Main Sitara ~ Episode 1 Review

MS

Clichéd as it may sound, the first episode of Main Sitara, written by Faiza Iftikhar, directed by Seema Tahir and produced by Anjum Ansari, came as a much needed breath of fresh air. Standing out amidst the pehli nazar ka pyar, ‘ishq wala love and chatshaadi-pat-talaaq type plotlines, this TV One serial has gotten off to a very strong start.

Main Sitara chronicles the journey of a young girl Suraiya who grows up to become Sitara, the superstar. From the moment we are introduced to her, it is pretty obvious the child lives and breathes showbiz, be it radio, TV or film. Though nothing in her immediate surroundings seems likely to have inspired such a fascination, a stray reference by her mother (?) hints that she might have been born to a different woman, but is now being raised by someone who has her hands full juggling the responsibilities of keeping the homefires burning.  Her husband is a wastrel who occupies himself with drug inspired dreams of shortcuts to becoming rich, that these involve a sleight of hand and/or a robbery or two doesn’t seem to bother him in the least.

Quite unlike the drag of daily life in Suraiya’s family, where every single penny needs to be accounted for, Farhad Sethi and Jharna’s household is happily free of such mundane concerns – theirs is the golden couple of the Pakistan’s entertainment industry. Jharna is a name to be reckoned within the film industry and Farhad has made a recent crossover from TV. Where his wife is now happy to sit back and play wife and mother to their three sons ( two older and one new born), Farhad is on the cusp of an exciting and ambitious new journey, to become a film director. This clash in priorities provides the context for the first tremors in their otherwise loving relationship and sets the tone for future clashes. For now though they are very much a couple in love and fully supportive of each other.

With the first episode Faiza and Seema set a very solid foundation for the rest of what promises to be a rich story. The characters and their connections, to each other and the larger narrative, have been accomplished with a lot of finesse to the extent they seem almost organic. Seema Tahir, the director has to be applauded for extracting convincing performances from her cast, particularly the lead actors. Mikaal Zulfiqar has a tendency to rely on his screen presence and charm to get through roles but here he is pushed to perform and he does not disappoint. I have not seen Aisha Gul before but am impressed with her here; she is the personification of the effortlessly classy and glamorous stars of yore. At many places she reminded me of film stars Zeba and Shabnum in their prime. Among others Rashid Farooqi is always dependable and the lady playing his wife was also believable, although her dialog delivery sounded stilted at times. Of all the actors though, the young girl playing Suraiya was fabulous.

None of this would not have been half as convincing were it not for the very nicely done costumes, jewellery, makeup, hair and sets, all of which lend a much needed air of authenticity to this retro serial. Kudos to the producers for going that extra step and giving the serial this air of believability, without going overboard and making it look contrived in the way of several of our currently airing mega serials.

This is of course only the first episode so don’t want to go overboard and build up expectations, but I will say that Faiza’s writing is first rate here. Noteworthy is her eye for period details and the weaving in of little nuggets of information that anchor the serial and are fun for those familiar with the film industry of that time; usage of the name Jharna (Shabnam’s real name), modeling Farhad’s character on Waheed Murad, passing mention of the move of the film industry from Karachi to Lahore (late ’60s), release of Pakeeza (1968), the film song from Armaan (1966), all help date this story to an era typically referred to as the golden age of the Pakistani film industry.

The first episode ended on very nicely done hook, providing a reason for Suraiya to grow up in the Sethi household and gain more exposure to a world that fascinates her. So yes, one episode in, I am happily looking forward to the second episode. That Main Sitara is being aired on TVOne instead of the other mainstream channels gives me hope that this one will stay a steady course  – fingers and toes tightly crossed!

Written by SZ~

Main Sitara ~ OST

Main Sitara ~ Making of the serial

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42 replies

  1. Haha, SZ, just this moment I finished watching the episode and your review was waiting to be read, talk of perfect timing! Thanks a lot for pointing us to this play. And thanks for your detailed review 🙂

    I am not good with my Urdu numerals, so I couldn’t make out whether the card at the start showed 1949 or 1969, but the reference to Pakeezah, Mughal e Azam etc confirmed that it must be the late 60s. I am not familiar with the film industry of that era, so your little snippets (eg. Shabnam’s name being Jharna) really help get a proper feel for the setting.

