I’m kind of in two minds about how to review this episode. A part of me wants to go gaga and rightly heap praises on the lead pair, the direction and cinematography. On the other hand though, I can’t help but shake my head wearily at the starkly etched out black and white characters and the hackneyed story line. Not sure how to go about doing this, but in all honestly can’t do one without the other, so here it goes …
After the brilliant ending last week, the second episode started off on a strong note with Kashaf in the university, looking for her name in the merit list. The milling around of real students provided a lovely backdrop for Kashaf and Zaroon’s pehla taakra, which was excellent! Zaroon is arrogance personified; he walks with a swagger and doesn’t care who he has to shove around to get to where he wants to go. In sharp contrast Kashaf with her downcast eyes is too busy musing about her social circumstances, comparing her mother’s tooti hui chappal with the well-shod feet of the people around her. This was a very well done scene; the elite academic institution juxtaposed against the more ho hum institutional setting of the school where Rafia, Kashaf’s mom, teaches. The stained corridor of Rafia’s school provided a stark contrast to the beautifully designed setting of the Indus Valley campus, visually underscoring the difference between the privileges of the classes and the bare necessities of the masses.
Kashaf and Zaroon’s admission to the same elite institution sets up the premise for the rest of the episode. Kashaf’s bonding with her family is truly special; I loved the way everybody gathered around to hear about her day, and her mom and sisters were so happy for her. Though Kashaf is generally embittered, and would probably describe herself as angry with the world in general, there are the rare moments when she is happy. Though she would probably never recognize her feelings as those of joy, but that rare smile of satisfaction, at heading the merit list, her taxi ride back home and buying mithai to celebrate the occasion, tells a different story.
In some ways it is not hard to see why Kashaf is angry with the world. Her mother, fabulous as she is, is really hard for me to understand. Her husband is an absolute nincompoop, and if her daughters realize this and we can figure it out in two episodes, why does Rafia not get this as yet? Why does she continue to seek Murtaza’s approval and expect him to celebrate her children’s achievements? Also don’t get why, despite her own experience, Rafia sees marriage as the be all and end all to a woman’s existence; is marrying well the only goal a woman should aspire to? She is completely supportive of Kashaf’s desire to pursue a higher degree, but then this dichotomy in her behavior leaves not only me but Kashaf aggravated as well. I would be equally if not more so angry with men, if a ranting lunatic like Murtaza were the only male role model in my life. Amidst all this chaos, I like the way Sidra navigates her way through life. She escapes in to her own fantasy world, and I love the way she humorously shuts out Kashaf’s rants. The sisters’ bonding is very sweet and their scenes always leave me with a smile on face.
On the other side of the metaphorical tracks, life is very different for our hero Zaroon. He is rich, looks like a million bucks, has a deadly smile, sings like a dream, and as if all that is not enough, he is intelligent to boot- sigh! So there should be no problems in his life, right? Wrong! Zaroon’s annoyances stem from his sister’s unreasonable behavior towards her fiancé in particular and her attitudes towards men in general. Sarah is stubborn and spoilt and her behavior irks Zaroon to no end. Sarah’s behavior though is a mirror image of her mother’s my-way-or-the-highway approach to life and her casual attitude towards her family and home. Unlike Ghazala, Junaid is more laid back and seems spineless. Zaroon’s conservatism and chauvinism grow out of his frustrations with his parents’ different personalities.
The episode ended with the much awaited first clash between our naraaz haseena and the handsome hunk. We’d been waiting for this scene since the promos and it did not disappoint for even one second. I have to specially commend Umera and Sultana Siddiqui for the way the churail awwal line was carried over from the first scene to the last scene. Excellent way to bookend the episode and leave us all looking forward to more sparks flying between the two protagonists.
Okay, so far so good. These were the good parts that I thoroughly enjoyed. I absolutely loved Fawad and Sanam here – they’re fabulous! Samina Peerzada continues to be superb. Among others, Mansha Pasha is endearing; Hina Bayat, Ayesha Omar, and Mehreen Raheal do their best to rise above their uni-dimensional characters. Looking forward to seeing more of Maheen Rizvi here. Sultana Siddiqui’s direction was absolutely topnotch. I loved the way the college scenes were shot; using actual students in the scenes was a masterstroke and added the necessary ambiance to the story. Also the contrast between the elite college surroundings and the more humble school was great. Similarly the scenes where Kashaf has to first walk, then find a rickshaw, and later transfer to a bus provided an excellent visual of her hard life. Her tribulations were brilliantly highlighted when we saw the ease with which Zaroon drove up in his fancy car, parked it right outside the entrance and casually walked in to the university.
Shahzad Kashmiri’s cinematography is beautifully done. His visuals capture the essence of the story so well, and Sultana Siddiqui narrates the story with such ease that I cannot help but wonder about the wordiness that we see here. Why is there so much talking? TV is first and foremost a visual medium so we do not need long-winded and at times repetitive dialogues. My other huge beef is with the easy resort to stereotypes. Beginning with Ghazala and Sarah to Murtaza and his second wife and his brother, I cannot help but grit my teeth every time I see these starkly etched out characters. Please could Ghazala be slightly less black, and Murtaza be slightly more likeable? Why do all males have to be such chauvinists? Why do women have to be shown as either gharelu=good or career-oriented=bad? Is it asking for too much for our writers, directors, producers to give us more relateable characters and stop this continued propagation of problematic notions about the elite classes, working women, and modernity? Surely, Mr. Zaroon knows that there’s a middle ground between liberalism and chauvinism?
In the final analysis, while I’m not completely bowled over, I’m very much smitten. The chemistry between Kashaf and Zaroon, Zaroon and Sara, Zaroon and Asmara, and Kashaf and her family is magical. The individual scenes are tender and heartwarming enough to make me temporarily overlook my annoyance with the overall story, the stereotypes and what-nots. I ended the episode with a huge smile on my face, and this is to the credit to Sultana Siddiqui, her talented cast of actors and her technical crew, for rising above the been-there-done-that story and giving us some memorable moments. All deserve a huge round of applause for keeping us thoroughly entertained. Looking forward to more from Zaroon and Co!
Written by SZ~