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Shehr-e Zaat – Episode 1

SZ . 31

Rarely have I seen a first scene foreshadow the spirit and encapsulate the soul of an entire serial so succinctly and aesthetically. Shehr-e Zaat opened with a close up of engraved Quranic verses and Persian poetry on the graves in the necropolis of Makli. The exquisite calligraphy, a visual reminder of an undeniable truth: There is no deity except God. He alone is the sustainer of all that exists. He is the One who never sleeps, to whom belongs everything in the heavens and the earth. Nothing can happen without His willing it. He alone has power over everything. He alone has the knowledge of the past, the present, and the future. His domain extends over the heavens and the earth. He is the most exalted One … With these majestic words still resonating in the mind’s eye, we were shown towering imperial monuments, with carved pilasters and ornate balconies, contrasted against the desolation of decaying memorials to past glory and ruined graves. Verily, nothing lasts forever. To Him we belong and to Him we shall return. One sequence, and we have the raison d‘être of Shehr-e Zaat – brilliantly done Sarmad Khoosat!!!

Backed as it is by two major production houses, to say that the expectations were humongous from this Umera Ahmed/ Sarmad Khoosat/Mahira Khan project would be understating the case. Given that Shehr-e Zaat is based on a very popular novella, meant that it raised the bar even higher, with every reader, including myself, anticipating their own personally imagined version to unfold on the screen. However, given that over-hyped and over-anticipated projects rarely hit the mark, I sat down to watch hoping to be pleasantly surprised, but realistically, expecting it to be just another run-of-the-mill first episode.

Wow! That’s all I can say after having watched this first installment. Wow! Beginning with the exquisite opening sequence, just as Falak stepped over the threshold and into the cupola, admiring the adorned graves and peering into the windows of vaulted tombs, I too began my exploration of this richly nuanced story, offering as it does, tantalizing views of that which lies between the text and the subtext, the faani and the laafaani. Looking forward to seeing how layers of meanings are gradually peeled back as we make the journey from wujud to zaat.

The changes to the original story, the fleshing out of existing characters, and addition of new characters, have added so much texture to the narrative – excellently done by Umera Ahmed. In just one episode, I have fallen in love with Naani. How fabulous is Samina Pirzada? We just saw her in Durre Shehwar, in a seemingly similar elderly role, but here she brings something else together to the table. Loved her!! Hina Bayat too was just seen and loved as Hajra in Mataa-e Jaan, and I had feared that she would be typecast, but again, kudos to her for upping her game that much more. Mehrunissa is nothing like the silent, long suffering Hajra. Mohib Mirza, I had been looking forward to seeing him here, and he did not disappoint. I liked his pairing and interaction with Mahira. I just wish he wore a bit less makeup. It kinda detracts from the viewing experience if the guy is wearing more eyeliner than the gal. My highest praise though must go to Mahira Khan. I had been hard on her during Humsafar, calling her an average actress with flat dialogue delivery, so let me just say this , girl, you rocked it today! Standing up to a stalwart like Samina Pirzada and a mature actress like Hina Bayat is no easy task, but Mahira was such a revelation today. Her camaraderie with Mohib was very natural, and her bonding with Samina was to die for. Watching them together it was easy to forget that this was not a real grandmother/granddaughter pair, and that this was not reality. Loved it!

While the entire episode was beautifully done, underpinned by deeper meanings, the most fun and totally unexpected sequence has to be the one with Sarmad as the Humsafar aficionado Asad Jaleel, Falak’s wannabe suitor. I laughed at the reference to the Humsafar hype and in some ways found the open acknowledgment very refreshing, yes let’s give it a nod and move on.

The review would be incomplete without mentioning the superb camerawork of the DOP, Khizar. The editing was crisp. The technical and creative teams behind the look and feel of Shehr-e Zaat deserve applause. Hazrat Shah Niaz’s meaningful lyrics, brought to life via Muzaffar Ali’s music and the rich vocals of the inimitable Abida Parveen added much to the soulful ambiance. I am so glad that the original rendition was left untouched.