    The setting of the play is rife with possibilities: from Jharna-Fahad’s relationship that’s all about to change to Suraiyya’s future, and how the larger scheme of the film industry fits into all this, Faiza Iftikhar is working with a rich palette on a large canvas. When Fahad was saying all those dialogues about how much he loved Jharna etc I got the feeling that his feelings were about to change quite soon and I felt quite sad for Jharna.

    A film star’s life is quite a study in contrasts: on one hand they have the affections of millions, on the other hand, quite a lot of them don’t get the love of the ones that are closest to them (parents, husband). Of course not all, but many of the stars do get pushed into the industry by need and greed of their closest relatives…Aisha Gul won me over with her performance today, I ended up feeling quite protective about her lol. The girl playing Suraiyya was top notch as well. Mikaal didn’t blow me away, not yet at least.

    There were a few issues (very minor ones): the sitar overload got to me at some points in the play. Also, was it necessary for Jharna to wear that gulab in almost every scene? And the last one: such a big star had no support system (to help her, to look after the kids) was a bit tough to believe. But as I said, nothing major that stopped me enjoying the play.

    You are so right about this being a breath of fresh air. Ab let’s hope this one stays on course for the full run!

    • @VZ: So glad you enjoyed this one as well.. thank you for checking this out on my recommendation 🙂

      Haha!! I too noticed the orange flowers.. and couldn’t help chuckling at how they were there in every scene! Also, like you I too got irked by the bgs .. I don’t know why our drama makers think we need music in every frame :/ But khair, overall I really enjoyed the freshness of the context and the content and so let the relatively minor irritations slide.. Btw, did you notice how their house was such a perfect representation of that time period? I dont know if you ar familiar with Karach at all, but I remember quite a few house in the Tariq Road area that had a similar architecture that were built in that era.

      I too really like Aisha here… I thought she had a film star’s look and carriage down pat and that smile and hairstyle and jewellery all reminded me so much of stars of that era. Yes, I agree in some ways her seemingly middle class household seemed to be out of sync with her purported stature, but I dont know how fancy our stars were in their real lives.. I have heard about Muhammad and Ali & Zeba’s lavish lifestyles but that was in a later phase when the film industry had shifted to Lahore .. so I dont know how much or if at all we will see these guys’ style change ,,, but yeah plenty more to come .. did you see the “Making” video I posted? That gives a taste of things still to come …
      Also, I read somewhere that each season will be a decade so this is the 60’s then the ’70s etc .. so lets see how this new experiment fares… For now, though, I am happy that we have a new, hopefully, substantial serial to watch and discuss!

      • SZ, I just saw the making video, looks really promising! The attention to detail is phenomenal and it looks and feels like a true labour of love. Lol at Adnan Shah Tipu’s katti 🙂 Surely the actors are also feeling bored and fed up with the same old same old… Kya karein in channel walon ke greed ka koi limit nahin…

        I have some reservations about Saba Qamar and I am perfectly happy to be proved wrong! I somehow feel that I always end up seeing Saba Qamar and not the character (not sure if I am making any sense). But I want to watch it with an open mind.

        I do feel like saying this: shame on the big channels for turning this down. Goes to show their greed that they couldn’t give a one hour slot a week to this play.

        • @VZ: i have seen half of the making video.. It’s quite good to see so much effort being taken to deliver product so amazingly… I totally agree with you on Saba Qamar.. Infact after watching the promos I wasn’t sure if i was liking her in main lead.. And as you said we end up seeing the actor not the character.. I found her so similar to other characters she have played.. So really hope she proves me wrong…

          I enjoyed the way MZ said chanel wale apni production pe zyada jaan daalte hain.. Or something like that.. Haha how true..and yes big channels and their greed.. No limit to that :/

          • Rehmat, how are you yaar? Back in the US or in Pakistan?

