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 chat–shaadi-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