-way from her meal, walks to the laundry room, brings out the maila dupatta for Maa-jee to inspect was a highlight of this episode (at least for me).

Rounding off these two interconnected family units (Maa-jee, Haider, and Paiman & Shams and Sara) are Roomi (Noor Hassan) and Amroze (Mohib Mirza). Roomi is bffs with both Shams and Sara, and also happens to be acquainted with Amroze, a psychologist (yaani pagaloon ka daaktar, to quote Maa-jee). In fact, it is Roomi who suggests Sara pay Amroze a visit. This is where I find the writer and director working in sync because if the first half was being set up as "Maa-jee is the root cause of all problems", then, the second half was about the impact this troubling relationship has had on her off-spring, a scene convincingly portrayed by Sara and Amroze.

Their conversation about insecurities, mental states, and how they're affecting Sara and Shams' life is not an easy subject to explore. What Afridi and Raza are trying to do here is not easily accessible at the surface level. It's like making a drama where one is searching for God (Shehr-e-Zaat) or their own pehchaan (Laa or Shanakht), and we all know the anjaam to these experiments. So, as our bahu makes her way into shohar-ji's ghar in search of her own happiness, I can't help but think things are set for a quick and fast confrontation.

So, do I find the story lacking? No, not not at all, I actually like the idea (and much of it stems from the execution). The writer has given away enough but still held my curiosity, I'd even go so far as to say interest. I find Firaaq to be a story of consequences rather than actions, and that is in itself refreshing. With so much going for Firaaq, I doubt Hum TV can mess this up, but then again there's never a guarantee.

Till next week.

Shaba Khair aur Rab Rakha

RB (Tweet me!)

This review has been cross-posted here.

Mausam Episode 15

Posted by RB On August - 31 - 2014 10 COMMENTS

Sahi ya galat...? Right or wrong...? Who's to decide?

There is a tried and tested trope in Pakistani dramas, from ever since I can remember, which goes something like that very famous Western: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Whether or not our dramas are in direct correlation with/to Hollywood Westerns (you'd be surprised!), they certainly are in keeping with black and white compartmentalization of characters, stories, and emotions.

Mausam is one such story of right and wrong. No, I'm not complaining, I've enjoyed the ride so far and I probably will lap up whatever conclusion HUM TV dishes our way (do any of us have a choice?!). The reason I bring this up is because I see the plot headed to its typical fairytale conclusion: our knight in shining armour aka Hashir; the scheming, evil step-sister aka Shazia; and our damsel in distress aka Saman. Scheming as Shazia is, I wonder if she's the only villain around. There's always Faisal to pass the blame in this love game!

So, let's start with the question that's been at the tip of my tongue ever since I saw this episode: Is Saman really a Romaisa 2.0?

Time and again, she's seen Shazia and Faisal sneaking behind her back, she's been warned by her mother, by Hashir, hell, even her intuition tells her something is up, then, why the stupidity, Saman? Why? Kya waqai aap ko khabar nahi thi. See what I did there? No, arre OST sun lo.

For the amount of fuss being made about Shazia and Faisal together, its surprising that we suddenly see them meeting in parks (and boy if those benches could talk we'd be hearing one story too many!), going on long drives, and even having ice creams together (Humsafar really has had an impact!). These fun and frolics of the illicit kind aside, I'm still not convinced that Shazia is out to ruin Saman's "married" life. After all, isn't a "happily married" Faisal in Shazia's best interests?

Given that she's indulging in behaviour unbefitting a sali towards her jijaji, I wonder what she wants more: to punish Saman or to acquire Hashir. Whatever her intentions, her actions are far from justified, yet, they certainly make her character more conflicted. As I said last week, I find Shazia's moments of introspection rather telling. Like a betrayed lover she's replayed sequence after sequence of the events that led her to her current state. She's even accepted she'll never be the Saman Hashir wants. Kitni badkismet mohabbat hai meri indeed.

Iss badkismet mohabbat ka doosra shikaar, Hashir, bhi utna hi pareshaan hai. If Shazia spends time lamenting her fate, Hashir does much of the same in hopes of finally achieving some form of peace. I have to say, as much as I've spent time hating on Hashir's mother, this week Auntji stole the show. From the moment she walks in on Hashir contemplating his next move, Mummji has something on her mind" "Kya sooch rahe thay? Mujhe batao shayad mein tumhari kuch maddad mar sakoon." They say that help comes in mysterious ways, shayad Khuda'Talah ka nizam hi aaisa hai. This short but very poignant scene between an estranged mother and her son, who happen to have come a long way since the first episode, was simply perfect. Way to bring the story back to their relationship, something I thought was being lost in the larger narrative.

"Paisay mien bahut takat hoti hai, Hahsir, har cheez ka mol laga daita hai." Ji bilkul bahut zyada takat. Seeing Mummyji giving advise and not the kind a mother usually gives her children gave me some insight into her past, her life, and her experiences. A woman who paid off her husband to safeguard her son and his future, a woman who sacrificed her own happiness for that of her son could only give him pieces of her own experience: unfulfilled, broken, and painful.