            This play is the only one I am watching now. Once Mor Mahal starts I want to watch that too. Otherwise nothing on Hum is catching my interest, not even for time pass.

            I agree with you that in this play there’s lots of attention to detail and they’ve captured that period feel really well. Kya ho jaata if one of the mainstream channels telecast it… They’ve completely sidelined viewers like us yaar…

            • @VZ: i am v.well thank-you:) Yaar still in Pakistan, will go back to UK on 27/3 IA..

              Haan Mor Mahal looks so royal and grand. From actors to writer to Director is just too good …have you watched Zara Yaad Kar first episode? I saw that and ufff what a boring and bogus episode… Bilkul bekaar.

              All mainstream channels are just trying to one up their game n in that totally ignoring us the viewers

            • Rehmat, no I didn’t watch Zara Yaad Kar. The cast and the promos were not very interesting.

              So many new plays have started on Hum and ARY but kisi mein woh baat Nahin… So pinning my hopes on this play 🙂

            • @VZ I think it might be a blessing in disguise that the big channels (esp hum) didn’t pick up this gem. Can you imagine what they would have done to it to give it the universal Disney-like appeal?… I know @Faiza Iftakhar said she had to change stuff round, but I’m sure those channels would’ve turned Nigar khana aka mein sitara to mein bechari sitara…

          • @VZ and @Rehmat: I hear you guys about Saba Q and here’s my take on it … .
            If you talk to industry insiders they will all pretty much tell you that SQ is the best female actor of her generation in terms of her craft and while I agree with that in terms of acting ability and all, I do think, like you guys, that no matter how good her technique might be it comes off as very mechanical onscreen and she never really becomes that character … its always SQ acting X Y or Z role… I see it in her eyes… no matter what she might be saying or doing onscreen her eyes are always disengaged.. I remember Sarmad talking abt FK and MK on JPJ while Humsafar was still on air (and it hadnt really still hit ppl as to what was happening) and when asked abt his lead pair, he said something like that though they had dome work before they were still ‘fresh’ enough that their responses were not mechanical and so the responses they gave were very ‘real’ and organic .. and I think this is what is happening in SQ’s case that she has done so much work that her responses are now mechanical and it shows . I think SQ was at her best in Dastaan, even Paani Jaisa Pyar she was good .. but after that shes done so much work that it shows … I think Sannata was her last serial that I watched and felt something for her character, usually I am left unmoved .. it will be interesting to see what happens here 🙂

            • @SZ: interesting…and very much true.. I have watched few scenes of SQ from Dastaan and as you said she was actually Surayya not SQ.. And Suraya reminds me that here too she is playing same character name atleast before being filmstar so hopefully this character name does wonders for her 🙂

            • SZ, Hai na? You are so right about SQ’s mechanical delivery, that’s what I meant. And yes, she is churning out these characters by the dozen, probably that’s why.

              As Rehmat says, may be the name Suraiyya might prove the lucky mascot here! Let’s hope for the best…

    • @VZ Re film star’s life : So true! I was also thinking about Jharna and the life behind the scenes for such gifted artists. How so many of our actresses/artists tend to leave (and some forced to leave) this line of work due to family pressure, particularly after marriage. Many let their talent go to waste..

  2. @SZ. Thanks for the great review and setting the stage for us. I am excited about this one. As usual, you are right on the mark. It is a “breath of fresh air.”
    Very promising for a first episode. I love the intro/break music/stills (not sure what it’s called) but the posters, red carpet etc., really set the tone. So far I was impressed with the young Suraiya, and with MZ’s sideburns, white shiny bell bottoms and red neck scarf! 🙂

    I too was a little confused about the dates, because of the “Pakeezah” and “Mughal e Azam” references. Pakeezah was released in 1972, and MeA in 1960. I am an old film buff and spent several years recently on an old film kick. MZ’s sideburns and bell bottoms made me think perhaps ’70s. @SZ you said 1966 because of a song reference.

