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Firaaq Episode 1

RB . 22

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.

  • RJ

    aray ye tou bohat acha nikla ye nahin kahoon gi meri umeed say ziada kiunk meri tou koi ummed hi nahi thi naa main nay promos dekhay kiunk dil hi nahi kia.. sirf ek poster dekha aur bus pta nahi kiun maza nahi aya..sanam in 2 different avatars ek desi dosra vilyti wow kia different idea hai…. jab review aya aur itnay saray tick marks dekh ker bhi mujhay yaqeen nahi aya k is main kuch acha ho gaa is liay review perha hi nahi ..sorryyyy…lekin aap k kehnay per kafi buray dil say dekhna start kia aur first scene nay meri sari attention apni divert ker li jo baad main mujhay laga k episode kaa sab say weakest scene tha both acting /writing and presentation wise….

    oos k baad uzma gilani oon ki top class acting aur itna horrible character touba …itni khoufnaak ami meri hon tou ek din main suicide ker loon aur sanam waah…. meri bohat khahish thi ab in ko kisi submissive/ soft character main dekhoon bohat ho gaya kashaf type rock solid characters jis tra mahira ko main kashaf type kisi character main dekhna chahti hoon :) …kher ye bhi acha refreshing change hai…mujhay lagta hai with time ye character evolve kray gaa aur mera interest isi liay ziada hai k ye transition kis tra ho gi aur kitni smoothly present ki jye gi… lekin ab main zaroor kahoon gi ye ek different story hai jo main samjhi thi oos say bohat hut ker…so thank u so much for the recommendation aap ki waja say ek baar phir ek achay drama tak rasai hoi ab allah kray ye behter say behter ho

    review ab tou main perh chuki hoon and it’s beautiful…bohat acha likha hai…full justice kia hai story /characters her cheez k sath aur kitni depth hai is main..zaberdust..shabash khush ker dia :)….mera problem cast k sath hai…shamas ek bohat hi complex character lag raha hai aur junaid jaisay average actor k liay is ko nibhana mere hisab say mushkil hai waisay in ko koi Bollywood bula lay aur hamesha k liay wahin rakh lay humari tou jaan chootay… dosri terf Cybil ki Urdu bhi khaas achi nahi mager wo mujhay ziada buri nahi lagi kanza ki tra….lekin mera khayal hai ye itnay important characters thay ager koi behter actor hota kafi ferq perh jata

    aap nay bilkul thik kaha “it’s a story of consequences rather than actions”…dekhtay hain ye kis terf jata hai…RR

    • RJ

      aur haan first time mujhay noor Hassan achay lag rahay hain…humsafer k baad ye in kaa pehla drama hai jo main dekh rahi hoon aur shuker hai inhon nay apni awaz per kafi kaam kia hai ab wo kanon ko waisay nahi chubti jaisay humsafer main lag rahi thi….

      • RB

        Dekho, dekho kaun aaya, Noor aaya, Noor aaya! Sharif bradaran ka nara kitna versatile hai na? Har jagah use ho jata hai. Noor ki awaaz chubti hai, hai Allah-ji! ::wink:: He is looking good and I hope he’s a nice guy this time around. :)

        • RJ

          haan ji awaz chubti hai….main aziyut naak hud tak nazuk mizaj hoon :(

          • RB

            Accha-ji. Yaad rakhoon ga iss baat ko. :)

      • RB

        Baday din ho gaye sher-o-shayari nahi hui. Jahan tak meri ikhtala hai baat wafa say shuru hui thi, ussi ilakay mein ek sher arz hai:

        Tumhara ishq, tumhari wafahi kaafi hai, tamaam umr yehi aasra hi kaafi
        hai, jahan kahin bhi milo, mil ke muskura dena, khushi ke wastey yeh
        silsila hi kafi hai.

        • RJ

          chalo phir mil laitay hain aur muskura bhi detay hain :) ….sab say pehlay Urdu class…ikhtala nahi it-laa…jab aap is Urdu class say tung aa jyn bta den…ye hamesha k liay bund ho jye gi…waisay free hai chalti bhi rahay toy kia herj hai ;) …

          sher acha hai aur ghazal bhi..meri playlist main hai..shakeela khurasani nay kafi achi gaai hai…ek sher tou waisay main nay bhi sunana tha aap ko

          Tere waday pe jiay hum?….tou ye jaan…. jhoot jana
          K khushi say mer naa jatay ager aitbaar hota

          matlab main nahi likhoon gi apni koshish say samjhein…sher kaa bhi aur likhnay kaa bhi..zaheen hain jaldi samajh jyn gay :)

          • RB

            Class chalti rahe behtar hai. Thank you! Tay aur lam kay beech zabar nahi hai? Par kyun? Aur iss bahanay mulaqat bhi ho jaati hai. Panga mainay liya tha iss baar chalo sooch kar aata hoon kuch issay style mein. Chand lamhon ki ijazat. :P

    • RB

      Umeed na hi ho to better hai.

