Main Sitara ~ Episode 2 Review

MS

Ostensibly slower paced, today’s episode of Main Sitara was equally if not more gripping than its predecessor. Where the first chapter had been all about etching out the context and introducing the characters that existed within, today’s installment helped flesh out the details, filling in the various shades of light and dark, highlighting and underscoring the complexities and nuances of the various characters.

Farhad and Jharna might be the shimmering stars of the silver screen but strip off the glamor and we get a very real couple struggling to balance a marriage with a career. Jharna was a reigning superstar when she decided to give it all up to become Farhad’s wife. She had played her professional innings and was now ready to settle down with a husband and children.

For Farhad, on the other hand, marriage to Jharna was akin to formalizing a great personal equation, an exciting opportunity to have a like-minded partner, someone who shared similar dreams and ambitions. That Jharna might not be on the same wave-length never occurred to him, just as the reverse never occurred to Jharna. Now, Jharna busy with children and Farhad busy with his project it’s as if the two are not even speaking the same language.

Both feel betrayed in equal measures and both are hurting, each finding it hard to come to terms with the reality that they had entered onto this marriage with different goals in mind. For now, though the status quo remains unchanged, the faultlines are easily visible. She has taken to having her newborn baby and the young hired help sleep with her in her bedroom and he has taken to finding solace in sad songs and drinking the nights away.

While Jharna and Farhad are too busy trying to sort matters between them, others on the outside are having a field day gossiping and speculating about the causes of the visible rift in this  star couple’s marriage. Be it her seniority by a few years, his being from the small world of television, or him marrying her for her star status, no possible and impossible cause is left undiscussed. Such is the world of glamor, where every personal matter becomes a cause for public speculation.

Important as Farhad and Jharna’s story is, in a deftly handled subversion the text retreats into the background and becomes a subtext for young Suraiya’s story as she is abandoned by her parents. In a heartbreakingly real portrayal Suraiya’s walks into her parents’ quarters to find them all gone. Now all she has left are memories of her mother standing by the door calling her to come outside. With her parents out of the picture Suraiya is left at the mercy of Jharna and Farhad’s kindness that they will not turn her over to the place nor would they send her to an orphanage.

Though the maid cautions her otherwise, one cannot help but wonder as to if her kindness, saving Suraiya, will come back to haunt Jharna. The age difference between her and Farhad has already been brought up as has the fact that temperamentally Farhad is behaving like a neglected child – will these factors widen pre-existing rifts?  From the precap it seems like Jharna is not as unaware as she might appear and is aware of her husband’s nature hence perhaps her return to singing? Also indicated is a team leap and the entry of a new female character into the narrative, all of which signal a ton of interesting twists and turns – looking forward to those!

For a seemingly straightforward episode there was a lot that happened here and kudos to Faiza for writing such a layered story in so very approachable a manner. Seema Taher deserves a round of applause for keeping her narrative style very simple allowing the complexities to play themselves out. The attention to detail in terms of screenplay and sets was again impressive. The matching up of music and songs in the background to what was happening in the narrative was very well done; scenes from Mughal-e Azam were also very appropriately selected and added much to the appeal of the onscreen narrative.

The actors were in their element, beautifully led by Aisha Gul; hers is truly a casting coup so beautifully does her face and speech and demeanor lend itself to Jharna’s character. Mikaal Zulfiqar also impressed as Farhad. Rashid Farooqui was spot on as the uncaring eye-on-bottom line father. The young girl playing Suraiya has absolutely stolen my heart, she is so so good!

All in all so far so good – I’m happily on board. What about you all?

Written by SZ~

Main Sitara ~ Episode 2

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30 replies

  1. SZ, I’m on board. Faultlines between Farhad and Jharna appear to be widening. what next? And Suraiya, what role? Fascinating! Loved your write up.

    • @TSBindra: Thank you .. glad you enjoyed the review 🙂
      Indeed, this one is shaping up to be quite an interesting serial.. and the characters are very interesting and that little girl playing Suraiya is doing such a wonderful job with a beautifully nuanced character… lets see what happens next!

  2. SZ, thank you for the review. I am travelling out today, so haven’t caught up with the episode yet. Will write as soon as I manage to watch it.

  3. Thanks for the review SZ. I’m loving this period setting. And I agree, Aisha Gul really looks the part of that period heroine. She portrays a certain grace and dignity – except when she has roses framing her head. Really, hair stylists; tone that down!

    I’m enjoying the ways in which they have portrayed the distance between Farhad and Jharna. No screaming matches here. Like you mentioned SZ, kids in the bedroom, Farhad on the sofa, the alcohol etc., I wasn’t sure whether he had a sip of last night’s alcohol or water when he woke up; either way nicely done.

