Wary as I am of projects from MD Productions and HUM TV after their recent string of mega doozies I went into this one with less than zero expectations, but am happy to report that their latest Preet Na Kariyo Koi, written by Amna Mufti and directed by Ehteshamuddin, is shaping up to be quite an intelligently executed, entertaining and engaging serial.
Set in androon Lahore, Preet is the story of Shagufta Shehzadi aka Goshi, the pampered and headstrong daughter of Fayaz, a doting widower. Others in her family include a much younger brother, a widowed chachi and her only son Ilyas Kashmiri. Unlike most of our dramaland families, Goshi’s is a very loving khandaan, attached at the hip in more ways than one. Not only does Goshi’s chachi love her as her own daughter, and her dad and Ilyas co-own a shop specializing in ladies’ formal wear, but Goshi is also engaged to her first cousin.
Ilyas is a rare breed: a gentle, easy going, non-confrontational, shareef, seedha sadha banda who offers Goshi unconditional support as she sets out to pursue her dreams. For Goshi, however, these otherwise admirable qualities are Ilyas’ biggest shortcomings; she is looking for somebody strong-willed and forceful. Enter Shams Siyal, a fellow student and a feudal from Gujranwala with political ambitions. But, no need to shed tears for Ilyas. Goshi might not value him, but another girl from his muhalla, Maryam, has the skilled eye of an appraiser and knows that all that glitters is not gold.
The writer and director do well in introducing and fleshing out their characters and establishing the webs of connections. Particularly interestingly done is the societal critique in the way the two girls have been contrasted. Where Goshi is manipulative and conniving Maryam is straightforward and honest, but since Goshi lives under her father’s protective shadow no matter how chalu and chalak she might be it is all good. For her family and, by extension, the society at large she is a masoom bechari bin maa ki bacchi.
Maryam, on the other hand, is fatherless and lives with relatives and so is easily designated as a kothay tapni (loosely translated as a girl with questionable morals). This difference is further emphasized through their body language and attire – Goshi has quite the mouth, her chadar often found dragging by the side, and her hair is usually loose and disheveled; Maryam, by contrast, is demure, tameezdar and her head and face generally covered when in public. Beautifully underscored is the fact that regardless of who she is as a person, in our patriarchal desi setup a woman’s character is pretty much always defined by the men in her life: kis ki beti hai, baap kya karta hai, shohar kaun hai, bhai kahan hai... god help the woman who does not have a man to be her protector.
The two men are similarly contrasted through their body language and mannerisms. Ilyas may come off as immature and dimwitted but look beyond the pecha and guddi facade and you meet a sensitive, wise man. Though at this point, Shams seems custom tailored to fit all of Goshi’s demands for a prospective husband, I suspect that our intrepid heroine will soon figure out that she has bitten off more than she can chew. For now though Goshi is happy spinning the truth to suit herself, uncaring of how many people she hurts in the process – all that matters is that she end up with Shams. Well-knitted side tracks help flesh out this thori hatke story as we meet Goshi’s adorable abba, Fayaz, and her loving chachi and Shams’ brother and bhabhi and her abused sister, Zarina.
The other thing that stands out here is how Amna Mufti subverts stereotyped gender roles and forces her viewers to squirm and re-evaluate. Goshi’s chalu-pan makes us uncomfortable when she repeatedly hits on Shams, but how many times have we seen men do the same and have shrugged it off with a wink and a smile (anyone here remember Zaroon?). Similarly Maryam’s forthrightness – be it her larkiyan-tau-aisa-nahin-kartein fondness for kite flying or her open declaration of love for Ilyas – may come as surprise to many but for me this is a refreshing change from sappy melodramatic heroines who find great virtue in playing either the victim or the martyr.
That so much can be gleaned from four episodes says a ton about the clarity of purpose and vision from the writer, director and producers – for once they all seem to be on the same page. Amna Mufti is in her comfort zone here and it shows in the ease with which the script flows. Director Ehtesham seems to have a better handle on the nuances of this script as compared to his reading of Sadqay Tumhare; aesthetically too, so far this seems to be a better executed project than Aseerzadi. Credit also to the actors, all of whom seem to have done their homework and paid attention to developing nuances and focused on detailing etc.
After a very, very long time we see Ahsan Khan the actor in action here, and it is great to see him back with a bang. Hasan Noman is stealing the show as the beeba Ilyas. Hira Mani shows vast improvement from her very forgettable outing in Firaq. Here, she seems to be channeling Kareena Kapoor from Jab We Met, and while I see why she would look there for inspiration and also get that she is establishing a baseline for her character, there have been quite a few times when she’s gone overboard and it grates. Mira Sethi is very good as Maryam; her thehrav and body language is on point and it is great to see the young actress evolving with every project. Adnan Shah Tipu has not had much to do so far but a few ominous glimpses and I’m totally intrigued. Above and beyond all though is Erfan Khoosat – he is fabulous!
Applause worthy also is the effort put into the sound design, we actually hear birds chirping, cats mewing and roosters crowing. The background music too is thankfully lower than it generally is in MD Productions’ projects, but abhi volume thora aur bhi kam kardein, please- thank you. Editing too is generally on point, although there have been quite a few places – neverending picnic in Changa Manga, abba chachi scenes, Goshi day dreaming – which though beautifully shot needed to be trimmed with a pair of very sharp scissors. And on scenes being beautiful and beautifully shot, a huge round of applause for the art director, set designer,and DoP Azhar Ali. Each and every scene is fabulously lit and framed and the ambiance of androon shehr and daily life in gali muhallas is perfectly captured, giving Preet a very fresh look.
My one big complaint has to be about the need for pretty much every character to be fully made up no matter what their circumstances and what time of day. Zarina is depicted as a victim of domestic abuse but her makeup belies her story. Actually, its not just her, all of the ladies, excluding Maryam and including the very senior chachi, seem about ready to attend their phuphi ki beti ka valima. Why??
Four weeks in Preet Na Kariyo Koi has me engaged and interested, and am keeping my fingers and toes tightly crossed that this one stays the course, and does not tun into yet another long-winded melodramatic saga.
How many on board with this one? Your thoughts?
Written by SZ~