      Sanam to abhi transform karein gi. Ugly duckling say beautiful swan. Waise Aamina Sheikh to unki maddad nahi kar rahin?! First scene waqai kaafi weak tha lekin woh aur kahan say start kar saktay thay. In dono characters say hi story aagay bad sakti thi, and I understand that but I don’t understand why the scene was so weak compared to the others.

      UG nay to bahut acchi acting ki hai. Aisay lagta hai ki woh saachi hi ek dangerous khatun hain. India ki traino par ek “chitavani” likhi jaati hai kuch iss tarhan: “Sawdhani hatti, durghatana ghatti”, Tabassum madam ka bhi kuch yahi haal hai. Aap ki wajay say mujhe romanized Urdu mein behter ki spelling aa gayi nayi to mein hameeshan “bahatar” likh ta tha. Bas alif aur ee ka faraq hai. Lol Drama umeed karta hoo accha hi chalay.

      Aisi koi cheez hai jo aap export karna chahatay hai Pakistan say: Juanid Khan. Sometimes I think Junaid Khan is Emraan Hashmi’s cousin. Aadayeen wohi hai na. :p Casting kuch rahe gayee, yes, although Sara (Cybil) isn’t half bad -as you said she’s not as annoying as Kanza and manages to pullof her lines with maturity and panache albeit with a horrible accent.

      Aap ka saath rahe hopefully and this trip will be far more enjoyable and memorable. Aglay haftay tak.

  • Annie

    great review RB! Apart from the opening scene between 2 bad actors, this one for a first episode was Very Good and like you said kept my interest and curiosity. The 3 pagals in Maa ji’s household are top notch actors and their interactions were something to savor whether it was the dinner table encounter, the plant cleaning, the braiding – all seemed so effortless and so real. Like this was a real dysfunctional family. So kudos to Uzma G. Sanam S. and Mazhar Ali for playing their parts so well! Let’s hope the other part of the “family” can keep somewhat of a pace ;-) lol (I doubt it!)
    and Panama City is looking quite cool despite the hot hot sun! beautiful photography!

    • RB

      Thank you for reading, Annie! You know maybe it’s a sign of good things to come if they started with two bad actors, maybe they’ll finish the series on a high note (one can hope na!). Yes, I actually like the Gellani-Ali-Saeed household, very, very believable. Aren’t all families somewhat like that house? If the ammi is nice, then the abby is crazy, or maybe vice-versa, air Allah bachaye if its both. Bas phir to khair nahi. Panama City is looking good. There’s more of that breathtaking location yet to be seen. Agreed!

      What did you think of Noor Hassan and Mohib Mirza? Sanam?

      • Annie

        Yes you are right most households are like that except the Ammas are not as crazy as UG ;) Mohib did not leave a mark in epi 1 and Noor has come long way from his horrible start in Humsafar. He was tolerable as the weirdo friend who randomly hangs out in the middle of the street.

        • RB

          Haha! Noor-o-Hassan is paying for that role even now, I wonder if sometimes he must be wondering why he ever said yes to plain the most hated villain in Pakistan. That “All’s fair in love in war” will haunt him forever. Poor guy, but so good looking! Mohib’s taken some backseat roles lately – in Shehr-e-Zaat he was hardly there, but I still think there’s more of him to come.

          Weirdo, it’s called being photogenic, Ms. A. :p

  • A musing Muslim

    RB, welcome back! Great to read your balanced take as always. I’d say you sound cautiously optimistic but honestly I think its going to skirt the surface of some fairly pseudo, (or perhaps pop is a better word) psychological issues.

    Uzma Gellani was the star and is clearly relishing the role. The other actors are so-so and am afraid as pretty and well dressed as Sara is her diction is a disconnect. Yes, ok maybe it works in for the character but it is distracting.

    Mohib Mirza in his sharp suits (hello! navy and maroon!) seems rather ineffectual – he dismissed his aggressive clients in a heart beat and laid down the analysis for Sara in one meeting. Ok ok I get it plot progression but at least hold a paper and pencil and pretend to take notes!

    And as any desi knows, any medical referral is usually preceded by the question : Do you have insurance? =P

    Sanam…hmmm, sorry but shes reading flat to me. I know this might earn me hate mail but shes either the angry young woman, or totally deadpan. Just me? The only person who seems to have progressed as an actor is Noor Hasan!

    Also am hoping the maali duppatta wasn’t headed to be shredded in the washing machine and for me the more riveting scenes were the tortoure tail malish and the rather telling question “musalmaan ho”?

