Our dramas pride themselves on being issue based and rightly so – majority of our serials are in some shape or form an explicit or implicit social critique, highlighting the various ills plaguing our society. The problem aajkal though is that 99% of these serials revolve around the issue of gharelu masley masa’il, i.e., pyaar, shaadi, bacchey, saas, bahu, bekaar behen, etc … bas in se aagay kuch nahin.
Standing apart from the routine stuff are Coke Kahani and Tanhaiyan Naye Silsilay. Different yet similar, these two make for an interesting comparison. To begin with, both have 13 episodes – a heartfelt thank you to whoever is responsible for this! Moreover, both are far from being the routine masley masai’l serials. Yes they have maslaas and tons of them, but they are dealt with in very different and, more importantly, creative ways. There are biwis and shohars in both these serials, but again they are thora hat ke. Asfand and Maya are estranged, but their relationship is not the be all and end all of Coke Kahani. Similarly, Sania is unmarried, but the Tanhaiyan in the title is not a reference to her bachelorette status. Nusrat-Mutma’in and Aani-Faran are as far as can be from the typical bored retired TV couples, who derive immense pleasure from interfering in other people’s lives. Yes like others, there is pyar mohabbat in both serials as well, but again thori alag, thori squeet. The big thing that ties these two serials together is their humorous undertone. In a time where almost every drama is trying to one up the other on the boatloads of tears shed – these two serials stand out for their ability to coax a smile from the most jaded viewer.
In terms of relationships portrayed, both go beyond the usual ghar ki chaardiwari. In Coke Kahani, Zoya has cousins, friends and friends of friends helping her with the renovations of her father’s failing restaurant. We also see extended family in the form of Nusrat and Mutmai’n and their tenant. The ensemble cast of Coke Kahani is in great form here. Its fabulous to see the way the writers, Mohammad Ahmed and Yasir Rana, have knitted these relationships together, keeping various tracks apart yet together. A beautiful story, this one cuts across social divides and ethnic boundaries. MJ then takes the visual narrative to a whole other level, the story telling interspersed with shots of the bustling city of Karachi. The slice of life visuals are a touch of genius, firmly grounding the story in cosmopolitan Karachi, a mini Pakistan – home to people of all stripes and hues, not just a particular sect or group. The superb cinematography and slick editing come together beautifully to give us the signature glossy look of Coke Kahani.
Likewise in Tanhaiyan Naye Silsilay, we see not just the nuclear family of Aani, Faran and Sania, but also the well-etched characters of Bibi and Chandni. With Zain, Zenia and Serena’s arrival there are quite a few characters here. And as if these are not enough, we get Qabacha and his son Iltumish. Add to that Mona and her coworker at the Youth Center and last but not least Zarak Khan, we have a full house. But again, here too Mohammad Ahmed weaves these characters with great skill and Marina Khan breathes life into this complex web of purane and naye silsilay with great style. For most part the cast, an interesting mix of youth and experience, is giving an excellent account of themselves. The only exception here is the very charming but relatively inexperienced Shehryar Munawar. Though better in shorter sequences, he falls apart in the longer scenes and many a great moments are destroyed because of his inability to emote effectively.
Though Coke Kahani and Tanhaiyan Naye Silsilay boast very different story lines they share similar concerns. Both promote cultural values, depict strong familial bonds, and both, Coke Kahani explicitly and Tanhaiyan implicitly, are concerned about the prevailing law and order situation in Pakistan. We see Maya as so traumatized by the conditions that she fled to Florida six years ago. Even now when she’s back, she cannot help but worry about Zoya’s safety. In Tanhaiyan, Zenia’s biggest concern about living in Pakistan is the lack of security. Her close encounter with Pakistanis of the daaku kind, has only strengthened this fear. What I like here, is that rather than just pointing to problems we are also shown solutions. Zarak Khan, for instance, is also bothered by similar frustrations, but rather than fleeing, he chooses to fight by building schools in tribal areas. Similarly, Sania runs a Youth Center, where presumably she helps the younger generation choose the right options for their future life. The message here is that educating our populace and providing them with viable job opportunities is the only way forward. Coke Kahani too is all about empowering the youth. The future is in their hands – whether they choose to litter Pakistan’s streets with empty soda bottles or opt for cleaning the same streets is now up to them.
More importantly, though highlighting problems, these serials do not dwell on doom and gloom, neither do they wait till the last episode to show a resolution. In Coke Kahani, Zoya and Rayan have already found a sponsor and are now eagerly working towards getting Alfonso back on its feet. Perhaps Jugnu will now think twice before running off to Germany. Zarak too has managed to convince Zenia to give life in Pakistan one fair shot. It would have been so much easier for him to have moved abroad and lived a comfortable life with her, but as he says there is no point in talking the talk if one cannot walk the walk. Building a few schools in a remote area is perhaps a very small step in the long drawn battle against the endemic problems plaguing our country, but, as Malala Yusufzai has shown us, this is a battle we have to fight together as a nation, one individual at a time.
Irrespective of how these serials fare in the incomprehensible race for TRPs, I as a viewer am thoroughly enjoying this break from the routine. Thank you Team CK and Team TNS for the breath of fresh air. I hope that rather than being one-offs, these serials are part of a new trend of something different something hat ke … Fingers crossed!
Written by SZ~