    Also confused about the party scene. They showed men and women partying openly as compared to many dramas I’ve seen where dance parties show mostly men and the few women present and dancing are portrayed as questionable characters. In fact, ( I think it was in Shanakht where men were dancing with men in a night club setting.) Anyways back to Mein Sitara, what was confusing here was the many desi women with blond hair. @SZ, please explain. At first I thought this was perhaps around independence when there were still perhaps some British expatriates. But they were desi.

    Loved the reference to the Karachi/Lahore film industry nexus and the comparison to the Calcutta/Bombay situation. Look forward to these kind of details and references to the Pakistani film industry.

    On board and looking forward to enjoying the ride.

    PS: Thanks for the “Taan” suggestion SZ. I’m watching it and find the ‘fusion’ debate within the plot quite interesting. Looking forward to see where they take that track. Actors need some training on lip-sync-ing though ha ha!

    • @JR: Hey! Glad you too are onboard with this one 🙂

      Here is the song from Armaan (1966), the one they were dancing to in the party and you can see where they got the whole party vibe from 🙂 Armaan was a very important movie for the Pakistani film industry and a huge trendsetter in terms of styling, storyteling and of-course introducing pop music to Pakistani cinema.

      Pakeezah was also a Pakistani movie.. and Mughal-e Azam was playing on TV so I assume that it had already done its run in the theater. I think they have used the various references as a guide to a particular era rather than using them to fix a particular year.

      you might find this wiki article interesting 🙂

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_Pakistan

      Also, to respond to your comment about the apparent “openness” in Pakistani culture of the time, if you google images of Pakistan in the 160s and 1970s you might well be surprised. Most of the images that represent Pakistan to you are from the post Zia era .. Pakistan was a very different place then with thriving discos, open drinking, dancing, co-ed parties, sleeveless clothes etc. I think if someone from that era were to visit Pakistan today they might have a hard time believing this is the same place .. I think as the serial progresses you will see the visuals being markedly different. I am looking forward to our convos as we move forward with this serial 🙂

      P.S. If you are interested in retro and are into films from the late 60s and ’70s I would highly recommend Armaan and other Waheed Murad starrers. Also, fyi,, this Armaan movie (link for song posted above) is the same one was that recently remade for TV, with FK and Vasay.. check out how hot Waheed Murad looked 🙂

      • SZ, sorry to jump in… The Pakistani Pakeezah released in 1968, and JR the Indian one released in 1972? Suraiyya asked when the movie was going to be released in 1969, so doesn’t it mean they are talking about the Indian movie? Not sure, though it doesn’t matter…

        • @JR @VZ @SZ I haven’t seen Pakistani Pakeezah and dunno if the plot is the same… but I thought they were def talking about the Indian Pakeezah – the payal / feet connection.. ‘Apne paer zameen par mat utarye, ga maile ho jaen ge..’ OMG!! what is MS doing to me?! … lol
          Here’s the scene on YT : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ci_1uTba9f4

        • @VZ and @FA: Immaterial of whether it was the Indian or the Pakistani movie, I think it was just used to establish a general time period rather than a specific year – and to that end I think they shouldn’t have specified 1969 in the begining… probably would’ve been better off saying ‘sometime in the late 1960s’ or some such .. Its interesting because this reminds me of Mor Mahal and Sarmad talking to me about him deliberately leaving the time period unstated and leaving it at an unspecified general era so that audiences did not go looking for exact references and come back disappointed (this conversation was in the context of Manto and he had mentioned MM too at the time and he’d said that he had used the same technique for Manto where he had not followed an exact timeline but interpreted it loosely).

          • FA, SZ, yes it’s immaterial whether it was referring to the Pakistani or Indian Pakeezah, but yes, SZ they could’ve left the board out entirely, but it may help those who have no knowledge of these milestone movies, to help set the era for them.

            FA – lol at what MS is doing to me – arre I keep thinking about one thing or the other from this play (ost, characters)… Sign of a good drama perhaps that it doesn’t leave you even after it’s over…

            And regarding film stars having to give up their talent after marriage, the reverse is also true. There are many stars who want to stop working but the families don’t let them… There’s a lot of tragedy in so many stars’ lives…

  3. @SZ. Thanks. Wow! I am eager to check out some old Pakistani films; perhaps first the Pakistani Pakeezah.
    Thanks also for mentioning the pre-/post Zia era. I posted a somewhat similar question (before I read your comment) on the questions for Hina Bayat.