    The inner landscape of Farhad was well expressed when he talks about his disappointment with Jharna’s domestic turn. Though I wondered about discussing something so personal with someone who was clearly a subordinate in the professional sense, given the nature of publicity etc., in the realm of show business. Perhaps that character was a close and trusted friend; it wasn’t clear to me.

    I would have liked to see a little more from Jharna’s perspective. Is she really adapting to domesticity because she doesn’t care about her career or because society expects her to give it all up after marriage?

    I have observed this in many dramas. The female lead is presented as a brilliant student, maybe even a scene or two in a job and then gets married and becomes completely domesticated and subservient (to everyone in her sasuraal) and her career or brilliance is never mentioned much less acknowledged or given credit again.

    Getting back to Jharna, it is one thing to be a respectable doctor/professor/teacher but an actress? Perhaps she was such a big name she didn’t want to outshine her husband? (Maybe not only younger, but perhaps not as accomplished in film/yet to make his mark…). It would point to the usual woman’s sacrifice. Still, the character would be well within the accepted norm of the female on the subcontinent. We’ll see how the writers build this character.

    I think we all agree on the young girl playing Suraiya. Is it my imagination or does she really look like SQ? Nice casting.

    Now I am waiting for the entry of Ijaz sahab to shake things up, recalling the brilliant RS in…er…what was that play that got ruthlessly axed by the timber Czars/Czarinas in the TRP jungle? Excuse me while I go wipe my aansoo bhare aankein.

    • Whoops!! Sorry! Just realized wrote an entire another review, but still forgot to mention something that many might have missed … at the end there was a clarification provided that apple juice had been used in scenes where Farhad was shown drinking ..
      I have never ever seen such a disclaimer in Pakistani dramas and found it an interesting point, sociologically speaking, that they had not made an attempt to censor what had been a routinely accepted thing at that point, and is still pretty standard stuff in sections of society, but they found it necessary to clarify that they had been very kosher when it came to filming it .. I wonder what you all make of this kind of dancing around the issue …

      • @SZ: I noticed that as well. I’ve never seen such a thing before either but I didn’t know if it was or was not an unusual disclaimer for our dramas. I was really amused by it. The depiction of such free alcohol consumption wasn’t extremely curious on its own but they made it interesting by not including denunciation of it within the narrative itself on religious/moral grounds…so probably opening themselves up to accusations of normalising it for the masses by being so matter-of-fact regarding the issue. (I, for one, can’t fault them for trying to be historically accurate). And then, it turned funny that they did all that but still felt such a need at the end to clarify something I had thought was pretty obvious. It was such a lol moment, lol 😀

      • That’s really interesting! I didnt notice that, will have to go check it out again. Yes why go an extra mile to clarify?! We see it in dramas (today) all the time, and in films from that era too!..

  4. PS: Is Farhad disappointed because he lost a humsafar in the creative realm? Or was he rather matlabi and expected to use Jharna to spring-board into the world of film? Did he really love her and missed her love and support? I get that she just had another baby, but we don’t see any real discussion/consultation about the making of film and/or his/their (?) current project. Predicting that Suraiya will grow up and fill the void that Jharna created in her shift to domesticity.

    • @JR: Reading you comment made me realize that we are so into this that we are almost forgetting that it has been only been 2 episode, but so well has all this been handled that it seems like we know these characters already and are now questioning their internal motivations, something we rarely get into at this early point.

      Re:Jharna and Farhad’s relationship I dont think anything is ever quite as cut and dried when it comes to real life issues, it is only when things are already in the past that we look back to question the motivations of everybody involved. I don’t think Farhad had an exact description in his head about what his married relationship with Jharna would look like after marriage. He was attracted to her because of the combo of beauty and talent and probably took that as a given .. that she might choose domesticity as a priority probably never occurred to him, also how that particular choice would make him feel was probably another thing he never really thought about .. its only now, as things are playing out that he is starting to feel neglected – a common enough thing for spouses when they start settling into a marital routine where everyday things take over the passion and romance of courtship …. and so as far as I am reading this, I dont think Farhad is intellectualizing what is it exactly that has him upset .. al he knows that he is no longer the focus of his wife’s attentions …