It looks like Hashir is all set for a qurbaani, kyunki sabsay keemti shay aapna aap hota hai. Since when did Mummji become Patel from Bunty I Love You?

As this series unfolds, I see what HUM TV does right. It takes the morose, painful, and mundane and transforms it into something beautiful and (for lack of a better word) poetic. I know, I know, I have given HUM TV a hard time this year what with one dud after another, but I also must acknowledge that my first drama as a reviewer was a HUM TV production, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed, so, I hope Mausam won't disappoint me as it reaches its climax.

As we wait and wonder what happens next I'll leave you with some food for thought: Kitni khushkismet hai Saman aur badkismet mein. Shazia bibi, kuch haad tak kismet apnay haath mein hoti hai.

Aglay haftay tak,

Khuda Haifz aur Rab Rakha

RB (Tweet me!)

Shanakht – Episode 4 – Reality Checks.

Posted by Maria On August - 27 - 2014 5 COMMENTS

While prepping dinner a few weeks ago, my ears started bleeding from constant rhetoric and bad news running on TV from every part of the world. So, I switched the channel to HumTV, reminding myself that there will be nothing good to watch anyway. While paying little or no attention to the screen, Shanakht kept on running in the background and what drew me really in were the conversations as well as the topic. While I had my ears been filled loud and clear about HUM TV’s decline in the last year or so, Shanakht has come as a pleasant surprise. To me, one of the greatest strengths of the drama is that it does not merely presents its characters as caricatures and treats different strata’s of our society at the same level (more on this later). Furthermore, what is even more pleasant to eyes and ears are the reactions of all the characters and situations. They are what normal people would do and feel. Hey at least we are spared the awkward stares, silences and monologues! Coming to this episode, Annie while clearly knowing and understanding Kashaf’s position still conveys her parent’s wishes to her sister as she does not want to disrespect their decisions. Kashaf’s love interest, Harris due to external family problems is unable to send his proposal. Kashaf instead of moping in the corner meets up with our Hashir. From their onwards, Hahir gets a reality check and in process gets his big “desi ego” bruised. Instead of thinking about or reflecting on his own decision about Ainny, his parent’s wishes, he becomes a bighi bili and DHUMM DHUMM DHUMMM car comes back on Huma and Amjad’s steps. For Kashaf everything falls in place as Amjad and Huma view the returning of the car as an insult and rightly so. Hahir is such a lalo that after this harqat he also gets an earful from his parents, but instead of super over the top reaction, they ensure he apologizes to his aunt and uncle and has a proper chance to say goodbye to Ainny before leaving for England. It’s endearing to see Ainny holding no grudges on her part for all that transpired between the two families. We are also introduced to Fahad Mirza’s role as Roshan who is a happy go lucky “molvi” according to Hashir’s first impressions of him. He is coincidently the son of Ahmad’s business partner, the family we met in last week’s episode. The episode ended with Annie’s mom announcing that she would like to get Ainny married as soon as possible. The alluring aspect of the episode for me were the beautiful way each character brought out of their point of view without seeming over the top. How Shireen politely explains to her son about the drift that would be caused because of Hashir’s initial reaction, how Amjad reacts to Hashirs immature and sudden decision to give the car back, how Kashaf gives Harris a piece of her mind, especially when he refuses to let his family know about their relationship. There is also something positive to be said about the main characters. Hahir might be good at heart, but he is also very human at the same time and his rash decisions and kanoo ka kacha hona make him nothing to worship about. Even if there is a chance between Ainny and Hashir, he has a lot of growing up to do especially from a sheltered life he has lived in. Annie might be vulnerable from her family and society’s attacks on her changed appearance, but she takes it as face value and remains vigilant and strong. Kashaf could easily succumbed to family pressure but she sees Hashir through and through and isn’t afraid of consequences or talking directly to him. Sadly, very few of characters present on our TV screens posses these traits. Allah sab ko hidayat day! My only peeve would be, and maybe this is just a dramatic liberty on the writer’s part is that, in all these years, Rohan and Hashim’s family have been business partners. Wouldn’t Hashim’s parents have talked to Roshan’s parents at least once, introduced both of their children before leaving for a foreign country and education? Have Hashim and Roshan never crossed each other’s paths before? At the end of the day, the drama is not merely about hijabs, beards or skinny jeans. Its conveying, how we carve our own identity, or shanakht based on our own virtues and understanding of the world around us. The characters remind us that we should be questioning the norms and stereotypes set up by any particular strata of society. I am really looking forward to how the story molds from here. What do you guys think? Will the drama uphold our expectations? Written by Maria Shanakht

Mausam Episodes 13-14

Posted by RB On August - 25 - 2014 9 COMMENTS

"Aap uss ladki ko ab tak yaad kartay hain?" Haan, Saman, kyuki woh ladki tum ho!

