I loved the first episode. Staring at my screen with childlike wonder, eyes wide open and mouth agape, It felt like I had been left loose in Disney Land. Kiya kiya dekhoon aur kidhar kidhar dekhoon. But that was last week and this was today. Now that I was over the initial wah wah, I thought there was no way this one could measure up to the bar set by the opening chapter. Michele would be more crusty and less likeable, my cynical drama-ed out self told me. Jamshed and his non stop Amreeka chalo taan would surely grate, Rizwan’s charm would feel oily, Salma, would turn out to be a typical desi heroine, smitten by her knight in shining armor, and even if Vasay Chaudhry and Mehreen Jabbar managed to steer clear of all these pitfalls, then surely the larger the larger than life aapkey bhai hamarey bhai saarey muhalley ke bhai Bhatti bhai would do them in. And then of course there were the 101 tracks in the story – how would they ever manage to keep them straight? So yes, given the number of recent serials that have flailed and failed after a flashy opening, I was all ready and prepared to be let down yet again.
My fears, however, were unfounded. Thank you Vasay Ch and Mehreen J! I am thrilled to report that the second episode was actually better knit than the first one. Though Bhatti bhai was still all over the episode, his track was beautifully interlaced with the other developing ones. The pace was nicely maintained, and even though the episode spanned only one day not once did I feel the narrative stagnate. Given that Jackson Heights boasts a huge ensemble cast, I love how the existing characters are being gently fleshed out and new ones gradually woven into the narrative.
The second episode introduced us to bhabhi Bhatti, Kathy, a realtor with two kids from an earlier marriage. While at first glance bhabhi ji and her bacchas seems to be the stereotypical gori family. Kathy shows no respect for her desi husband, doesn’t think twice before cussing him out, her children are rude to their oh so caring step-father, but wait, before you start shedding tears for Bhatti bhai and pull up a chair and join him in his pity party … know, that this is not the complete picture. Yes, he thinks he’s a mazloom shohar and biwi does not give him his due and does not heed his well-meaning advice for her children, but what he is conveniently forgetting is the marriages are not just about the wife respecting her sar[ka]taj, rather this is a relationship that works only when both partners put in equal effort. Efforts such as not interrupting your wife while she’s on a business call, and most certainly not forgetting to collect the child after school, all are a part and parcel of what makes a shaadi work. But what to do hamarey Bhatti bhai ko fursat kahan?
Ji bilkul, where is the time to remember inane stuff like school runs? No, no, Bhatti bhai has more important stuff on his plate. Stalking girls, chatting them up, and regaling them with the sachi kahaniyan of his life, all these are a lot more zaroori, nahin? Love, love, the way the character of Bhatti sahab has been sketched out and then beautifully brought alive by Nauman Ijaz. It would have been very easy to play this up to the point where it became a caricature or played under such that it fell flat, and so full credit to Mehreen for keeping Imran Bhatti on a tight leash. He is overwhelming and larger than life, but manages to hit just the right note. Nauman Ijaz is fantastic. His confused broken English, his halal pity parties, that wide subah Binaca shaam Binaca grin he wears when he is with the ladies of Haseena Beauty Parlor, you cant help but fall for this guy.
In sharp contrast to Bhatti bhai’s khaalis desi ghee ka bana hua mard, Rizwan is the urbane, man about town. Though miles apart in terms of socio-economic status and their life experiences, it is fascinating to see how both men have a certain mindset when it comes to their dealings with women. Last week Bhatti was conveniently deciding what and where and when Salma should work, lo and behold this week we had Rizwan. Despite Michele’s adamant refusal, Rizwan continued to press her on the issue of attending a mutual friend’s housewarming party. Whatever Michele’s issues are, and I do think there is a story here that’s yet to unfold, Rizwan should’ve respected her choice and let the issue slide. But no, in this regard he was no different that his cabbie counterpart. What made him different though was that he did apologize later. While he seems to be a really nice guy, a good friend to the troubled Michele, there is something about him that I don’t like. Ab, only time will tell if my gut was wrong or not. Meanwhile Adnan Jaffar and Marina Khan are so so good. All their scenes are a delight.
Back home in Pakistan, we see yet another study of a desi man, Jamshed. I like how there are layers to his character. Even as he is blinded by his desire to go abroad, at some level his frustration is relatable and understandable. In a country where sifarish and rishwat are terms even a child is familiar with and where there is an entire generation that is unaware of the concept of uninterrupted electric supply, it is hard to blame him for his frustrations. On the other hand, life abroad is not without its own fair share of challenges. I enjoyed this seldom seen nuance.
Another place where I appreciated the writing was when Jamshed was listing all the comforts Imran had provided for his family, conveniently left out of this count were his own pocket-money and the fancy bike he was happily riding. Has he ever considered that he too is no different from his leechar relatives, all of whom see Imran as a handy dandy ATM card, one that came with an unlimited balance. So yes, angry man, maami ji is right, instead of intezaar-ing for the Amreeka ka visa why not start a job in the meanwhile. At least phir naani ko tau naashtey ke paise nahin deney parenge! While I find maami ji’s screaming OTT, maamu jaan is a real character, love his Kala Kola-ed hair! Adeel is as hot n happening as ever and I really like the girl playing his girlfriend.
Among the ladies, Michele is not the only whose story interests me, Salma is another one who has me intrigued. Aamina Sheikh hasn’t had much to say as yet, but a snatched conversation here a hint there, we sense that this girl is hiding something. She doesn’t want her family to know her whereabouts and there is someone else in the picture, someone who is not pulling their share of the weight, leaving her to deal with unpleasant task of scraping together money to pay her rent. While her roommate is yet to make an entry, I am thoroughly enjoying the camaraderie between Aliya and Salma. Meher Jaffri is fun to watch and her bubbly character sets off the relatively darker Salma. Aamina Sheikh is very good here.
Yes, so far really happy with what I’ve seen. Vasay’s script provides a nice balance between the light and dark moments, and I am loving his signature humor. Mehreen is as impressive as ever, totally at the top of her game, never losing sight of the bigger picture even as she creates memorable moments. And yes, on MJ, how many of you caught her “guest appearance” here. Visually MJ’s serials are always a delight and this one is no different. The sense of everyone seeing only a part of the picture – their part – is exquisitely conveyed through the framing of many scenes. The eclectic mix of tracks used in the background is well chosen, a Nazia Hasan here some jazz there – good stuff this! All n all a winner of an episode!
Written by SZ~
P.S. Thought I’d share this video of nani ki jawani with you all … yes, Jamshed’s nani and Imran’s amma is played by none other than Naghma, a famous film star in the hey days of Lollywood – Enjoy!