  4. Love ur review ..i cant explain my feelings right now bcz Nigar khana ..asa main sitara ..rejected by 3 big channels is my 3 years old dream project. I wrote its first 3 episodes right after aik nai cinderella but no one wanted to make it as they said ..it is a risky yet expensive project . That,s why i did compromise with tv 1 knowing the fact the channel has a very limited viewership . I admit that i did a lot of compromise on story line though but i had to do it. It,s better to write atleast half of what i wanted instead of not writing it at all.
    Im greatful to the channel tv 1 and the producer and director Seema tahir khan for taking the risk and made it beautifully and giving their best .

    • @Faiza Iftikhar: Thank you for reading and commenting – much appreciated 🙂
      Thank you also for sharing the back story and offering us an insight into how mainstream channels opt for mediocrity and then happily blame us, the viewers, for not wanting anything different.

      This reminds me so much for Aunn Zara and how it ended up airing on APLus which was really like TVOne at the time, and then it was pulled off air after the first ep and then re-aired after a month or soo … In any case, the point I am trying to make is that AZ’s subsequent super success proves that good content does eventually get noticed and appreciated. I would also bring up Talkhiyan which was aired on Express (another nothing channel at the time) and Jackson Heights on Urdu1 (which was widely watched as well) .. so hopefully this too will succeed in leaving its mark and end up putting TV One on the map ..

      Best of luck with this project!

    • @Faiza Iftikhar Thank you for coming up with something so fresh. I’m in love with it at the moment!
      We would love to hear from you about the changes you had to make. Hopefully we will have lots of interesting conversations here and comparison to original story will add a very interesting dynamic to our discussions..

    • Hello Faiza, first of all thanks for writing this play, it is such a relief to find something fresh and different on TV! And personally I liked the previous name Nigar Khana better than Mein Sitara, as NK evokes a feeling of lots of things associated with movies, not just the sitaras…

      What inspired you to take up this subject? What kind of research did you have to do to get the detailing right? Would love to hear your thoughts.

  5. Your reviews totally gives insight to things that goes unnoticed by me.. All those things that @VZ mentioned.. That you have written in your review were quite interesting to know… So thank you always for writing such beautiful reviews

    I was so pleasantly surprised by first episode..everything was done just so naturally and according to the era.. Costumes, makeup, hairdos, party style.. . Girl playing Surayya was great.. The way she was dancing, her body language all looked so natural.. Even actress who played Jharna was quite impressive.. Mikaal Zulfiqar too did good job… Actually all actors were spot on.. Really looking forward to Meera and NI introduction..

    It was quite exciting to see Farhad and Jharna relationship and how the vibes of their marriage gradually getting affected were shown ..Farhad is this older than Surayya, never guessed it from promos.. Which has turn this drama more interesting.. And hopefully as story unfolds, things will get spice up.. For now i am hooked to Main Sitara seriously:)

  6. I had such a huge smile plastered on my face throughout the ep.. and this has’t happened in a long time! Absolutely loved it! I am a lover of period drama and retro is oozing out of this one! The costumes the setting, the sepia filter, and all the minor details were spot on! The house, the boxed Tv, the jhalar wala cover on top of the Tv, the orange curtains, the film equipment..
    How much fun was that party scene! .. No matter what way u look at it.. 😉 .. From MZ’s chamkeela creme suit and his-to-die-for-dance 🙂 to the blonde wig wali auntie ..to such an adorable preggo wife, ! I thought she looked rather cute! This was way brefore my time, but it def transported me to that filmy Waheed Murad, M Ali, Zeba and Shabnam’s era.. I didn’t know abt Shabnam’s real name.. interesting!
    The only person who perhaps didnt quite match the era and was Surayyas mother.. Her rather longer Kameez and shalwar as well as her delivery, but I can live with that.
    Re Actress playing Jharna : I thought she was fab! I’ve seen her before here and there in some small, typical chalako massi type roles but here she finally got to show her potential. What a difference!
    Ok so yes as you can tell I’m totally blown over by the opening.. and perhaps a contributing factor was that it was a SQ-free ep. I’m not a SQ fan and usually can not sit through her serials, so I’m just praying now that she doesn’t put me off too much..
    Re seasons : SO if 70s will be season 2, does that mean SQ won’t join the serial until after a whole season? … mmmm interesting! 🙂 .. then again, it’s 1969 so 70s is just round the corner.. I doubt there will be an entire season dedicated to 60s and, without SQ..