After twelve long episodes, it seemed Mausam needed a timeout, perhaps, like Bashar Momin (side note: Bye bye Momin, too bad there's no Goya in that picture).

After gun-gaooing (and there has been a lot of gun-gaooing lately on these boards for all the wrong reasons) left, right, and centre last week, I was beginning to think I might have to bite my words, as the next installment gave us more of exactly the same - rona dhona, bichaday saathi, mazloom begum, uska beygairat shohar aur phalana phalana. Lekin, and thankfully, this state of perpetual limbo is finally over!

What took Mausam thirteen episodes to convey could have easily been done in eight. In fact, I'm willing to forgive them the extra four had it not been for the thirteenth episode, which (truth be told) went no where other than reinforce the misery every major character seems to be engulfed in or by. So, I was a bit hesitant to immediately come back with a review, if only to test the water out one last time.

Also, and I guess this is confession time fellow filmi travelers, there's hardly anything on TV these days that I'd want to watch let alone review. Are you listening Team Goya? Hurry up and get the series started, please and thanks! Sometimes, as Woody Allen once said, all you need is a good story!

But coming back to our leads and their slow spiral towards despair, I had just about had it. Was Hashir going to go on and on about Saman's loss? Will Shazia continue her charade just a little bit longer? Would Faisal just give Saman a break, after all, the girl sold her jewellery for his "successful" business?! Hello?! See where I'm going with this...

Just as I was about to fling my remote at Ahsan Khan's rather pretty face, I was finally given the promised milan between our doomed lovers. Oh wait, is Saman really a pyaar ki deewani, mohabbat ki mastaani? Regardless, Hashir and Saman together were every bit convincing as people in their strained circumstances: one hopelessly in love, the other painfully oblivious, which only makes me wonder if there's a happy ending in store.

For a series that has been both slow, and lately, repetitive, the narrative has finally picked up its pace. Yes, remember that thing we left behind when Hashir left for England, we're finally treated to the lives of our ostensibly pretty but actually desolate and dismal leads - Hashir, Saman, and Shazia - in what can only be seen as a welcome sign of what is yet to come.

If Hashir and Saman are living through their excruciating lives one breath at a time, then, Shazia is one conflicted character. The highlight of the thirteenth episode (for me at least) was Shazia's introspection. A beautifully constructed sequence, the flashbacks with their jump-cuts between a pensive Yumna Zaidi (as she stares into the dark night) and moments that she could have changed, was paired perfectly with a haunting soundtrack. Seeing Shazia reflect on her actions, I couldn't help but realize that loneliness has finally sunk in. Here is a girl unable to take back the things that she set into motion, the lives she played with at her whim and fancy, the emotions she betrayed all in the hopes of her shazada.

Her illusionary shazada, though, remains but a figment of her imagination for Hashir has eyes for no one other than Saman. In fact, the moment our perpetual bechaari walks into Nigar Aunty's alishaan drawing room clad in a simple lapis-coloured cotton shalwar kameez - its simplicity accentuated by the peach gota lining - we knew Hashir was a man smitten, and any red blooded man should be! Yes, yes, I agree the dupatta was strategically placed covering just enough of Saman's hair, that her "simple" suit had a flawless A-line, and that her leather clutch added just the right amount of chic. Madame, madame, madame, vous etes tres elegant. In a day and age where we see more and more of the Wahabi hijabs and niqabs, Western capris and tops, I absolutely loved this brief but visually striking sequence of Pakistani fashion. Was it any surprise that Hashir showed up in a indigo shirt as well? Subliminal messaging, perhaps.

These stunning visuals (an aspect that Mausam impresses on week after week) were accompanied by strong dialogues and flawless acting.

With Shazia slowly coming to terms with her loneliness, Hashir mourning his true love, and Saman worried that she's always boring, all I see are unfulfilled lives, shattered dreams, and broken promises abound. And for what, I wonder? In all this, the one person for whom I have no sympathy is Faisal. A truly grotesque man made slightly bearable by the very handsome Yasir Mazhar (there's a reason the saying goes tall, dark, and handsome, ladies), the way he treats Saman is simply despicable. Zulm to uss par ho raha hai, musibaat bhi jhail rahi hai woh, lekin kyun, kisliye, aur kab tak?

With Faisal headed for the three words most men resort to, it remains to be seen who shall triumph: Shaatir Shazia or Sada-mijaz Saman?

Till next week.

This is RB signing off. (Tweet me!)