Something I generally never comment on, but which really caught my eye this time was the publicity poster for this serial. I loved the artsy creative feel to it; like the opening shot, it said so much without using words. Fabulous!

Finally, a huge round of applause for Sarmad Khoosat, the story teller who truly exceeded my expectations today; this is not an easy story to tell, and even though this is only the first episode and far too early for predictions, but I think Shehr-e Zaat is IT. The next big one that we were all waiting for after that other little forgettable serial, the title of which I think began with an H – anyone here remember that one ?!


Written by SZ~

Follow me on Twitter:  SZ_DramaPakistani  (@sz_dp)

  • sehrish khan

    bahut buri thi episode 1… mahira bahut badi lagti hai.. or khoobsorat to kahin se nahi … rerh lagadi sarmad ne dramay ki … bura bura.. novel acha tha

  • Drama Buff

    I finally watched it. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing! (I didn't like the graveyard scene too much though)

  • Filza

    @ SZ, aww you’ll definitely see me here every week. I’m in love with SeZ!

    That’s true about the comparisons, SZ. I agree with you on that. MeJ was almost ruined for me because of firstly the spoilers that I just couldn’t escape and then the frequent comparisons between novel and the drama.

    Hehe you caught me! I’ve started watching Humsafar finally! love story is yet to start. will rant about it in its thread once I’m done watching :)

  • Maria

    So I sat down and watched the first episode in complete peace. Last time I watched the episode I think I missed the nani/falak scene where she is showing her pictures to nani, but this time I was mesmerized by those scenes. I loved loved them. Infect, I even had a slight chill in my bones because both my nanoo/dadoo had similar conversations over my artworks or sculpturing, our lack of faith or them waking us for morning prayers. I have never been a huge fan of Umera’s since I believe she writes in extremities, but since DeS and now SeZ (even though it’s the first episode) I think I underestimated her. (or maybe I am not mature enough to asses her writing or philosophy) She is a brilliant writer and a great observer. And then we have SZ who gives cherry on the top reviews (please never stop writing :D ).

    p.s. I am a little appalled at the immaturity of the people to see the humor in Humsafar scene, the comments are just ridiculous e.g. “ ohhh why did sarmaad change something that Umera wrote” etc, well if Umera doesn’t has a problem with the scene then why the heck is everyone crying over it… people really need to grow up!

  • SZ

    @Filza: Thanks! Glad you decided to follow this one – now hope to see you here weekly:)

    Re: Falak: I think rather than trying to compare novels with dramas, I'd rather enjoy the drama on its own merit. There are sure to be changes in the storyline and modifications to the individual characters, so lets just enjoy Falak as she comes across on our screens :)

    LOL at you enjoying the Humsafar moment. Does this mean you have finally started watching it? Do comment on our Humsafar threads — would be lovely to know your take on Ashar & Khirad's love story ;)

  • Filza

    beautiful review, SZ. i'm glad you'll be doing it for SeZ! I was anxiously waiting for this show after I saw the promos. Love the concept. and the first episode didn’t disappoint. I’m sure this show is definitely going to be a hit. It deserves to be. The song is a beauty <3 apt for the drama.

    True, about the first scene. It tells a tale….very meaningful. Amazing direction!

    I enjoyed Falak & nani’s scenes the most. Liked the natural bonding. Both the actors did a fantastic job. Next, Hina Bayat ofcourse was brilliant.

    Hamza and Falak were not bad but I’m yet to be impressed. I look forward to Meekal’s role though.

    Also about Falak, is she supposed to be arrogant? (I’ve not read the novel) From the first episode i thought she is so relatable. Not a saint (unlike most of our lead ladies) but a normal human being. And there were so many instances where one would say, oh I do that as well!

    And oh I absolutely loved the mention of HumSafar and Sarmad’s scene! Their expressions were cute.

    It was a very good first episode!!

  • Fatima Awan

    @ SZ there is more to it than just that but yes you are right better not go there lol

  • SZ

    @Ash: aww – thanks! I'm really touched!

