Through the looking glass
Last night, I whimpered into my pillow before falling asleep, the last dregs of a copious weeping session induced by the final episode of Daam. While I cried for the story mostly, I also cried for the end of another great dramatic tale from across the border. ( No, I don’t mean Sweden, even if I do now live in Norway. I mean the only border of any significance to my people, a border that only exists in its reiteration). Pakistani dramas ( now a genre of its own) have taken over my life. And I want to write about a few of them.
Note: These are not reviews. They don’t analyse the filming in all its technical splendor. They do not regurgitate the plot. These are just my reactions. Also, they are not the only ones I have liked. They are a selection of some of the best.
Sanam Saeed plays Fiza, a top notch ‘bitch’. She is shrill, rich, spoilt, always gets her way, and whines if she doesn’t. She is always manipulating relationships, always suspicious, always insecure. Her acting is so good, that at the very first instant you know she is trouble. You know she is here to create mischief. You know that the plot will not go ahead without her.
And yet, she is incidental! The plot could have been written without her. The ultimate bitchiyapan ( ever since I heard the word ‘boriyat’, an urdu noun form for boredom, I believe I can coin words), if you will, is not hers. The climactic turn in plot is provided by her ‘very nice’ cousin, played by Aamina Sheikh, someone you sympathise with from the get go. But with Fiza, Umera Ahmed (the novelist who wrote the story on which this show is based) tells us that what makes a ‘bitch’ a ‘bitch’ is not her underlying ‘bitchiness’, but circumstances.
It doesn’t matter how the protagonist, played by Sanam Baloch, acted. That she did a good job is incidental. Aamina Sheikh’s and Sanam Saeed’s acting, on the other hand, take this plot forward. Supported by fantastic caricatures by Behroze Sabzwari and Farah Nadir, this drama is nowhere without these people.
What I loved about this drama, is that it drives home the point that a ‘do over’ is almost never possible in relationships.
Another Umera Ahmed classic, this one is perhaps my all-time favourite. A woman’s virtuosity is often called into question in Indian and Pakistani cinemas and dramas. Of course, in most cases, these are false allegations and the hero emerges unscathed, much like Sita undergoing the fire test of purity to allay Ram’s suspicion.
Qaid-e-tanhai turns this notion on its head. And asks, “ok she hasn’t been virtuous. So what?” Savera Nadeem (Ayesha) and Faisal Qureshi (Moiz) play the lead roles in this drama. The story is a flashback to a time when the two loved each other and were married to each other. A series of unfortunate misunderstandings drive them apart. Both of them find succour in other lovers’ arms. But only Ayesha bears the cross. Implicitly, Umera asks, why only she?
Again executed by a fantastic team of actors, the plot is carried forward by the brilliant work of Saba Hameed who plays Moiz’s mother. Instrumental in creating the rift between her son and daughter-in-law, she is aided by a script that demonstrates the power of suggestions and subtle persuasion.
Meri Zaat Zarra-e-benishaan
Umera Ahmed, as you can see, is my favourite writer. The script is the star of this show. And, ofcourse, Samina Peerzada.
This script establishes the credibility of Shakeela Abbas (played by Samina Peerzada) as a god-fearing, upright woman. Once this is established, the plot takes its own course. Its easy for her to accuse Saba (played by Samia Mumtaz) of infidelity; easy for the accusation to be believed without evidence, easy for lovers to split, for parents to give up on their child, for gross injustice to slide down the slippery slope of circular reasoning.
Saba is upright and honest, but most of all she is wise and forgiving. She has some of the most beautiful monologues ever. My favourite would be her monologue to her father, when he says he will not forgive the people who lied about her. She says, and I paraphrase here, “you have come back to me once you found that I was falsely implicated. Parents stay and support their children EVEN if they have committed crimes. Where were you, when I needed you the most? The people who lied about me, I wasn’t their child. I don’t have any complaints against them because they don’t owe me anything. I was your child. And you have failed to do your duty by me.” Samia Mumtaz (who incidentally, is a relative of Zohra Sehgal) does her role more than just justice.
But the star of this show is Samina Peerzada. Her character development, aided by the fantastic script, bring to life a woman driven by jealousy, burdened by virtuosity, overcome with an incontrollable cunning, consumed with the drama of false indignation and finally, propelled to death by fear of retribution. I have seen so many dramas since, with her essaying critical roles, but this, by far, is my favourite performance.
Fawad Khan, for whom my country’s brethren ( and more so, its sistren) are going berserk, is just the tip of the iceberg. Plumbing the depths of Pakistani drama would reveal far greater treasures than Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan.