Breaking away from the current trend, boy meets girl and after requisite twists and turns they live happily ever after, the first chapter of Numm looked and sounded different. Written by Myra Sajid, directed by Ahson Talish and produced by Amjad Hashmi, this new Fawad Khan and Sania Saeed starrer has started off on a strong note.
Numm is the story of a young Oxford grad Wali Bakht, a man burdened by the weight of archaic traditions and regressive feudal customs. Married off at a very young age to a much older Mahjabeen, Wali is frustrated and embarrassed by this relationship in equal measures. And, as if one unwanted wife was not bad enough, the minute he lands home he is blithely informed about a second marriage; this time to his bachpan ki mangetar, a more suitable although considerably younger and immature Neelam. Needless to say our protagonist is not thrilled at this prospect.
Nonetheless, chafe as he may, Wali is nobody’s fool. Going against the old despot’s diktats would mean giving up the bells and whistles of a luxurious lifestyle that he enjoys as Sikander Bakht’s only grandson. An Oxonian he may well be, but Wali is as pragmatic as they come… as he tells Neelam, these are long standing customs which cannot be changed overnight. Long live feudalism! Long live patriarchy!
The first episode did a good job of introducing the central characters and establishing the web of relationships in quick succession. Even as Wali is the pivot around whom the story revolves, we got a lovely insight into the very complex characters of Mahjabeen and Amtul, two women who share a special bond – both victims of a patriarchal system where a man’s death is to be avenged at all costs, but a woman’s life, her wishes and desires, hold no value whatsoever.
Amtul’s choice of reading, Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss, was especially apt in more ways than one. I LOVED that scene between Farah Shah and Sania Saeed; beautifully penned, directed and acted, this was the scene of the episode for me.
Numm boasts of a heavy duty star cast, including names like Sania Saeed, Fawad Khan, Usman Peerzada, Nasreen Qureshi, and Farah Shah. All these stalwarts need no introduction and gave a stellar account of themselves in the first episode. I was glad to see Fawad Khan shed off his Hum TV patented shohar avatar and challenge himself with a darker role. It is also great to see Farah Shah back on the screen after ages. I last remember her in Landa Bazar and Boota from Tooba Tek Singh. Today, Fawad, Farah and Sania impressed with their body language and expressions. I look forward to seeing Fawad pitted against the brilliant Sania Saeed, as Wali struggles to come to terms with his manifold feelings for Mahjabeen. As for Kanza Wyne, I almost feel sorry for the newcomer. Acting alongside accomplished stars like Sania, Fawad, Usman Peerzada & Co. must’ve been no easy task and I give Kanza full marks for trying; but while she looks the part, despite her cakey makeup, she has a very long way to go as an actress.
Her character nonetheless is very interesting with many layers, as Neelam transitions from being a pampered brat to becoming a second wife; one who goes from hating her husband to falling for him, fighting her rival Mahjabeen for Wali’s attention and affection. But then again, is Mahjabeen really her rival? It is to the writer’s credit for giving the age old triangle a very new twist.
In many ways this was a director’s episode, and Ahson Talish showcased his story telling skills well. The narrative was evenly paced and the scenes were short and crisp, with no long-winded dialogues. The flashbacks were seamlessly inserted so as to root the story in the past. I have not seen/read Myra Sajid’s work before, so I’m looking forward to seeing how her story develops from hereon. The DOP, Qasim Ali Mureed, has done full justice to the scenic setting. The magnificent interiors have been aptly captured to convey a closed-in feeling, a sense of suffocation, particularly in the scene with Sania and Farah; this darkness has then been beautifully offset with scenes shot in the lush, bright exteriors.
The play of light and shadows was very well done. I love how the magnificent haveli is being is being used as an analogy here, many a dark secrets hiding behind its opulent facade. Looking forward to seeing how and when these secrets are revealed.
Overall, this was an effective first episode and I enjoyed it. I cannot, however, end my review without mentioning the horrible background score which was a major turn off, ruining the evocative mood of the story and its setting. The other thing that stuck out was careless editing; the scene when Wali lashed out at Mahjabeen for walking in on him and his friends… err… when did that happen? Wasn’t Wali sleeping when his friend heard the knock on the door. How then did Wali know that it was Mahjabeen at the door? Finally, could someone please check and decide on the correct spelling of the writer’s name – is it Maira or Myra?
So, how many of you watched the first episode? What did you guys think? Looking forward to reading your take!
Written by SZ~