    LOL @ the phone comment – honestly! Kinda hard to imagine life without a phone handy 24/7 ;-)

  • SZ

    @Fatima: If you look at Umera Ahmed's page you'll see a lot of negative comments, similarly on other media related FB pages too people have been saying not so nice things about this reference, so not everybody loved it…

    Re: two plays by the same director: Ashk and SeZ, have a very different ambiance, different settings, different stories so need to be told differently. Beyond that, I do not want to speculate. I know its inescapable and there will be talk, but I would strongly request our commentators to let the Ashk and SeZ threads on DP be limited to a discussion of the dramas themselves, their individual merits and demerits, rather than drawing comparisons between two very different serials … Thanks! :)

  • Ash

    There are actually no words I can find to praise such a well written review!!

    SZ, you are AMAZING and blessed with such a great talent!!! you have said it all!! LOVED your review!

    really really good first episode! Mahira was fabulous. i mean i liked all her through out Humsafar, but she has refined her acting and its evident in this drama, and is the perfect Falak.

    Also liked Mohib Mirza in here, although yes i do agree with the foundation comment, why not stick to his regular skin tone which is perfectly fine.

    Of course, Samina peerzada and Hina Bayat are always amazing no matter what character they play, plus everyone shares great chemistry, which is great!

    Loved the reference to pakistani dramas and the younger generation! yep its true, dramas are not just for housewives and aunties who have nothing better to do with their lives! =)

    Although the highlight of the episode was the Humsafar scene, which btw was really well done, my favorite scene was the first of the episode, the scene where mohib says " qabristan fascinate hone ki jaga nahi hoti; ibrat ke liye" – lovely dialogue and so true. only when a close one dies and we see the whole burial process do we realize that life is indeed nothing, and how we must perfect ourselves before entering that place [the qabr]

    I can say for sure, this drama is gonna be one of the best!, anxiously waiting for next Friday!!

    oh and the OST!! one of my favorite kalams by Abida Parween. just so perfect!! and lovin the video.

    btw, aur kis ki subah phone ke baghair nahi hoti ??? ;-).

  • Fatima Awan

    @ SZ people loved the hamsafar scene, i could tell by the comments on DOL, i wonder why Sarmad gave that explanation, a few exceptions don't really matter.

    Well, to be honest i feel left out & am hoping i too will be going wow after watching the next episode:)

    Answer this for me, how can two plays directed by the same person be worlds apart? Ashks editing is so dissapointing, totally leaves you clueless.

  • SZ

    Thanks guys!

    @Fatima: I'm surprised you didn't enjoy this first ep! Yes MDKJZM is great as well, but for me SeZ had an edge in that it made you think, not just the story, but the way it was being told as well, like in the first shot for instance.

    In any case, loving one does not mean I am not enjoying other stuff as well — as a viewer I'm in hog heaven these days with so many quality shows competing for my attention :)

    So you expected me to say forget Humsafar? LOL! And seriously ppl need to chillax, going ballistic over one small humorous ref …

  • Aisha

    What a great review, agree totally with what ever you have written.

    Mahira is getting better and better with every new project.

    Was anxiously waiting for this serial and I must say the 1st episode didn't disappoint me, can't wait for next week

  • Zohaib Bukhari


    me ne zindgi me sab sy zayda ap ku parha aur ab tk parh rha hn. 6th class me tha jab me ney ap ka novel meri zaat zara e benishan parha.

    ap ki words asy hoty hein k jesy ye sb meri ankho k samny hua ho. ansoo rokty he nhi . jesy Saba k sath jo hua ya ab Jo Aks Murad Ali K sath hua. 9 saal ki wo bachi …..

    i have no words for u.

    aur ab Sher e zaat ka play hona. ak bht bari kamayabi hy. ap sy request hy kindly Aks ki production Samard Sultan Khost ku di jaye ga.

    mere liye dua ki jayega. bht sy crisis mein hn aj kal . like Saba in meri zaat zara e benishan.