      To me Farhad comes off a bit like an immature boy sulking because he’s not getting the attention he thinks he, and by extension his project, deserves. If yo remember, last week they did talk abt the project and she said she would support him, and she is doing so, in her mind, by publicly expressing her faith in him/his project… he wants a bit more than that… And because he is sulking and is in the moment, he has no qualms about complaining about his dissatisfaction to anybody who pays attention… his friend/colleague being a case in point. What I dont think he realizes is that for him, he was probably just venting, but for the person on the outside this reads like a confirmation of what the public suspects .. that it might be a “phase” or just a thing probably never occurs to Farhad … I found this to be a fascinating insight into how present day celebrity gossip mongers work, where every time a married star is seen out alone at a party or something it is seen as an impending divorce or some such …

      Re: female characters : Uff! I so agree with you about how supposedly brilliant students and professional women are turned into caricatures of their former selves the min they get married. Not that there is anything wrong in opting for staying at home but the way it is handled onscreen is very repugnant. That said, I dont think that’s the case here … I think this was a conscious decision… she wanted to have children and be a hands-on mom .. again this was mentioned in passing earlier that she had been-there-done-that.. I think that point that you raise, would’ve probably been an issue had she been at the starting of her career or mid-career.. here she has already seen superstardom and was probably longing to lead a more “normal” life… Again, this brings to mind the life stories of so many heroines in the 50s-60s, even 70s, where they entered showbiz at a very early age, usually in early teens, and by the time they entered their mid-late twenties they had touched the peak of their career and seen beyond the glitz and glamor and now only wanted to settle down.. I think Neetu Singh makes for a perfect example here and she has gone on record and talked about this several times as to how when she got married she was so done with being star and looked forward to being a wife and a mother, and has never regretted that decision …

      Again, this is just my perspective, and I would love to hear more from others, but no matter how we all read these characters and interpret their motivations, I think we should give it up for Faiza for giving us such what till this point are, fabulous characters .. and they fact that they are situated in such a fresh setting means that they react differently, as compared to the usual run-of-the-mill characters ..

    • @JR: I tend to agree with you that Suraiya will grow to find a place in Farhad Sethi’s life, but before that happens I think we will see a steady succession of other ladies .. Farhad is too much of an egoist to play second fiddle to anybody, even if it his own children that are demanding Jharna’s time and attention… and in this move, from a devoted husband to a philanderer, I think he will ably assisted by his ‘friends’ all of whom will probably take advantage of the growing rift between Jharna and Farhad and position themselves as his “true” well-wishers …

      Sorry am very scattered in my thoughts hence the incoherence .

  5. Wonderful review, SZ. I love period dramas so the first thing I like about this serial is the setting and the atmosphere that it creates so successfully. I don’t think I’ve seen 70s Pakistan being recreated anywhere before so this show is really fascinating for me to watch.

    I like Aisha Gul’s acting too! There’s something soft and luminous about Jharna, the character, and AG translates it so well on screen. I wish they’d reveal more about Jharna, her family, upbringing, her entry into the film scene etc before diving completely into Surraiya’s story. We need to know this character more, or she might just end up receding into the background as the aging pehli biwi. Also, was Jharna a singer or an actor or both?

    Did you notice they’re promoting this drama too as a great love story, in the bts video that you uploaded last time? There’s certainly more to it than that, only two episodes have made that apparent. Hate that serials have to be stripped of their more compelling layers when projected to the audiences to make them more marketable.

    I love the way they’ve portrayed the fissures opening up in Farhad and Jharna’s relationship. Like @JR has mentioned, no screaming matches here. That’s very welcome. And makes such sense. It’s sad that we probably won’t see the two of them getting back to having loving exchanges like the ones we saw in the first ep.

    It’s also interesting how all of us suspect a mercenary element in Farhad’s interest in/marriage with Jharna. I wonder why we can’t just accept that he would like her for who she is..or was. That said, I did think the way he shared his dukhrras with his assistant was quite genuine and his pain over the widening rift (whose fault is that, btw?) seemed very heartfelt. I liked that he values and wants her as a partner, not just in the house but in his professional life as well. Want to see where this goes.

    And that little girl! She brightens up the screen with her presence, she’s that good! I want Surraiya to not grow up for at least 5, 6 episodes more. Don’t want to see this pretty wunderkind leave the show so soon.

    • @Nashra: Yay! Finally heard from you.. and as usual a great tabsara from you 🙂

      Re: Promotion: I hear you, but its okay.. they’ve got to do what they gotta do.. and I honestly dont care how they market it as long as they give us something substantial to watch. On a similar note, dont miss how Mor Mahal is being marketed as merely being a story about no weepy women… I find such reductionist marketing very disturbing, but then again they have to get the eyeballs …and our awam doesnt make it easy on them either .. look at the way they expressed their dissatisfaction about Goshi in Preet, or they way stories like Pehchan, etc are rejected while serials like DeD and MM get attention even if it is just to complain about it .. I know I see the difference in my blog stats when I post abt MM or when I was writing about DeD .. so I can feel the channels’ dilemma at a certain level ..