Rab Rakha

Rung Hum Sitaray Review Episode 12–14

Posted by Guest Reviewer On August - 25 - 2014 11 COMMENTS
So the respectable and surely the best in eyes of Sania, Dr. Azhar has made his entry and Sania is spell bound by his miraculous surgeriesand machine-like work ethic
Reasons to hate Sania (started from ep. 12):
- What type of mother and wife is she? In front of Zafar and her kids, she's constantly praising Dr. Azhar. Sania's lucky that she has such a wonderful husband who's so dedicated to taking care of the kids while she can't even take a day off for the family. I love Zafar's sarcastic remarks likeautograph lene parega. lol
- Zafar plans to take the whole family to Muree for a little vacation but nooo, Sania won't let that happen. I mean she's ready to enjoy Dr. Azhar'snight-time coffee and morning walks in Burbhan but can't take out two days to enjoy with her family?
- Abeer needs encouragement and love from her mother which Sania is not taking seriously; when a daughter needs such things from her parent, it is so uncalled for such a parent to say, in this case Sania - "She(Abeer)should be ashamed of herself"
Moving to episode 14, something really disgusting happens - Dr. Azhar dreams of taking Sania away and being with her forever, yes, he says to Sania that he likes her! Knowing that she is married, he says this. As he says that he's a straightforward insaan but he's tooo straightforward and Sania instead of being how dare you is simply a little shakened. In another scene, Dr. Azhar wants Sania to feel embarrased of Zafar's civil job. Another reason to hate her was when she roots for Dr. Azhar for winning a card game against Zafar. Girl, you're rooting for him as if he's your husband, which results in Zafar feeling low and asks Sania that she might be more happy with Dr. Azhar. Hey if she had married Dr. Azhar before she married Zafar, it would have been fine but now's too late. I wish Dr. Azhar hadn't been shown like this. His character should've been shown to make Sania understand that she should be satisfied with Zafar's career and not try to break a possible happy family.
Rung is going strong and for those who haven't tuned in, surely do.



~~Written by Aisha

Mausam: Kahani Ab Tak

Posted by RB On August - 9 - 2014 5 COMMENTS

Mausam... Zindagi ka?  Yadoon ka? Lamhon ka? Kiska...?

In a world of lackluster stories and same old, same old formulas, where the tried and tested reigns supreme, Mausam is a flicker of hope. Jaisay shamma kay akhiri lamhon mein shayad kabhi umeed nazar aati ho waisay mujhe Mausam mein umeed ki kiran nazar aa rahi hai. Kyun...?

Mausam isn't a "new" or "original" story, but how many of our stories truly are? It isn't "modern" (whatever that means for the people who use it rather liberally), it isn't slick, in fact, it is the same old love triangle: two sisters, one man. Far from the innovation we so desperately want, so desperately seek. Yet, this ostensibly mundane and to some extent boring story has kept me engrossed for sometime now!

I first thought of reviewing Mausam a while back but then decided to err on the side of caution (I had Bashar Momin as a scare y'all!) before embarking on a full-on reviewing exercise. What actually surprised me was that where Laa was getting loads of attention and false accolades and Ahista Ahista became paisa vasool television, Mausam wasn't getting the attention it rightly deserved.

For twelve weeks now, this story has more than just piqued my interest. Yes, yes, I agree Hashir's mother can't act to save her life (Aunty-ji you're best playing Romaisa's evil saas), but the rest of the cast is on point! Saman (Hareem Farooq), Fazeelat (Naila Jaffery), Faisal (Yasir Mazhar), Rabia, Shazia (Yumna Zaidi), Hashir (Ahsan Khan), and even Mehreen (Shazia Naaz) were at one stage or another blowing the competition away. The subtle raised eyebrows, the fading smiles, those breaking hearts were so beautifully captured on film and rendered on many a television set.

Aliya Bukhari's script draws upon the same two sister-one guy triangle with a case of mistaken identities and perpetual loss and suffering in sight. Yet, after almost half the series down, I cannot help but admire the way she decided to write the characters. For instance, even though Shazia is all shades of evil, I still cannot come to hate her. Similarly, Saman is helpless, I know this, I see this, but she still seems silent and strong. The third player Hashir has yet to shine, but something tells me the second half belongs to him.

Of course, all this would not be possible without a stellar cast and irrespective of the naysayers, HUM TV I applaud you for your casting, it was new and fresh and at the same time had reasonable acting talent. Okay, okay, Romaisa's saas isn't that bad after all. Nigar, I found, was a drag the first few episodes especially the tension between her and Hashir but as the series continues I see her fitting into the role fairly well. The same goes for Shazia Naaz, her he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not, I'm going to sacrifice myself for him spiral had me going nuts (seriously woman WAKE UP!) and now I can forgive her this obsession (if only momentarily).

Naila Jaffery, Anita Camphor, and Humaira Zaheer remind me of Samina Peerzada, Sakina Samoo, Rubina Ashraf, and Bushra Ansari from Mera Naseeb. If Anita Camphor is loud and garish, then, Naila Jaffery and Humaira Zaheer hold their own with silent, strong performances.

