Diyar-e Dil as the name suggests is the story of a world where emotions reign supreme, where dictates of the heart more often than not trump rationale presented by the mind. Jo dil ki baazi kheltey hain woh kabhi hartey nahin. Be it something as mundane as planning his next move on the chessboard or a matter as important as arranging his older son’s nikah, Bakhtiyar Khan is a man who has always followed that which his heart tells him is right. That his decisions might not be quite as easily or unquestioningly accepted by others is not something he loses sleep over, at least not yet.
When the head of the family is as intransigent as Agha sahab is, frictions are bound to arise, and arise they do with a bang when Behroze refuses to marry Arjumand. She is not only his father’s choice but also his first cousin, Bakhtiyar’s younger brother Dilawar Khan’s daughter, and bachpan ki mangetar to boot. Dismissive of the fact that his refusal, would not only mean breaking a young girl’s heart and going against his father, but would also cause a serious rift in what is a very close knit family, Behroze is very much Bakhtiyar’s son. For him, it is his love for Ruhina that matters most, other considerations be damned. It is this love that causes him to question his father stranglehold over their lives – if not, where then is the difference between puppets and living beings, he inquires angrily of his younger brother.
Caught in the crossfire, between Bakhtiyar and Behroze, is Suhaib. Less uptight and more even-tempered than either his father or older brother, Suhaib is the kind of man who is happy going with the flow of things. Underneath the charming demeanor though is a man not as unaware of the stakes as it might seem, hence we see him trying to talk his brother out of taking a rash step in the heat of the moment, but Behroze is very much carved out of the same mold as his father.
Ruhina, the girl at the center of this maelstrom is someone who Behroze met while studying in Lahore. Having lost her parents she lives with her brother and bhabhi and young nephew Moiz. Where Arjumand is a ghabreeli sharmeeli larki, Ruhina is confident and self-assured, respectful and hesitant but not unafraid to tell her brother about Behroze’s proposal; looking him in the eye and assuring him of her suitor’s fidelity and commitment when her banker brother makes a valid argument against this rich guy’s proposal.
The calm with which Ruhina discusses Behroze with her brother in Lahore is nowhere to be found in the angry exchange of words between the father in son in Skardu. The episode ended on a dhamakedar note as all hell breaks loose when Behroze refuses to marry Arjumand and tries to tell his father about Ruhina.
From Wali’s quiet reflection to the heightened drama of the final scene I enjoyed the emotional graphing of this opening installment. Haseeb Hasan demonstrated his experience as the shift from the present to the past and then distant past was handled very fluently; nuances of various characters and their intricate web of relationships, all were introduced really well. The pace was good as events unfolded in a rapid but unhurried manner. I like how Farhat has expanded on the original novella and the characters appear to be better fleshed out here.
But where all that was good, I did feel at times the narrative lacked smoothness. Acting particularly among the younger lot was inconsistent and the editing lacked finesse. Of the actors, Abid Ali, Rashid Naz, Azra Mansoor and Behroze Sabzwari are all senior actors and they delivered as was expected of them. Although I must say Behroze Sabzwari as Sanam’s brother, despite the dye, is quite a stretch. Abid Ali seems to thrive in these kinds of roles and I was reminded of Haseeb and Abid sahab’s very successful pairing in Tum Ho Ke Chup, looking forward to another equally engaging collaboration.
Among the younger lot, Sanam Saeed looked good in the little we saw of her today, looking forward to seeing Ruhi’s arc as the serial progresses. For her sake and ours I sincerely hope this one stays the course and does not go haywire like her Shukk and Firaaq. Mikaal looked and acted a lot better here than in his last few serials, Muhabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai and Laa. His look reminded me of Durr-e Shehwar. Ali Rehman appeared to be trying too hard here; his jovial Suhaib seemed forced, particularly in scenes with Hareem, but then there were the emotional scenes with Mikaal where he looked more comfortable. The regional accent is a nice touch but it would have been a lot more effective had it not seemed to come and go at will. Also, didn’t quite get why he had an accent when Mikaal’s character did not.
After a rough start as the overly sharmeeli, living-her-life-in-a-bubble Arjumand, Hareem Farooq was much better in the scene where Arjumand was explaining her equation with Behroze to Laila. Eshita Mahboob seems to be cast in a role she has played many times over. That said, I enjoyed her scenes with Ali Rehman, their lighthearted banter provided a nice respite in an otherwise high on emotions episode.
Tara Mahmood’s Zohra comes across as drama world’s standard nasty bhabhi, hopefully this character will grow into something more substantial as we move forward. As a character, Wali has not been formally introduced but I enjoyed Osman Khalid Butt’s very effective voice over as it set the stage for all that is to be unfolded over the period of next six or so months.
Shining the brightest though, among all, was the stunning Gilgit Baltistan setting and the superb cinematography by the DOP Zaib Rao. The very fresh locations are the one big factor that set this yet-another-social-drama apart from all the others out there, and it is to the director and DOP’s credit for capturing the magnificent vistas, making ever outdoor shot look like an exquisite painting. The interior shots of the family haveli and the lighting and framing of scenes were a visual delight.
The OST, beautifully sung by Zeb Bangash and Momin Durrani is another huge plus factor that adds to the overall ambiance. The editing seemed a bit slapdash, but one big complain has to be about the loud background score. Why does it need to be so loud and so omnipresent? I highly recommend that sound people watch Mehreen Jabbar’s Mera Naam Yousuf Hai and see how to do background sound right. The way it is now, the music detracts rather than adding to the onscreen narrative.
Overall, give or take a few rough patches, though not yet bowled over, I enjoyed this opening installment. While there is nothing new in terms of the basic plot, I like the way Farhat knits her story together and enjoy how she crafts her characters, but then again her stories are easier to read than translate onscreen and tend to flail when in the hands of an inexperienced director as we saw in the case of Mere Humdum Mere Dost. Here’s to hoping that with an experienced director like Haseeb Hasan at the helm we will not be disappointed, and the narrative fluency and the smooth transitioning between past and present will continue to hold as the serial unfolds.
So yes, all in all this MD Productions’ serial is off to a good start … looking forward to the second episode.
Written by SZ