Three episodes in and I have to say that despite my reservations I am enjoying the manner in which Zindagi Gulzar Hai is unfolding. No, I’m not entirely on board as yet,and my problems with characterizations are rapidly adding up, but there is something mesmerizing about the conviction with which Sultana Siddiqui is narrating this otherwise routine story. Like an enchantress she waves her wand and you cannot help but suspend belief and get sucked into this crazy gulzar world, where 22 yr old boys/men with over-gelled hair love Julia Roberts, mothers snap at their grown children for no rhyme or reason, and daughters have the temerity to behave so rudely with heir fathers. Sultana Apa’s absolute belief in the otherwise problematic characters shines through brilliantly as she smoothly transitions between Zaroon’s and Kashaf’s stories. From Zaroon’s carefree attitude to Kashaf’s more stressful life, from Ghazala’s bizarre behavior to more of Murtaza’s bluster, from Rafia’s iron will to Junaid’s self-inflicted mazloomiat, from Sara’s rudeness to Sidra’s concern, we saw all shades of contrasts, contradictions and comparisons. Though I still can’t buy into the characters and their motivations, I can feel their anger, pain, joy, humiliation, bitterness, envy – you name it and I felt it today! Kudos to Sultana Siddiqui and her actors for breathing life into an otherwise not so gulzar zindagi!
This latest episode opened with Zaroon trying to gather his wits after being thoroughly told off by a very irate Kashaf. I had hoped that we would get an insight into why Zaroon had been so eager to strike up a conversation with a random girl, but alas that was not to be. About Zaroon, I must say he comes across as one confused and contradictory character. To begin with, we see him as a very carefree, almost immature 22 yr old, chewing gum and rudely shouldering women aside to look for his name on the merit list. He has problems being punctual, prefers to hang out with friends, girls and guys, rather than focusing on his studies, and has no qualms about stealing cookies from his professor uncle’s plate. But on the other hand, the same Zaroon is shown as a conservative mature guy with firm ideas about how a girl should dress and is already thinking about the kind of wife he wants, and is quite comfortable discussing his parents’ relationship. I’m not exactly sure how Zaroon is justifying all these contradictory thoughts, but I am having a hard time trying to meld all these facets together. That said, I have to give props to Sultana Apa and Fawad for doing such a fabulous job with Zaroon’s split personality. I couldn’t help but smile when Zaroon talking about his full be-izzati program, and later pointing his imaginary gun at Kashaf and blowing her ego to smithereens. Can hardly wait for the actual showdown to begin!
Kashaf’s character on the other hand is so much more even keeled – she’s bitter, insecure, angry, frustrated – we get her so much more easily. Unlike Zaroon, there are no contradictions here. Sanam is fantastic as Kashaf. It would be so easy to get tired of hearing the same old same old rants, but there is once again such conviction in her portrayal, that I cannot help but feel for her. I am very intersted in seeing how and when Kashaf turns a corner and sees the ray of sunshine peeking out from behind those clouds of doom and gloom. It is fabulous the way in which Kashaf’s darkness is beautifully offset by Sidra’s brighter more easy going personality. This is not to say that Sidra is an empty-headed girl, unaffected by the going-ons. No, she does see and absorb everything around her, and gets equally disturbed. The scene between Rafia and Sidra, after the OTT Murtaza had left, was a beautiful illustration of the very close bond Rafia shares with her second daughter. I am thoroughly enjoying the Kashaf, Sidra and Shehnila moments. Love how Kashaf comes home and discusses her day with her sisters, and that chai and Aspirin scene was a lot of fun. They are so different, but the bond between the sisters is beautiful, particularly the older two. Mansha Pasha and Sanam Saeed are fabulous together!
From one fabulous pair to the other not so fabulous one – I am at a loss when it comes to Ghazala. I have yet to come across a more unrelatable character. Who is she?? I really hope we get some insight into her issues, ’cause this is one woman who has serious problems! Junaid is another character I cannot fathom. Why has he compromised so easily? He calls his wife ehmaq, but isn’t he equally complicit? Surely there are better ways in which two educated people could have handled things earlier on? And, if Junaid does have problems with Ghazala’s attitude and understands her shortcomings, why wasn’t he more involved in his children’s lives earlier? Is raising children solely a woman’s domain? Maybe if he’d been more involved, Sara would be a nicer person. That said, I absolutely loved the Zaroon and Junaid scenes and also the Zaroon and Sir Abrar scenes. Once again, bought into the premise because of the fabulous performances.
On a related note, I found it interesting that Zaroon greets his father with a salaam and his mom with a Hi. Is Ghazala that far away from all semblance of culture and religion that her son realizes that she would not take kindly to being greeted in a “desi” manner? Don’t think I’m liking the way this woman is being shown. Also not liking the no-lifer Asmara. Can she find something else to do other than just hang around Zaroon? Similarly, I do not understand what Sara does with her time all day long. Surely she has other things to do than just hanging out with Farhan and her other friends. Also, wow! could she be any ruder to her to her father? Not liking these stereotypes at all! Could we see a more human side please??
On being human, I guess we saw as much humanity as we are ever going to see in Murtaza’s character. We’ve talked about him so much last week, so I’ll wait to red what you all thought, but I did enjoy the brief glimpse of Murtaza’s eklauta beta, Hammad. He seems like a pleasant enough chap, and seemed quite polite with Rafia, and now I want to know about his relation with Kashaf baji and his other two step-sisters. Murtaza’s second wife is the stereotypical sautan – and so no surprise in that she goads him on about his position as the head of the family in Rafia’s house. I’m not sure why she’s so eager to see Kashaf married – what does she hope to gain out of it? Looking forward to more on these issues.
During the whole Murtaza business, I appreciated the way Rafia stood her ground and refused bhaiyee sahab ke betey ka rishta. Loved Samina Peerzada as the iron-willed Rafia here. From her resigned expression after Murtaza left, it was clear that they had had several such arguments before, and she was fed of fighting him at every step of the way. But then, why was she so eager to share the good news with him last week? Surely she didn’t expect him to change colors for that one moment?
For an episode which functioned as a gradual build up to the upcoming Zaroon-Kashaf moment, there was certainly a lot of food for thought here. The even pace of the narrative and the smooth transitioning between the two threads was very well done. Unlike other dramas, where boy meets girl and they get married within the first few episodes, I like how Umera Ahmed and Sultana Apa have taken the time to develop their characters – whether I agree or disagree with these characters is a whole other matter. Finally, I must commend the production team, the technical team, editing, and camerawork, for giving this serial such a beautiful look and feel. The judicious placement of the instrumental version of the OST in the background adds much to the overall ambiance.
Looking forward to seeing what next Friday has in store for us!
Written by SZ~