    Farhad Sethi’s transition from TV to big screen made me think of the current scenario in Pakistan – How the booming film industry is pbbly going through a similar transition right now.. everyone trying to catch the boat.. And how just a few years ago it was the other way round.. Film actors/directors were making their way down to TV.. Hopefully we will get to watch these ups and downs and it should make an interesting watch…
    Thanks @Faiza Iftakhar, Seema TV1 and team MS for bringing something quite different to our screens. I am loving the hatke factor here..
    @SZ thanks for sharing the bts vid. That was just as much fun to watch!.. Found it interesting how that promotional vid made it sound like it was another dastaan e junooni ishq lol..

    • @FA: I was thinking of you and your love for period when I watched this one 🙂 And that somehow reminded me of HUM and Sadqay Tumhare and Diyar e Dil and Mann Mayal and was thinking of how ‘period’ had been turned into something so cringeworthy in those cases… . where period was about hair extensions and lanterns and diyas lining sidewalks, rooftops, and every other possible place and women going to dargahs and haye Allahs!!
      Thank the lord we have been spared that defn of ‘period’ here!

      • @SZ Haina! I think I will be in luck, loving this season of dramas with MS and Moor Mahal..two very different period dramas in a week! yuk na shud do shud!
        Re Hum’s take on period : I think they think period means once upon a time – anytime u fancy really… ST was a fantasy.. (ok fantasy based on autobiography 😉 ) that explains all the diyas and dragahs and all the rest.. We had established that DeD was indeed a promotional tourism campaign.. waise bhi time went out of the haveli because time stood still there.. and MM well the less said the better… Woh tou pata nahin konsa zamana hai, konse log aur kahan ki kahani… ugh!

    • @FA: yaar seriously missed your comments and your amazing observations… the way you described party scene made me laugh out loud…😂 And very interesting point on how farhad transition from dramas to movies is relatable to today’s scenario…

      Also a very big LOL. @ mein bechari sitara.. Haha

    • FA, yay! So nice to see you here 😀 When I opened this thread this morning, the place was buzzing! Have caught up on all the comments now 🙂

      I am glad that you got the period set up you were looking for in this (what seems to be) quality drama. As you and SZ point out, it is a blessing in disguise that Hum didn’t take it up. And much better that ARY didn’t touch it – these channels only have time for goondas and their aashiquis…lol @ mein bechari sitara!

      You make an interesting point about comparing the current trend of transitioning from TV to films – so true! The difference would be that in that (60s) era, Farhad Sethi would’ve probably made his movie with film stars of that era, whereas now there’s hardly any bonafide film star around, so we are in fact seeing this whole bunch of TV industry people moving to films (actors, directors, technicians, producers). What I am trying to say is it is Farhad’s personal journey and now it’s an entire TV industry that’s transitioning towards films (may be that explains the general complaint that many of our current movies still give a TV drama feel?) Of course in terms of Mein Sitara, Farhad’s journey could be symbolic of the big move into films by a lot of people – I am not sure…

      Really missed your wit FA, ab gayab mat ho jaana! There’s quite a few nay sayers here about Saba Qamar’s ability to really get into this role, so your wit and humour will be sorely needed if she plays SQ yet again instead of Suraiyya!

  7. @FA: No place up there so responding below..

    LOL! you beat me to that response to @VZ.. I was going to say the exact same thing that I am so glad that none of the mainstream channels picked it up .. #thankgodforsmallmercies #cloudswithsilverlinings 😜

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