  • saraah

    Wow, excellent, amazing Review SZ, it was a treat to read this!! :D

    and about the show i absolutely loved loved loved the first episode!! this is just the kind of start which hooks you up to the show and makes you wanna wait for next week. the starting scene, as sz amazing described, was zaberdast!

    and yes, i adore the nani-nawasi scenes, so so so adorable n cute, samina perzada is a master , and ialso really liked the friendship shown between mahira and mohib, its always a pleasure to see friendship shown on screen, not many drama's give importance to that!!

    and haha, the nod to hamsafar, it was hillarious.

    cant wait for the next episode when meekal makes his entry in the show,

    looking forward to the reviews and the show ofcourse! :)

    and oh yes! the OST!! WOW!!!

    and oh oh!! Mahira khan was a delight to watch :) she has grown so much!! love it

  • SK

    Very beautiful opening episode! Loved Mahira..she seemed very comfortable and natural but did not seem so much arrogant but more young, carefree and just not into her religion which I'm sure many people can relate to…maybe they humanized her lol Sarmad did a great job with the direction and loved his cameo…the whole humsafar tooic was pretty funny…loved the expressions of both of them. Anyways looking a very interesting subject, hopefully people get the right message. Mahirah said on the hum morning show that they were really scared when shooting as to how people would interpret the message and they don't want people to get from this that if you are bad, bad things happen to you and if you are good, nothing bad would happen to you. Definitely looking forward to next week. Oh and SZ, you outdo yourself every time, superb review! Indeed from Allah we come and to him we return.

  • hira

    i must say its THE DRAMA i hv been looking forward to watching…its first episode was undoubtedly eventful!i m too amazed to express the awesomeness of the direction, editing and above all acting done in this beautiful serial!

  • excellent ….excellent review

    I totally understand the nani- nawasi relationship …..even my daughter totally associated herself with this depiction…. she constantly remembered her own nani throughout those scenes….her admonition on coming infront of a stranger without dupatta….behaving rudely with servants…sleeping thru the prayer times …..her irritation on her constant advice….it was so close to reality …my mother has passed away 3 yrs ago and my daughter was teary-eyed during these scenes missing her nani…..

    loved the novel … and was wondering how will they show this concept on the screen….but the first episode has really embarked on this journey very sucessfully….hats off to sarmad and the whole team….

  • Fatima Awan

    Great review SZ. I really like Samina Peerzada's performance & yes Mohib should cut down on all the foundation etc. he has a perfect look in MDKJZM but generally its too much make up. Otherwise he is a brilliant actor.

    It is weird everyone is going wow here but this first episode did not exactly make me go wow. I could not help but wonder if Mahira was the right choice for this role, i totally missed the sparks in her acting. And her hair was all over the place. I hope this is not going to be another show like MeJ where one takes time 'accepting' the leading lady.

    For me MDKJZM's first episode was definitely more wow!! Despite the wardrobe blooper!

    Hey i was expecting you to say let's put hamsafar behind us lol sarmad 'clarification' regarding that scene on SeZ page was really cute!

  • rwana jinay

    i like ths drama mahira rocks in 1 episode than 2 episode will awesome awsome ………….. waiting for next friday coool ek hi din me koi aeisa kar sakta hai love u so much mahira

  • SZ

    @Annie, Nadia, Javeria, Afia, Faraz, Rehmat: Guys, coming from you all, high praise indeed – I'm really touched, thank you !!

    @Javeria: Lovely poem – If I'm not mistaken Mahira quoted a bit from it in the morning show as well — thanks for sharing it with all of us! :)

    @Afia & Javeria: I share similar concerns but lets start off on a positive note and hope for the best!

  • bunny

    Great review,

    Starting of Shehrezaat was great.Good direction by Sarmad.

    We can clearly see the typical Umera Ahmed essence in the dialogues.

    "Pehlay pehlay apnay haath say banaye hue butt say piyaar hojata hai phir apnay aap say ishq hojata hai phir apnay aap ko aadmi kaamil samajhnay lagta hai."

