Written by Samira Fazal, directed by Haseeb Hasan and produced by Sana Shahnawaz, Tariq Shah, Samina Humayun, and Momina Duraid, the much anticipated Mann Mayal opened its account today.
We were introduced to the very spirited Manu and her indulgent loving family, chachi, cousins all included. Rabia, aka Bia, is Manu’s best friend and Salahuddin’s younger sister. Where Manu is easily excitable and lives in the moment, Salahuddin is mature, focused with clear career goals, and is prepping for his CSS exams. Thankfully Manu’s results’ never-ending issue was resolved within this episode and we ended with Salahuddin being appointed Manu’s tutor, and her family happily preparing for her rishta unbeknownst to her.
While most of what we saw today was fun and games, what intrigued me were the underlying hints of darkness lurking just below the surface. There is some issue with Manu’s cousin Sara baji’s impending talaq and I wonder what role, if any, will difference in social status play in Salahuddin and Manu’s budding relationship. Also, Salahuddin’s mother seems less than enamored with Manu.
For a first episode, Samira does well to get into the story right away; her characters, leads as well the supporting ones, are well etched out with their personalities coming through right from the get go. Even though we met a ton of people, their web of relationships was nicely laid out, kaun kis ka bhai aur kaun kis ki beti aur kaun kis ke humsaye, all were clear from the get go. Interactions between the characters were snappy and the lines were in everyday lingo, a welcome change from the flowery/ literary/bookish register our drama writers seem to be so fond of these days. Most importantly, two thumbs up for the fact that nobody shed a single tear in the first episode!
Direction wise, Haseeb Hasan does justice to Samira’s well-knit screenplay. The visual narrative played out very smoothly without any editing snafus. DOP Zaib Rao shows maturity here in terms of cinematography and lighting giving his frames a lot more depth as compared to his earlier work in Diyar-e Dil. The chase scene where Manu runs after Tipu, from her bedroom up to the roof then down the stairs and straight in to her father, was very nicely executed.
Like with Diyar-eDil, here too Haseeb has a lot of actors to work with, and he does this well here. Unlike his earlier project, I did not get the feeling of one actor or character being given preference over the other at the cost of the story, which thankfully remained front and center today. The chemistry between various actors was palpable right from the first scene. Also, the attention to detail from the creative department, papars drying on the rooftop, was noteworthy. My one complaint has to be about the over loud background music and the OST. Please lower the volume – thanks!
Though the episode was well-executed, I find myself un-excited about Mann Mayal. There was nothing really fresh or out-of-the-box about what we saw today. Infact there was a lingering feeling of deja vu throughout. Samira’s approach to the first episode and characters’ introduction was very reminiscent of her style in Dastaan. The number of times Manu said haye Allah reminded me so much of Bano, as did her lantern. The chatar patar bolti heroine is also something we are used to seeing in Samira’s dramas be it Dastaan or Kuch Pyar ka Pagalpan or Silvatein.
Apart from the similarities in writing, visually too there were scenes that gave off very strong Dastaan, Sadqey Tumhare, Bin Roye,and Pyare Afzal vibes. I am hoping that with time, as the story unfolds, we will see a fresh take on a been-there-done-that subject.
In terms of acting, I liked the feel of the ensemble cast and enjoyed the familial interactions between the seniors. Aiman Khan was good as Bia. As for the lead pair, Maya Ali was good as Manu but here too there was the feeling of sameness. Also, as well as she played her part she looked too old to play a 17-18 year old. Hamza Ali Abbasi as Salahuddin makes for an interesting pairing with Maya, but like his partner, Hamza too looks way to old to be playing a 24/25 year old, and I am yet to be impressed by his take on Salahuddin.
Next episode marks the entry of Gohar Rasheed, and with Aisha Khan, Vasay Chaudhry and Adnan Siddiqui yet to enter the narrative I hope Mann Mayal will shake off the ghosts of serials past and forge a new identity for itself.
Overall, not sold as yet but hoping for better things from that which is yet to unfold.
Written by SZ~
Mann Mayal OST~ Singer Quratulain Baloch