Had this been the only serial I’d been watching in recent times I would’ve seriously questioned all those complaining of deterioration in drama standards. Boasting a novel plot, intelligent writing, great narrativization, on-point aesthetic sensibility, and some fabulous acting, Preet Na Kariyo Koi represents what I would ankh band kar ke call the quintessential Pakistani drama.
I am, unfortunately, a serious follower and know that all of us complaining are not doing so in vain – in the past few years our dramas have infact touched new lows and continue to sink deeper. But then just when you think all is lost along comes a serial like Preet, a reminder of all that used to be good and great about the drama industry; when serials had a purpose other than filling available time slots and a stories were less of checklist, of things required for high ratings, when it was about flexing creative muscle and experimentation and innovation were the name of the game, and when audiences were taken seriously as intelligent entities rather than passive mindless beings easily pacified with colorful and shiny wrapping.
Eleven episodes in and I am totally into Preet, appreciating the deftness with which Amna Mufti and Ehteshamuddin are controlling the narrative pace and unfolding Shagufta Shams’ story. A far cry from the pampered, carefree Goshi who lived with her doting father and loving family, this newbie politician is a woman who has seen more in the past couple of years than most people go through in an entire lifetime. Though she seems to have gone through it all with her head held high, the fact of the matter is that she’s been flailing even since the day she got married. Up until the morning after she thought she had the upper hand, but with Shams dropping her off at her father’s house her luck too seemed to have taken leave, leaving her high and dry, helpless and abandoned.
When we first met her, Shagufta was looking for a man who would protect her, take on the world for her sake, and this was the reason why she pursued the ‘manly’ Shams and rejected the masoom sa Ilyas, but now fast forward a few years and we see a complete role reversal. Rather than Shams it is she who is fighting his battles, it is she who is Shams’ bulwark against the world at large. So far Shagufta’s so in love and so busy running from pillar to post, to save her husband, that she’s not recognized what is really happening. The husband she believed to be her knight in shining armor is turning out to be no more than dead weight holding her down. He was never the hero – she was!
Like legions of young girls who grow up on a steady diet of romanticism and idealism, Goshi too grew up looking for her very own swashbuckling hero. And now that fantasy has come back to haunt her. Were Goshi to reflect she would see that there was never any need for her to seek security and protection outside of herself. Fairy tales are just that – tales. Imaginary and fantastical, not real and practical. But for people like Goshi such lessons can only be learned through first-hand experience. That such a day will come for Shagufta is a foregone conclusion, but when and how it happens is something we will have to wait and see. Hopefully it will happen before Shagufta’s loses everything. So far, as poet Amir Meenai puts it: Sarakti jaye hai rukh se naqab ahista ahista.
To put things into perspective, Shagufta’s losses began the day she met Shams. First she lost Ilyas’ unquestioning, unconditional love, later her entire family lost their trust in her, Shams abandoned her, her father died, this was followed by her family throwing her out, then Shams went to jail, Suleri too offered empty promises and fled to London … the list is endless. Amidst all this darkness though, there are a few fluttering lights of reason, but so over encompassing is Goshi’s blinkers-on love for Shams that at the end of the day she wills herself to shut out everything and only heed her beloved’s wishes.
Unlike his ‘ishq mein andhi wife, however, Shams’ sole concerns are he and himself. All of Goshi’s sacrifices are taken for granted, her obligation as his wife and his just due. Forget about all the trials and tribulations she’s gone through as a single mother without any financial or emotional support, nor is he concerned about how Shagufta is dealing with a player like Suleri, all he cares about is his freedom. Such is his mardana ego and pride that the fact that Suleri might actually consider his wife more worthy than him has never even occurred to him. Not once has he paused to think about his extended jail sentence on trumped up charges – surely it wouldn’t have been much of a stretch for a man like Suleri to have gotten him free a while ago?
As for Suleri sahab, he is the consummate politician. An urbane man of letters, reciting Ghalib in persian, he knows exactly which buttons to push where. A jab here a pointed remark there, this man is devil incarnate, but oh what a charming devil! For Yazdani, Suleri’s time might’ve come to an end, but from where I’m seeing it, Suleri’s at his peak as puppet master extraordinaire. The way he’s manipulated both Shams and Shagufta and gotten both of them to do his bidding is lip smackingly delicious. Goshi’s transformation as mohtarma Shagufta Shams was brilliantly handled. His spin on Bhola’s ‘qatilana hamla’ was oh so reminiscent of all the back and forth bayan baazi we read in the papers on a daily basis. With the precap showing him returning home next week it will be interesting to see how Suleri handles Shams’ demand to be re-included in the party.
Even as Preet is all about Shams and Shagufta, it is great to see other characters developing alongside as well. It was sad to see Maryam looking listless and literally in mourning (with her black outfit) about her marriage, while her husband is still unable to come to terms with his uncle’s death. Also deeply affected is the young Bhola (wonder why he hasn’t grown an inch in the last two years). But even as we see the family distressed by Goshi’s entry into politics and blame her for their badnami, it is interesting to see how they fail to realize their own contribution to where she stands today. Had they not disowned her as completely as they did, perhaps Goshi would have been in a very different place today? Why does khandaan ka naam and hamari izzat always trump concerns for a daughter’s well being? Did they ever worry about how she was feeding herself and her baby?
As questions go, Amna’s writing is brilliant in its critique of our social and political set up. She’s written a lot of other stuff since Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahin and Dil Muhalley ki Haveli, but with Preet she is back to telling the kind of stories she tells best, with a characteristic dark humor and sense of irony. Ehtesham is doing a fabulous job bringing this very complicated story to life. After a long while I’ve seen visual narration not just complementing but actually enhancing the written word, for instance the scene in the last episode where Suleri talks about Shams’ family illuminating the world together, but then his actions saying the complete opposite, him closing in on Shagufta and cutting off the light, ‘eclipsing her’ as a friend put it, was absolutely brilliant. Kudos to the director and his DOP for the visuals on this one. The editors and sound people too deserve a huge round of applause for delivering a very slick end product.
Of the actors, Rehan Sheikh is magnificent as Suleri sahab. Hira has worked very hard and put in a performance that I don’t think any of us expected of her. Adnan Shah Tipu leaves an impression each time he’s on screen. Hasan Noman was very good today as the depressed Ilyas, and once again I’m in awe of how he’s managed to play with the the soft and hard r’s. The actor playing Yazdani is also very good. Mira Sethi’s kept me interested in her Maryam even though we hardly get to see her. I am eager to see what role Ilyas and Maryam and Bhola will continue to play in Goshi’s life. Ahsan Khan hasn’t had much to do in the past few episodes, but I am looking forward to seeing how Shams evolves as he begins a new chapter of his life next week.
Written by SZ~