Sultanat-e Dil, the latest offering from AnB Productions, is written by Myra Sajid, directed by Syed Ali Raza Osama and boasts a long lineup of stars, included among them Asma Abbas, Fazila Kazi, Mazhar Ali, Seemi Pasha, Sami Khan, Sara Khan, Alizey Rasul. The first episode, which aired last Thursday on Geo, also featured a guest appearance by Abdullah Ejaz.
The promos were well-made enough for me to give this one a dekho, magar ab that I have dekho-ed, I sincerely wish I could un-dekho. I don’t know what you all thought, but I could’ve done without this incomprehensible mishmash of formula + a liberal dose of all kinds “inspirations” drawn from various local, Turkish and Star Plus serials and but of course Bollywood (hint, think Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham). And as if all that is not enough, then we got everything times two, as in everything magnified that much more.
A few weeks ago I had bemoaned the lack of originality in our drama serials: “[T]he recent spate of dramas, bar a few exceptions, all seem like a cut paste of each other – old wine in not-so-new bottles. Not only do we have formulas at work, but if a particular twist works for one hit serial, then tau bas! Rest assured we will see at least five hundred if not more rip offs featuring a similar if not the exact same spin. It is no longer about telling an honest story about the human condition. No, now its all about thrills and which serials offers the most – the race for TRPs is on. The story and its writer are dead, long live the ratings.”
Sultanat-e Dil is exactly what I was describing then. Having moved on from the feuding two sisters our producers and channels are now hung up on the two wives formula. So, but of course, by the end of a very happening first episode we have the stage set for a do biwiyan ek shohar scenario. Wajdan Shah’s older brother Farhan Shah dies in a car crash leaving behind a pregnant widow. No points for guessing that the dictatorial mother now wants the younger son to marry her widow bahu, hence ensuring the waris and the milkiyat stays in the family. And ji bilkul, sahi samjhe, bechara chota bhai is not so chota and neither quite a bechara, since he already has a pouting girlfriend waiting in the wings.
Thrown into the mix, adding spice to a ghisa pitta formula, we also have an evil cousin, a khandaani dushmani saga, and the girl friend’s abba too has an axe to grind here. Wajdan’s and Farhan’s mother is not just any old amma, she is begum nawab. Oh, and these guys are no mere jageedars, no, no, that’s old school. Now we talk big, as in owners of riyasats, centuries old at that. As begum nawab puts it: Yeh mulk sarsaTh saal purani hai, mager yeh riyasat teen sau saal purani hai!
Its not just the same-old same-old that got to me though, it was what was done to same-old same-old that left me gobsmacked. First off, where exactly is this riyasat? To me it seemed like a curious mixture of Marwari, Thari, Lukhnawi, Gujrati cultures and languages. I get that there is cinematic license but aisa bhi kiya?!
In the first episode alone we had the amma wearing ghararas with jewelry the designs which defy description, the evil cousin speaking some version of marwari (I’m assuming), a dandiya-fied version of the Rajasthani gair dance, two brothers wearing either sherwanis or three piece suits (even at home at lunch?), Fazila Qazi wearing sarees, the bhabhi, Rania, wearing shaadi type kaam wala joras day n night, the bera/bodyguard/butler wearing a turban, the kind I have only seen on band baja walas, and the body guards wearing ajraks … kuch ajeeb hi haal tha. The weird architectural detailing of the exterior of the nawabs‘ residence – a version of the jharoka clashing with white lions and the ornate details of heavily carved wooden door competing with the border of blue tiles framing the doorway- seemed to sum up the owners’ identity crisis quite succinctly.
From the amma to the betas to the bahu, sab kuch ajeeb. If the mom and bahu changed clothes every minute they were awake, then the older son wore the same, orange/gold brocade mind you, sherwani through most of the first episode. Not once did anybody, neither amma nor biwi, suggest to him ke bhaiya kaprey badal lo.
Whether it was at the rasam, or solving work problems, or trying to get his brother’s love life sorted out, this poor guy was in one outfit – no wonder he opted to die early on …
Much like his older bhai, the younger one too seemed to live in his formal wear – sherwani on a date! And the malaise seemed to have spread to the staff as well. The manager did not seem like he had just been at the scene of a fire, rather, given his chamkila grey suit and maroon tie, it seemed like he had just strolled in from a shaadi, and that too his own.
On the issue of magnification, where other serials had one butler for the uber rich, now we get two attendants flanking Her Highness. Mind you, it’s not just twice the waitstaff but we also got two vases, right next to each other on the sideboard … why just live with one when you could have two? And why not go ahead and have place settings put out for non-existing guests as well… who knows kab kaun aa jaye?
It may seem like nitpicking but my point is why so much OTT-ness? Surely spending money on unbelievably tasteless clothes and jewellery and nonsensically lavish sets does not a mega serial make? How does shooting a janaza scene ( with a plastic sheet over the charpai?!)in patently fake rain serve the purpose of the narrative? Rather than choreographing dances why not spend time on getting the context of the story right? Why not fix what seemed like huge bloopers?
Wajdan was very much in evidence at the party, he was shown dancing and he told his bhabhi and brother he was late because he’d gone to see a girl. Why then did he later apologize to his brother for missing the rasam and hand bhabhi the bouquet of flowers? And if he had already met with Anushay, why did he go meet her again? And on Anushay, she has to get the genius of the year award, what with brilliant dialogues like: bhai ko miss kar rahey ho? Main janti hoon yeh bohot bara hadsa hai magar hadsat zindagi ka hissa hote hain!?! Seriously?!?
There will be many who enjoyed this opening installment, but for me this was an absolute no go. For those who thought Bashar Momin was filmi, then check out how much more filmi this gets. The only positive thing I can say here is that at least this one is brightly lit unlike Ali Raza Osama’s earlier one. As for the overall direction, look and feel I leave you to judge for yourself. I find myself patently unqualified to comment.
Given that this is written by Myra Sajid, whose Numm many of us had enjoyed despite its issues, the story might have some meat to it, but from what I saw today this one is a no-go for me. If I need filmi I would much rather watch a three hour masala Bollywood film rather than suffering through 24+ weeks of a wannabe, with a formulaic story, zabardasti ke nach ganey, ear-splitting background music, garish sets, way too many close ups, overdressed ladies, mediocre female leads, and a sherwani clad c. 1960s ka filmi hero. No, thank you.
Magar, don’t go by what I say, check this out for yourselves. In recent times serials I like are nowhere to be found on the TRP charts so perhaps my disliking this one is a good omen for the makers. Who knows, might even win a Lux or two next year… dekhtey hain ...
Written by SZ~