There are some serials that wow at first look – they grab your attention right away and hook you from the get go. Then there are the others that take time to grow on you. You are not compelled to drop everything and watch, but nonetheless there is something about them, be it the story, the actors, or the director, that causes you to catch up on them at some point during the week. There is just enough of that something extra that makes it different from the okay-I-watched-it once-and-am-never-gonna-go-back-to-it again run of the mill serial. You kinda keep keep watching them till one day, BOOM, the serial all of a sudden comes alive and the deal is sealed. For me Bari Apa is one such serial, and today it got me. Here’s how it went …
This was one serial I had been eagerly anticipating. To begin with, that it was penned by Samira Fazal made it a must watch in my book. Once the cast was announced, stalwarts like Nauman Ejaz, Savera Nadeem, Sajida Syed, Aisha Khan, Arjumand Raheem, alongside Jibran, Madiha Rizvi, Waqas Khan, Fahad Mirza, and others, and that it was an MD Productions serial, with the cherry on the cake Shahzad Kashmiri as the DOP, it seemed like a done deal – this is what I was gonna watch on Saturdays. But after the first episode I was kinda, ummm how do I say it, not exactly put off, but not really jumping for joy either. Somehow, somewhere, that X-factor seemed to be missing. I thought back to how I had gone back to watching the first episode of Kuch Pyar ka Pagalpan three four times in that first week, similarly for Shehr-e Zaat, I watched that episode thrice that first day before sitting down to write a glowing review. What was off with Bari Apa?
The right ingredients were all there, I fell in love with choti apa right away. Arjumand Raheem brings her character alive with such color and vibrance that its hard not to smile whenever she’s on screen – such a patakha she is. While choti apa was easy to love for her chulbulapan, for me Savera Nadeem’s fantastically played bari apa was much more intriguing. Ostensibly stern, dominating, interfering in everybody’s life, and detested by younger family members, there was something about her, a sense of vulnerability that hinted at a deeper pain.Her relationship with her mother was very interesting. Why did her mother seem so indebted, so afraid of her elder daughter? For how long had bari apa been looking after her mother and siblings? Why was there so much tension between the sisters? The chemistry between bari apa and her behnoi also was a huge question mark. Clearly there were secrets that we were not privy to, that would come later. For the time being, the first few episodes seemed like a bash bari apa party, and that was a big put off for me. Knowing Samira’s writing, I knew we would not be served black n white characters, but the first couple of episodes seemed to be going that way and I was kind of disappointed.
The other character that fascinated is bari apa’s husband, Farman, brilliantly underplayed by Nauman Ejaz. Thank you casting director (Momina Duraid?) for rescuing Nauman from the iron shackles of his wadera avatar. Whenever I see such an obsequious husband, like Mr. Farman, my wife meter goes into red alert mode. Surely this husband is not for real? As far as I can see Mr. Farman is no farmanbardar, nope far from it – methinks he has to be the top contender for the ghunna meesna shohar of the year award. Five episodes in and so far he is still hiding behind his I’m-the-shohar-of-century facade. Can we just get on with it, please! I’m sure Aisha Khan’s fans are waiting impatiently as well!
Bari apa’s relationship with her brother is very sensitively played out. Jibran is very good as the helpless brother. Clearly bari apa looks out for him like her son, shes probably been taking care of him since he was a boy; but the problem is that boy is now a hapless man who is sadly torn between his wife and his bari apa. Bari apa is usually on the mark in what she says, but bechari ka probem yeh hai ke rather than being politically correct and “suggesting,” she commands and expects to be obeyed. Add to that the quite immature bhabhi, an out to create mischief choti nand, and an unempowered saas, and you have all the indications of a disaster in the making.
Samira’s script is strongly knit, her dialogues are appealingly simple, no long monologues or literary language here – this how we speak in our daily lives. The humor, a strong feature of the script is not contrived, rather it derives from situations in everyday life, which is a huge selling point. Every character is very clearly defined with its own distinct personalities. Director Saife Hasan has done a commendable job in situating the characters in relation to bari apa, the pivot around whom the story revolves. Shahzad Kashmiri’s signature camerawork adds so much to the graph of storytelling by ensuring that even the most fleeting of expressions are beautifully captured.
So, with all these positives, why was I on the fence till now? I think for me the biggest culprit was the pace of the story, it was really mellow. I understand that the story needs time to come into its own, but for the first four episodes it seemed like there was just a lot of talking, without anything big really happening. The scenes seemed really long. Some of the scenes, between the newcomers particularly, seemed to stretch forever. Granted, its not fair that on the one hand we bemoan the lack of new faces, and then we see them we still complain, but there has to be some kind of training required before newcomers can be given substantial roles in bigger projects. Sara Khan looks pretty and has the screen presence to go a long way, but at this point she is nowhere near ready. Similarly Fahad Mirza, he’s the best of the three youngsters, but he too needs time. In short, the newcomers are the weakest link in the chain. So far we’ve seen no aww-going moments and there is zero chemistry between the younger couple, which means that my mind wanders while they are on screen – and I’m sure that’s not what the BA team wants since in this age of the plethora of channels and ready remotes, wandering minds lead to eventually wandering viewers.
What changed finally? Well, for starters, in episode 5, the story picked up steam and ran at lightning speed. All of a sudden it seemed like all everybody had woken up and there were fireworks onscreen. Where was all this hidden for so long? Why did it take a whole month to generate momentum? Savera Nadeem is great, no questioning that, but today she was fabulous. Her face off with Isa, Fahad Mirza, was brilliant, as was her showdown with Riffat, her bhabhi. Many of the skeletons hidden in the family closet were tantalizingly hinted at in this episode. We were shown the human side of bari apa, contrasted against a darker side of choti apa, as she adroitly manipulated the bhabhi to stand up to bari apa. Clearly choti apa is more than a bubbly personality. How far will she go in her desire to one up bari apa? When will the easily-led bhabi realize that she is being played? Will Riffat eventually quit whining, take a realistic look at her life and cut out her farmaishi program? Will she realize that her incessant demands are driving her poor husband insane? And will it be too late before bari apa opens her eyes to see that her domineering attitude is nullifying all the good deeds she’s been doing all her life? When and how will Farman show his true colors? Where has the second wife been kept hidden all these years? Why does she appear now? Formidable as she appears, can bari apa handle this, the biggest challenge of her life?
Tons of questions, looking forward to the answers – yes, count me in for the ride!
Written by SZ~