Yumna Zaidi and Hareem Farooq are both very well suited to their characters. The former in all her evil ways still retains a hint of masoomiyat. Every time Mehreen and Nigar chide her, I see in Shazia's eyes the realization of her actions. So there's still some redeeming here, but hey, I might be completely wrong. Hareem, Hareem, Hareem... TUSSI CHA GAYE HO! I first saw Ms. Farooq in Siyaah (read the full review here, if you're so inclined, and if horror floats your boat wait till you see my review for Woh Dobara on DP) and I liked her at times terrorized and at times terrorizing performance. She brings a certain introverted charm to Saman that no other actress could have. I see in her a silent Sanam Saeed, the kind that's strong and practical. Both these girls are not only well cast but do justice to their roles!

It doesn't end here after a rather long dry spell Mausam (rather aptly) keeps on giving.

The soundtrack with its mellow tone focuses on the lyrics and brings us back to the central theme: Yeh phool dil ka nahi khil sakay ga. Truly no one is happy in this series. Not Hashir, not Saman, not Faisal, not Shazia, no one (lead cast ho ya supporting cast). The editors and music director worked well using the melodic chorus of the OST as the background score at various junctures, a fact I appreciate very much.

Equally impressive is the art direction and cinematography. Every shot is beautifully framed with colours bursting forth and capturing the screen in perfect balance with the neutrals. This coupled with beautifully shot sequences make Mausam a definite star amongst this season's dramas. Attention to detail is what made Humsafar a pleasure to watch, and I finally see HUM TV coming back to what they do best.

Their signature style let's call it the "Humsafar Effect", which lately they've drifted away from, is what audiences expect (or at least have come to expect) from them. In Mausam, they return to what makes them the "class apart" channel. Behind every frown, under every veil, I can see Momina Duraid's exacting eye for detail, which is what made HUM TV a success. Sometimes returning to your roots is a good thing, it allows you perspective on what you do well and what you don't.

After twelve weeks, Mausam, Khawateen-o-Hazrat, is a return back to HUM TV's forgotten roots. I cannot predict what will happen next but I, personally, have enjoyed the ride so far even though it has had its awkward moments (quite a few might I add). I hope you'll watch and enjoy for what it is, a emotional saga of young love or should I say almost love.

If and when we meet again.

This is RB signing off (Tweet me!).

Shanakht Episode 1

Posted by RB On August - 6 - 2014 12 COMMENTS

Lagta hai Annie mein to Bi-Amma ki rooh hadool kar gaye hai tabhi usnay yeh hoolia bana rakha hai.

Ladki ho to aisi jikay saath chaltay hua insaan fakar mehsoos karay na ki sharmindagi.

How many amongst us judge those different from us? How many of us deviate to the norm only because the norm guarantees us safety and security? How many of us quickly judge the Hijabans as paindo-jahil-junglee khawateen or better yet as pakhandi-dhongi-attention seeking? Saach, saach batana how many? Kitnay...?

Shanakht. Pehchan. Self. Identity.

These are perhaps the eternal questions that haunts us. Hum kaun hain? Hum kyun hai? Humari pehchan kya hai - humara din-iman, humari wataniyat, humara qabeela, humari zabaan, kya?

Let me preface this review by saying that I'm not one to taken by preachy and holier-than-thou renditions of finding oneself. In recent years, we've seen Falak in search of her zaat in Shehr-e-Zaat and Daaniyal in exile in Laa, all in the hopes of finding that ever elusive thing called Shanakht.

And this where our story begins with Quratalain's (Maya Ali) spiritual quest. Born into a world of privilege, Annie has shocked her cultured, khandani, rayees, and modern family beyond belief by adopting the hijab, and that too the Arab version of it. Her mother, Huma (Sabahat Bukhari), sees this as sign of rebellion, but I wonder what Annie is rebelling against? She comes from a liberal and loving home without any outward signs of distress like financial insecurity, domestic abuse, or even inattentive parents! So why the sudden need for taking the hijab?

With this unexpected change engulfing Annie in a storm of questions - hijab, na-mahram, a sudden quietness in character, an introversion - her relationships are slowly being tested. Her Taya and Tayee, Ahmed and Shireen (Shamim Hilali), her cousin, Hashim (Noor Hassan), her sister, Kashaf (Sadia Faisal) and her Ammi and Abbu - all have concerns, and some valid ones too! As much as Annie is confused by the reaction of those closest to her, her family is equally if not more so confused by how to react. Hashim ignores the change as much as he can, Shireen is cautious, Huma is (and perhaps rightly so) angry (and I'll get to this point momentarily), and Sadia is supercilious. The only person who extends his full support to Annie is her Abbu-jaan, Amjad (Mohsin Gillani).

Now correct me if I'm wrong but taking the hijab is a very difficult decision not because it differentiates you from the crowd (because that point is debatable, if you're in Purani Dilli then you're really not that different, if you're in Khan Market, then, you're considered (in a very derogatory manner) a "Ninja") rather because it requires a considerable change in your lifestyle, in your interactions, and in how you're perceived. Knowing full well that this would place her at the periphery of her parents' social circle, Annie still goes ahead with it, which makes me wonder out loud: why? Was there something lacking in her upbringing? Are liberal people incapable of inculcating spiritual and religious values? Are we spiritually bankrupt in our quest for everything "modern" and "Western"? What does it signify - for Annie, for her sense of self, and for her identity?

