Zindagi Gulzar Hai – THE serial that everybody and their uncle and the said uncle’s pets were looking forward to since right after Humsafar ended. We had expected this to air sometime early summer, but then summer came and went, as did Ramadan and the two Eids, and then Muharram… sigh!!! So yes, there was intezaar and lots and lots of it …
The first look of Zindagi Gulzar Hai – the three promos were barely enough to quell an enthusiasm that had by now built up to a near frenzy. Ashk was supposed to tide us over till Zindagi Gulzar Hai started, but oh well, we all know how dil ke armaan ashkon mein beh gaye, so lets just leave that be… Back to Zindagi Gulzar Hai, every promo was watched at least a hundred times over.
Once Shehr-e Zaat ended, HUM TV’s publicity department went into overdrive – the two OSTs were released one after the other, additional promos, clips, interviews with the cast – yes, the whole shebang – we got the full blast. And this is where HUM TV, in my opinion, got it all wrong. Channel people, we cannot have feast or famine kind of publicity… HUM TV went nutso in the past couple of weeks. Guys, bombarding your viewers with promos every 30 secs does not help, neither does re-repeating the launch show … in fact its the other way around. For the first time EVER I walked away whenever I heard the by now very annoying theme music or the first two notes of the once enjoyable OSTs – zindagi was definitely not gulzar in these past weeks. I never thought I would write this, but I was very put off … the hype was a major turnoff … No matter how much Fawad Khan & Co. tried to convince me otherwise, I was not counting down ghantas to the first episode….
Khair, after much ado the first episode finally aired today…. was it all worth the hype and the wait? Here’s what I thought …
The first episode opened with Kashaf and Zaroon’s soliloquies. The difference in the lead protagonists’ social status was made very clear with Kashaf hand writing her diary in her very humble bedroom, whereas Zaroon was sitting in the lap of luxury while writing his on a Mac. From thereon the scenes alternated between Zaroon and Kashaf, underscoring the differences in their lifestyles and personalities. He’s rich and she’s not; he’s outgoing, pampered, confident, somewhat bored with his life and in search of a challenge, whereas she’s angry, bitter and cynical, ready to give up on life before it has even begun. In terms of families, the difference between them could not be more stark.
Kashaf is a product of a broken home, her mostly absentee father’s remarried and lives with his second wife and their three kids. Kashaf’s mother on the other hand is a very hands-on mother. She’s fully involved in her three daughters’ lives and works hard as a teacher, struggling to make both ends meet. Hence conversations in their household tend to revolve around the harsh realities of life; issues like paying for paani, bijli, the ever increasing mehengai, and problems pertaining to ghar ki maramat, etc, are a part of daily discussions around the dinner table. Zaroon’s household, in stark contrast is very different. Though his parents are together, the two could not be further apart in terms of their views on pretty much everything. They are just poles apart. This difference is in turn reflected in their children’s take on life as well. Sara, the spoilt daughter takes after her mother in every respect and Zaroon presents a perfect case study of a child caught between two opposites, trying to always look for an ideal family set up. He is a product of his surroundings but is looking for something that is as yet elusive… he knows something is missing but doesn’t know what – as yet. The episode ends with Kashaf in the bus, on her way to writing the next chapter in her life.
In terms of a first episode, this was a good beginning We were introduced to all the characters in quick succession, but without any sense of rushing through. I’m glad the director took her time in establishing the personalities of her characters. We saw Kashaf’s embittered rants juxtaposed against Zaroon’s laid back charming personality. He’s lazily confident of his place in the world and she’s so insecure and unsure. Similarly, the two sets of parents and siblings were contrasted very well.
While I enjoyed the introduction to all the different personalities, I must say that I was disappointed to yet again see the very flat characterization of the rich/upper classes. Time and again we see the rich portrayed in this strange uni-dimensional manner. I so wish our media could approach the issue of class differences in a more nuanced manner. Why the need to reiterate the same stereotype in every drama: rich people, particularly women, are soulless, materialistic, self-serving egoists, whereas the lower middle classes are the repository of all that is held as noble and praiseworthy. I hope that Hina Bayat, Ayesha Omar and Mehreen Raheal’s characters end up being a lot more nuanced than we saw in the first episode.
In terms of actors and acting – Fawad Khan! Yes, lets all just be honest and say that we were waiting for this drama primarily because of him and he definitely did not disappoint as far as acting goes, but I was very hard-pressed to believe that Fawad’s Zaroon was a 22 year old carefree baccha. The conversation between Sir Abrar and Zaroon’s dad, about Zaroon’s awargardi and how he would get sudhro-ed once he started the university, was a bit too much to digest. Similarly Mehreen, and Ayesha Omar too were totally unconvincing as girls in their early twenties. Nothing to do with their acting, but just hard to swallow visually. All of their youthful camaraderie seemed too calculated too be natural and I just could not buy into the college kids routine. Give or take an episode or two, I hope I can forget my misgivings and go with the flow, but at this point, sorry, I’m still recovering from the Ashk induced trauma and the Rohail/Madiha pair is a bit too fresh in my mind.
In sharp contrast, Sanam Saeed rocked as Kashaf. I loved her in Mera Naseeb, then Mata-e Jaan and now this one. I’m so glad that Sanam is selective about what she does and then gives it her all. She is playing the angry and frustrated Kashaf to the hilt. Her scenes with her sisters were very good. I enjoyed seeing Mansha Pasha again. Her character’s pleasant nature a perfect foil to Sanam’s easily irritable Kashaf. Hina Bayat was lovely as always, but I have a feeling that this role will require more than a special effort on her part to make it even the slightest bit convincing for me. Ayesha Omar was likeable as Sara, and I liked her connection with her older brother, Zaroon. Similarly enjoyed the quick scene between Sara and Farhan, but the dialogues there were way too mature for people who are only in their early twenties. Mehreen was cute and I liked her as Asmara, but again the Ashk-effect…
Above and beyond all, this was Samina Peerzada’s episode. She is just beyond fabulous. This hard working single mother is so different from the wise Durre- Shehwaar, and the naseehat spouting naani of Shehr-e Zaat. This performance was a master class in acting. I love the way she can change her body language, her physical demeanor, her tone, her look, everything … there was no hint of my beloved naani here, though they said somewhat similar things, but the manner was so different The scene at the very end, beginning with when she’s wrapping up the sandwich in paper, to when she walks off with her broken chappal in her hand – just excellent!
Of course all this would not be possible without the writer, Umera Ahmed, and the director Sultana Siddiqui. Umera’s story is interesting and the changes and additions add more texture to the original story, but I wish that the dialogues, which are otherwise lovely, could have been tempered to fit the ages of the characters. Since this story is not being told retrospectively, some of the lines seem really weighty. Sultana Siddiqui’s experience was very much on display here, particularly in her narration of Kashaf’s part of the story, and the final sequence was the pick of the episode for me. I also enjoyed the way the diary part was integrated within the body of the story without making it stick out, as it did in the novel. Shehzad Kashmiri’s work once again stood out, and the editing was very smooth, in short all the hallmarks of an MD Productions product were on full display here.
My one request to MD Productions: Please do not give away so much in promos - there was a lingering sense of déjà vu throughout this episode. That element of anticipation, which is so very important, particularly in the case of an adaptation, was completely missing. Right from the opening scene, we had already seen so many of the snippets. Please, would greatly appreciate it, if somebody could pay attention to this issue.
All said n done, kya zindagi gulzar hai? My answer, yes! I have issues here n there but overall I am hooked and onboard – agla jumma kab aayega?
Written by SZ~