Firaaq, written by Mustafa Afridi, directed by Aabis Raza and produced by MD Productions, is a story of separations, estrangements, alienations and distances, be they actual or metaphorical.
Tabasum, the matriarch of the family, has fears and insecurities galore which have manifested themselves as severe control issues, which in turn have estranged her from her children. She and Payman, her daughter, live together in the same house but are as emotionally distant from each other as two strangers sharing a bus ride – fellow travelers but each experiencing the journey very differently. Shams, her son, on the other hand is physically distant from her in that he has moved out of the house and is now living with his wife of three years, Sara. Haider, Payman and Shams’ stepfather and another member of this dysfunctional family, is also not spared Tabasum’s wrath as she never misses any chance of belittling him, husband or no husband.
Having grown up with such a curmudgeon of a mother was bound to have an impact on her childrens’ psyche, and so we find Shams has anger management issues, which show up in his interactions with his wife, and Payman is somebody who has retreated within herself, going through life like a zombie. Her deadpan voice, expressionless eyes and impassive face all are indicators of the damage that years of emotional abuse have wrought on this girl. She tries to speak up now and again, but the constant censure and put downs render any rebellion, no matter how minuscule, ineffective. While Shams has a loving wife who is trying to rescue him from his past and help him live life anew, Payman, so far, has nobody. Without any friends and confidantes, all she has for support is her kind well-meaning stepfather, but given his own lowly position in the family hierarchy, there is not much help he can offer in concrete terms. Peripheral so far, to the main track are Roomi, Shams and Sara’s mutual friend, and Imroz, a family therapist.
As far as first episodes go this was an interesting opening. Mustafa Afridi’s script did a good job of introducing the various characters and their character traits, the dialogues were meaningful and relationships were established fairly quickly and the pacing was good as well. Firaaq is director Aabis Raza’s third outing with a story that delves deep into the human psyche. The first one, Kadurat, was an unqualified disaster, from writing to directing to acting, everything was a hot mess. Main Deewani too failed to make an impact. This time around I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that third time’s the charm. While overall okay, I thought there was an over use of Uzma Gilani’s closeups; Tabasum is a “bad” person, the script made it pretty clear, then why the need to over exaggerate? The opening scene, Shams and Sara’s exchange of words, lacked in dramatic tension. Also, the visual narrative was jumpy, the cuts from one scene to another seemed abrupt and the dubbing of all outdoor scenes was noticeably off. The constant, not to mention loud, background score was a constant irritant. The biggest irritant of all though, and a huge reason why I stopped watching Mustafa Afridi’s earlier serial Aseerzadi, is MD’s penchant for giving away the story. Here too, the Firaaq FB page has obligingly given away at least 2/3rds of the story. Just because novel based dramas have become popular in recent times does not mean that viewers expect, or want, to have the entire story revealed to them before the drama has even aired – we don’t!
So with the story already known and a director I’m on the fence about, why did I even bother watching? The actors. Uzma Gilani alone is reason enough to watch any serial, and even though her Tabasum was a bit too in your face, I still loved watching her. It was fab to see Mazhar Ali back on screen and doing well after his recent health scare. Sanam Saeed is an actress who pretty much never disappoints (although Kadurat, Ek Kasak Reh Gayee and Shukk did push me to the edge), and here too she was fantastic. Mohib Mirza was good, although I wasn’t impressed by Imroz’s skills as a therapist, and Junaid Khan seemed to have added half a note more to his usual one note acting. Noor Hassan’s Roomi didn’t have much to do today, but from the now-revealed-storyline it seems like he will have more of a role to play, so looking forward to that. Cybil Chaudhry looked the part and sounded the part, although her voice was badly dubbed, but she still has a ways to go as far as expressions are concerned. The sequence where Sara met Tabasum and was later introduced to Payman was telling of Cybil’s inexperience.
Overall, inspite of a bump here and there, and despite the revealed story line, the first episode interested me enough that I am looking forward to the next installment. Here’s to hoping this one stays the course and there is no firaaq between me and the serial! So that, friends, is my take, what about yours?
Written by SZ~
Firaaq ~ OST