At the same time I cannot turn a blind eye to Huma's perspective. As a mother, I can see why she is hesitant at this change, perhaps, it was her upbringing, maybe she wasn't able to provide something, at some spiritual level, for her daughter. These feelings of failure, for lack of a better word, are exhibited in anger and in blame (if you noticed Aisha is quick to take the fall!).

What I found engaging in this very slow episode was the overt emphasis on character development. There wasn't a single character with the exception of Sadia whose motives I couldn't fathom. I was conveniently given a momentary insight into the working of Annie's mind and Hashim's affections, of Huma's doubts and Amjad's faith, and of Shireen's caution and Sadia's despise.

Interestingly, just as Mrs. Khan in Pehchan functions as a sit-in for our mashara, Jabbar and his chichora comments bring us back to what the world thinks. This is also reflected in Huma (especially the very awkward conversation with her friend) and to some extent in Shireen. And something tells me these perceptions are a crucial part of the narrative.

A well-paced first episode with good camerawork and art direction, I am curious to see what happens next. Am I on-board the bandwagon? No, not yet, Shanakht still needs to convince me that they're not preaching to the choir or otherwise.

Till next week.

Rab Rakha

RB (Tweet me!)

P.S. Mein ab sab say guzarish karoon ga ki apni duaoon mein Phalasteen ki awaam ko yaad rakhain. Un ko iss azaab say Khuda'Talah jaldi bakshay. Ameen.

Sarmad Sehbai on Mah-e-Meer

Posted by A musing muslim On July - 31 - 2014 4 COMMENTS


Sarmad Sehbai’s work as a poet, author, playwright and filmmaker highlights his innovative approach to art and culture. His vision is reflected in the diverse mediums and languages he works in, from  poems to PTV dramas (Naya Qanoon, Toba Tek Singh), theatre plays (‘The Dark Room’), a documentary (‘Mughals of the Road’) and finally, his films and dramas (Fankar Gali, Jal Pari, and most recently Laa. His work constantly questions defined norms and now with Mah-e-Meer, even madness.

We spoke to him via Skype about his upcoming film Mah-e-Meer, and ended up with notes on the Mughal Empire, a meeting with Omar Sharif, and a spirited discussion on the current state of Pakistani television and cinema.

Listen to the interview here

 On Mah-e-Meer

If Sarmad Sehbai had his way, the most anticipated films of the year, Mah-e-Meer, would not have seen the light of day. “I told the producers not to touch this script,” he recollects, with amusement, “I thought it was not a cinema film.” Fortunately, the producers Khurram Rana, Badar Ikram, and Sahir Rasheed persisted, encouraged and practically forced an unconvinced Sehbai, who relented, “They took a daring step because nobody would put money in Meer Taki Meer at all. Nobody would even look at it.”

With the current cinema landscape of awaited films with patriotic agendas (Operation 21), mad-cap comedies (Namaloom Afraad), burning social issues (Dukhtar), and a possible remake of a gandasa wielding Maula Jutt, why would anyone be interested in a film on the eighteenth century poet?

Even the producers played around with the more accessible title Poora Chand concerned that audiences were unfamiliar with Meer, but eventually they decided to tell them who Meer is and the symbolism of the moon lent itself to the title Mah-e-Meer.

His fears though were unfounded as his cast and crew were mesmerized by the dialogues while shooting and the now famous line from the trailer, that small verbal artifice “hum yeh tou nahin kehey kay Ghalib kehta tha ya Meer kehta tha, hum kehtey hai Meer kehta hai” has captured the imagination of many.

The strong visuals, colourful characters of the past contrasting sharply with the dusty reality of today have piqued a lot of curiosity, so much so that “people have developed a romance for Meer,” he recalls with surprise. He tamps down the hype surrounding the film claiming that it is not biographical but rather an interpretation of Meer’s experiences.

Past and the present

Sarmad SehbaiIt’s no surprise that Sehbai, an accomplished poet himself, sought Meer as inspiration. Flitting between the past and the present, the film fuses the story of a contemporary poet– an anarchist, who destroys traditions and experiences creative madness when he falls in love with a woman who appears to him though the full moon, mirroring Meer’s junoon. “So it’s that kind of vaishyat, that madness, that passion – the whole film is inspired by that experience” he explains.

In exploring Meer’s past, was there ever a danger of romanticizing the exotica related to the grand old Islamic past?  “The tawaif actually embodied the whole cultural metaphor of the fall of the Mughal Empire,” says Sehbai. There was a loss of beauty and pleasure embodied in courtesan culture along with a loss of power, he elaborates. Eventually what survives is art, not the Mughal Empire, as is true throughout world history. Power merely serves as the backdrop to how these stories unfold and this is alluded to in Mah-e-Meer as well.