    • RB

      Meherbani, MM. Finally a decent drama! ::fingers crossed::

      Let’s be real don’t we all like our kitschy-poppy mental problems. Maybe a tad bit less film than normal. From what I’ve been reading everyone loves Uzma Gellani (is it Gillani or Gellani? Anyone?). I’m hoping Sara will bring something other than a bad accent to the show (maybe maturity in a female character we have yet to see on screen?).

      Calling Mikaal, Calling Mikaal! MM has found a new object for fashion critique, those suits are sharp, he does look thinner though (as Sadaf pointed out or was that wasting away not literal?!). Yeah, that scene with the gores fighting, boy, we had a fit when we saw it. How many white trash gore didis go to a shrink? COME ON! By the by, I hear a certain area is full of Mohib lookalikes that are ripe for the picking or is it plucking, from a very reliable source.

      You think? Why you hating of Sam-Sam?! She’s trying her darndest. Maybe like Sara her character will pick up too. You know this is Mazloom criteria no. 1. Et tu, MM? Is Noor really shining through? He has had more experience this year with Garr Maan Reh Jaye, Shanakht, Aseer Zadi, and now Firaaq, but he looks very, very well-kept for a bohemian-hippy-awaara artist type.

      Imagine if this were the answer: “Nahi awaara hoon”. Something tells me Maa-jee is not fond of being challenged. What did you think of the OST? Yay? Nay?

    • MM , “Musalman Ho ?” or “Is she /He Muslim” is the first and last question Muslim parents ask .. these days … I remember a friend telling us that when her grown son (whom she had given up all hope of ..ahem marrying off in the traditional way) called to tell her he had found a girl he was in love with and wanted to marry ;the first thing she said was ” Musalman ho Jaey gee ?” To which her suddenly offended (and supposedly ultra modern/liberal ) Son replied “she already is Mother , what else do you want .” After that the Mother did not dare ask any more questions till the prospective bride came on a visit .

      • RB

        And she did ask more questions when the bride came to visit… yeah?

      • A musing Muslim

        Hain that’s what I mean. It had a ring of truth to it, which is why I liked it. Most of us are raised with the brainwashed bias of whoever you marry make sure they are….

  • Yes AAbis Raza did very generously agree to answer a few questions about Firaq but alas , I have been down with some kind of mystery illness and not been able to pass them along …So due apologies to All .
    In a way I am glad because it has allowed this drama to unfold on its own merits . As you say in one brilliantly scripted scene after another … Hmm OK I will take a step back “WELL scripted scene ” after another , not because the script doesn’t shine but because I have a fear of falling .. how many times in the last 12 months have thought there , there is the light at the end of the tunnel for Hum TV’s malaise but it turned out to be an oncoming train…
    Khair this was an very engaging episode with equally weighted actors ,in terms of talent at least there were no weak links ..even our one note villain Junaid Khan managed to keep it together . Cybil Chaudhry’s accented Urdu , though a little exaggerated is exactly how some American Desis speak Urdu if their parents have not put in the effort to teach them. She looks lovely and dresses so well :)
    The Highlights were Paiman and her mother . Uzma Gilani reminded me so much of so many mothers in the USA who cut their children off from every joy in order to keep them “pure “while their relatives children in Pakistan become increasingly westernised. This only works if the victim is willing . Sanam Saeed is fabulous as the passive aggressive Paiman . Well done to the director and Writer for getting the whole American Desi vibe right UNLIKE Ahista Ahista . Noor Hassan looked good but to Mohib Mirza ..Please if you are reading this : you are a good actor please stop wasting away ……

    • RB

      I hope you feel better soon, Sadaf. Nothing serious, I hope. ::hugs::

      Yes, it would be nice if we get to hear his point of view as well. It’ll make for an excellent insight into a talented director’s choice and way of working. You’re right, in a way it has been a blessing, the drama has opened on its merits, of which there are many.

      That perpetual fear of falling, of a landslide about to hit, a tidal wave, maybe even a tsunami of bad cliches, horrible acting, and quick endings is a fear we all must live and grapple with. Haina, that Junaid Khan (and I remember him from Maat-e-Jaan Hai Tu) was actually decent. Cybil, though, she looks good but her acting takes away from what another more (let’s say) fluent actress could have achieved.

      Paima et Mama stole the show, agreed. Since when have you started liking Noor Hassan, Sadaf? Hmmm…. Daaktar sahib jaldi aayein. :p I’ll wait to see more of Mohib, I’m sure there’s good stuff waiting to happen.

      • I have finally forgiven Khizer I suppose …

        • RB

          Haha! Finally forgiven, eh?! I know a few people watching Gar Maan Reh Jaye, I gave up on it after episode two, maybe I’ll go back to it after some time. Have you ever heard Cybil Chaudhry speak in person, because then we’ll know if this is real of fake, if we know how she talks in Urdu normally. :p

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