    "Qabrustan fascinate honay wali jagah nahi hai,ibrat ki jagah hai"

    But i have yet see Falak arrogant character in Mahira,she came across as a little soft spoken.

  • Javeria

    Abou Ben Adhem

    Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)

    Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

    And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

    Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

    An angel writing in a book of gold:—

    Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

    And to the Presence in the room he said

    "What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,

    And with a look made of all sweet accord,

    Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."

    "And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"

    Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

    But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,

    Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

    The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

    It came again with a great wakening light,

    And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,

    And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

    Ibrahim Ibn Adham was a Sufi saint on whose life this poem is based.In the novel this poem is mentioned(i confirmed it) and the whole idea of the novel is also based on it,i just love it so have put it here.

  • Javeria

    Wow! Beginning with the exquisite opening sequence, just as Falak stepped over the threshold and into the cupola, admiring the adorned graves and peering into the windows of vaulted tombs, I too began my exploration of this richly nuanced story, offering as it does, tantalizing views of that which lies between the text and the subtext, the faani and the laafaani. Looking forward to seeing how layers of meanings are gradually peeled back as we make the journey from wujud to zaat.

    SZ there is a reason i call myself a fan of your writing,i don't put my approval ordinarily.

  • Rehmat

    How can you write such beautiful reviews every time??? I have read it twice already, and your awesome reviews are always so tempting that i can't control but to write something about episode:)

    You said it all… Fantastic episode, amazing acting by all actors, but i still need Mahira to be more arrogant.. and i wish i am proven wrong in coming up episodes!

    I like small details covered in this episode, like Fajar Azaan have one line different from rest of Prayer's Azaan, and they actually set that Azaan for fajar time, the way Mahira was making that sculpture..too good!

    Last but not the least, OST gave me goosebumps, one of the best OST i have heard.

  • Javeria

    why did nt my comment got posted

  • Javeria

    Now that is what i call a great review.Loved the over all feel of the play,thanks for giving us the reference of Makli.The drama opened in a very beautiful and a mystical scenario.Time and again there were gaps of humor which i loved.Every actor is fitting perfectly in the role,especially Mahira. I never expected this maturity from her.She is certainly growing into a very fine artist.I really liked Mohib in his role too.The whole team has the feel that they have really worked hard on this production.Huge props to Sarmad i suppose for this.Great attempt at the new story line.

    ps.lets hope we do take it down a notch on the arts otherwise critics will have a field day.

  • Faraz

    This one is going to be special SZ….. oh yes it will be…… there was something inside of me the went on and on as i watched this one…. something that keeps you glued… something that one can not explain but its there…. something that stays with you even when the show has ended…..

    i just disagree with Nadia and Annie here..I dont think this is one of your best review .I think your best is yet to come :) and with every new episode of Shehr e Zaat you will break your own record!… Thats what a drama of this scale can do to anyone….

  • Afia Qazi

    SZ, first of all I was envious of your writing abilities while reading the review. Wonderfully done, enjoyed it – wish I could write so well!

    Enjoyed the first episode as well….I might not agree with "Nani" on 100% of her 'naseehats' but we'll deal with those in later episodes…

    Great job by all- and I mean 'all'!

    So proud of Pak Drama!

  • Wow, wow, wow! Like Annie said, this is definitely one of your best reviews! Keep it up sista!

    Completely agree with you about Mahira. Her acting seemed quite natural. Also agree with you about Hina Bayat's character; it is definitely different from her past two motherly roles.

    Yay for a great new serial!

  • Annie

    Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful review SZ!!! If I may say your best written review yet! :)

    I absolutely loved and enjoyed the first episode. Looking totally forward to the whole serial. I am not going in with huge expectations because I didn't follow the hype, but really liked the promos and the short story was really good. I like the "hatke" story. I have a feeling (like you) that this is made with a lot of love and devotion and will prove to be quite popular :) And hopefully people will learn something from it in the process :-)

    Thank you Umera Ahmed for giving us some wonderful dialogues (already!) in the first episode! The one on "butt parasti" was so deep and filled with so much meaning.

    Fabulous start!!

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