On Actors

As with any independent film, co-directors Sehbai and Anjum Shehzad had their share of juggling budgetary constraints and shooting in the punishing summers of Lahore and Karachi. Sehbai fondly recalls working with the actors to create powerful visualizations of the characters through certain mannerisms, enriching them with the subtext and nuances. Sehbai whets our appetite further saying that most people are surprised at the performances he can elicit. “This is what is going to happen with Iman Ali, with Fahad (Mustafa), with Sanam (Saeed) and with Manzar Sehbai” he enthuses.

His attempt is to unbind actors from the slavery to dialogue and text and allow for a more visual interpretation through their physical presence and movement, moving away from a very text oriented society to a more visual one. Expounding on this further, he talks of older actors and their statue-like stances projecting their voice, without moving their body. He maintains that we are still discovering the power of the visual and how to create the ambience on the screen and charge it with emotions and nuance.

Some of this harks to how we perceive masculinity in our culture even though perceptions are changing. “Even India totally changed from Dilip Kumar to Shah Rukh Khan but in Pakistan it is the repression of the body. The body is not considered something sublime or something respectable in that sense. Even in Pakistani films I don’t think you will see the body being celebrated.” Sehbai says.

Despite this, he says Pakistani film producers have fantasies of making a Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. On watching the film Sehbai grilled the producer, “Do you have Ranbir Kapoor in Pakistan? Do you have 40 dancers, choreographers, huge set designing and all that? If you can provide all that I will make this film for you. Just get me Ranbir Kapoor,” he laughs.

Though he wasn’t far from snagging a big Hollywood name himself. Sehbai recollects a delightful anecdote where he met and pitched a project to the legendary Omar Sharif. Despite being wined and dined by Egyptian Officers, his interpreter warned Sehbai that they would never let him meet the actor. Nevertheless, he managed to get her to find Omar Shariff’s number and arrange a meeting.  He remembers him as a very open personality with whom he had a long conversation on world cinema, and his screenplay as well which ended with Omar Sharif asking Sehbai when he would like to shoot.

With the fall of Benazir Bhutto’s government however, things took a different turn and if history was written differently, perhaps Pakistani Cinema would have had an earlier revival.

Pakistani Cinema

So then, what are Sehbai’s views on the New wave of Pakistani Cinema? Wary of “pseudo, new wave, feel-good terms,” he cites the growth of an urban audience that seeks a different kind of film pointing to the emergence of the English theatre scene.  He says multinationals helped build Pakistani English theatre for the middle classes who “in their upward mobility have forgotten about changing society or bringing in the revolution” he reflects.

If, he says, you try to understand the emerging film landscape in sociological terms, why a Khuda ke Liye or a Bol was made, we need to refer back to the tiff between the civilian government, the army, democracy along with the old somewhat altered adage- follow the funding, which is mainly from the army or NGOs.

He believes that a film can only transcend to art in the hands of the artist, who can invisibly subvert the funders agenda as Satyajit Ray’s classic film Pather Panchali did by subverting UNICEF’s agenda of making a film about poverty.

As for his own works, Sehbai denies any interest in commercial filmmaking and like all sincere artists refuses to adopt airs either for himself or his project. Mah-e-Meer’s script was written quite a few years ago and his aim is to see his vision completed rather than pleasing the classes or masses. “I just enjoy multiplicity and different art forms and I have my pleasure.” he says.

On Serials

Was it this multiplicity that lead him to write the dramas Jal Pari and Laa? Sehbai chafes at the mention of his work in hands of directors with little vision. He wrote Jal Pari at the insistence of a friend and says that though they got the locations and actors right, the marketing demands left a bad taste in his mouth. Sehbai is less charitable with Laa currently telecast on Hum TV.

Upset that they changed the screenplay with little regard for ethics or even an understanding of the content and lackluster performances, he scoffs, “The words are not lived, not organically experienced, they are thrown”. He complains that their speech is alienated from their body and from the whole sensuous experience of the performance.

“Every Pakistani serial is structured on certain plots, but it’s the characterizations, the performance, the nuances, the layers you create where you forget, you transcend the structure,” he emphasizes. Disheartened at the interpretation of his vision, Sehbai avows this is the last time he writes for another director.

A true Pakistani Idiom

As writer and co-director of Mah-e-Meer he exercises creative control on the film. As the film heads to post production, Sehbai leaves us with these final thoughts.

He believes Pakistani Cinema is struggling to find its own authentic idiom. The audiences are looking for something that they can own and be proud of. “In this film, we have tried to discover that” he says. While on the surface, Mah-e-Meer presents a picture of love and madness, Sehbai’s true search lies in the rediscovery of heritage, poetry, literature, and music within our traditions.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Pakistani new generation to find out their heritage” he muses. Dismissing any claims of a grand experiment, Mah-e-Meer he says is, “[V]ery simple, it’s like a whisper, it’s like a long poem.”

A whisper that echoes poetry, passion and madness, and one that we are eagerly awaiting.

Written by Sadaf Haider and MM (aka A musing Muslim), with additional input from RB

A condensed  and edited version of this article appeared in the Express Tribune



Rung Hum Sitaray Review Episode 10-11

Posted by Guest Reviewer On July - 28 - 2014 3 COMMENTS

"You should be more understanding, iss tara marriages kaam nahi karti Sania" -Rabia.


Episode 10:


As Rabia hears Sania telling her that although Zafar is an "extremely handsome husband", he's"laidback, has no ambition", Rabia says the above line to her. Sania doesn't expect Rabia to tell her this, jiski khudki marriage successful nahi rahi woh kaisey kisi aur ko nasiyat dera hai. No advice for me says Sania and with that, a hurt and upset Rabia decides to leave Lahore.


Sania sees a group of friends conversing and there she realizes how much she's hurt Rabia. We also realize that time goes by fast, friends stay behind or if they are still with you, the quality time you have spent with them has passed by.  What's great is that Sania apoligizes to Rabia and so Rabia decides to come back.


For a change, Sania herself plans to have dinner in a nice restaurant with her very sweet husband Zafar. Yay for the change!


The next scene is very cute and annoying at the same time. While Sania is talking to a doctor about getting on board for her new clinic plan, Zafar is watching tv - both of these things are happening in the same room. Having such a big home, Sania could've talked in another room - this is the annoying part. However, the way Zafar is laughing while watching tv was definitely the cutest scene I have seen of him.


Sania then breaks the news to Zafar -she's decided to resign from the hospital as she plans to open a new clinic. Zafar gets upset as he says: "You are never satisfied, you want more and more and more". However, still supports her.


We see Abeer and Aman's slight dislike for their mother. They draw a really bad picture of how they see Sania as and as Bajjo sees this, she tells them to never do such a thing again. The strict behavior of Sania on her kids is surely having a bad effect on them.


The episode ends with a brand new clinic being opened. It was really heart-warming to see that the clinic is called Maimoona Memorial Hospital, after Sania's mother. Wish Dr. Ashraf could be there. While Rabia is the marketing head and brings in the funds to run the clinic, Sania decides to talk to consultant doctors. She also plant to open up a specialized unit that works on bone marrow transplant surgery and on the disease her mother died with - leukemia.



Episode 11 highlights:


-Abeer is told by her teacher to be more confident.

-Dr. Ashraf, who is now Uncle Mahmood says a very beautiful thing about old age. “Burrappa aik acchi cheez hoti hai, purani yaad ko taaza karti hai”. Old age is seen in a negative light as old people don’t get much attention but Uncle Mahmood highlights something about old age which we may have not thought about: in old age, one thinks about the fun times in life, about the wonderful memories shared by family and friends.

-Uncle Mahmood wants Sania to give more attention to kids, “uske mahnati honey say khauf aata hai”.

-Sania is unnecessarily troubling Zafar on being “laidback” when infact he has a great job; he is a good father and a good husband.

-Abeer is worried that her teacher will tell Zafar about Abeer’s lack of confidence and so she and Aman pray that this won’t happen - a very cute scene takes place in which Abeer wraps around her and Aman a comforter to use as a scarf for their dua.

-Zafar gets a training opportunity in Germany for 2 yrs, he can get a promotion but Zafar wants to give time to his family. Sania on hearing this might let Zafar go to Germany.

-Abeer is really hurt by the “good for nothing” Sania said to Abeer, Sania’s discouragement has really upset Abeer, Zafar consoles her that“she’s the best”.

- Super sweet scene – Zafar’s birthday celebration –yay Sania was there to celebrate!

-Uncle Mahmood says “yeh jo ghosht-phost ka insaan hai, yeh rooh kay bagair kuch bhi nahi… Sania iss baat ko nahi samajhti nahi... usney apne aap ko robot banadiya hai” while Zafar replies “aap mujey aik baap nahi, pareshaan maa lagrey hai”.

-Uncle Mahmood: “har insaan mai aik maa aur baap chupa hota hai” which I totally agree with – both spouses should have mother and father like qualities and Zafar is a true example of that. He is not only there to partially provide financial support but also there to provide time and support to his kids. However, can we really blame the busy Sania?

- Dr. Azhar Siddiqui – new transplant physician makes his entry- who is actually  the director of Rung Ali Tahir and there the episode ends. Let’s see what changes if any he will make to Sania’s life. Will Sania be influenced by Dr. Azhar as he is a successful doctor while her husband is “laidback”? What do you guys think?

There we have another two episodes light as a phulki roti , no tensions yet. A sweet and supporting husband - Zafar, a strong willed wife  - Sania, an understanding mother-in-law - Bajjo --- a fresh script by Amna Malhi and Maliha Haider and smooth direction by Ali Tahir - Keep it up Team Rung!

Written by Aisha Kazi


~~Written by Aisha

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