      I think I responded to a part of your comment when sharing my thoughts on @JR’s excellent comment, but yes, I too think like you and don’t ascribe a conscious mercenary aspect to Farhad Sethi longing for his old Jharma back .. his being upset is probably a mix of many things..and him venting to that guy was also just a spontaneous outpouring about his dissatisfactions.. I cannot tell you how often I have heard friends/colleagues go on and on about their work/husbands/children but then see them the next time and they are all full of praises of how wonderful life is and how they thrilled they are yada yada …

      Yes, that child! Uff she is brilliant! Her expressions and how much she emotes through her eyes and kudos to the director for keeping her little actor so restrained .. can you imagine this story in one of our mainstream director’s hands and the tears that would’ve been shed every two secs!

      • @SZ: As long as they hide something worthy of being watched within all that pretty packaging it’s acceptable. But then there’s also the flipside: dramas touted as being more than they really are or could ever aspire to be, mired as they are in a hundred different stereotypes. Eg. Gul-e-Rana – I think it claims to have a ‘strong woman’ at the centre but all the times I’ve had the misfortune of laying my eyes on it I’ve only ever seen the most dukhyari, bechari, misunderstood, saintly ‘heroine’. Or our very own DeD..we all know what damage it did in the name of family values, tradition etc etc.

        Farhad makes more sense to me now, reading the different analyses here. But I really, really want more of Jharna! Oh, and did you see how the maid in this ep told Jharna not to be overly kind to Surraiya or it will come back to bite her..something along the lines of the apple not falling far from the tree. I felt they could’ve been more subtle here with the forewarning and all.

  6. @SZ. Yes, I fully agree. Nothing is black and white. In fact, it’s why I love Pakistani dramas because there’s a lot of grey in the characters. We see their flaws, their internal dilemmas, and often ethical resolutions. [This side of the border characters are very idealized to a large extent because of the ways in which these genres have developed from epic traditions.] I am looking forward to how these characters unfold. And yes, we are seeing and enjoying the depth already. Yay!

    • @JR: random question: Are epic traditions better or worse than invented traditions when it comes to studying/intellectual mixing the context in which popular tropes and stereotypes develop?

      • @SZ. Great question but let me say right off the bat, the response is probably too long and complex and worthy of an essay! I can try a short version and will likely not do the topic justice.

        I think both are equally dynamic and fun to study. Some scholars would argue that “invented traditions” as you call them (and if I’m understanding you correctly) are built on earlier symbolic/mythological/cosmological systems and their related practices, and respond to current times/circumstances/modernity in many ways. When we try to label and categorize them, we do them an injustice because of the ways in which not only cultures work but the ways in which local/regional identities and their practices emerge vis a vis the global, or the vernacular vs. the cosmopolitan.

        Of course epic traditions have evolved in myriads of ways, in the vernacular if you will, though there are forces who seek to homogenize the elite traditions.

        It’s a lot of fun to study because of the discourse on how myths and symbols emerge in various realms and disciplines. There are folklorists who trace these myths and symbols across various cultures and geographical areas in the world. (There’s an Encyclopedia you can refer to… and I don’t mean Wiki :)). Then you have Jungians who have interesting theories of the collective subconscious and synchronicity. One great example (to try and theorize) is in the paintings and writings of the medieval people’s saint (people’s because she wasn’t canonized by the Vatican), Hildegard of Bingen. Here was a woman who lived in an abbey, during a time in medieval Europe when women were not allowed to read or write, yet when she painted her visions, we see the first painting of a blue Christ, concentric forms of circles, etc., which resonate with other symbolic systems outside of the European continent.

        You can look at so-called New Age religions in the here and now, which take concepts and forms from all major religions, many esoteric, and adapt and practice them in vibrant ways.

        Then you can look at so-called “Dark Green Religions” which (according to Bron Taylor, who wrote the book,) argues that mainstream, organized religions have failed people, who are seeking and experiencing the divine in nature. So we have people who say “surfing is my religion” “hiking is my religion” “God speaks to me in/through nature etc.

        Getting back to the representation in these these artistic forms (and I’m using this term loosely given our discussion of art vs. TRP ratings) like film/TV, which I was referring to, is for instance, Rama, who is considered MaryAda Purshottama, the ideal person (masculine) and the Sita the ideal wife. So for the most part Bollywood represents the heroes and heroines along these lines, though there are many, many (vernacular) epic re-tellings which run counter to these elite/cosmopolitan versions, which are not portrayed in the mainstream.
        I should stop now.

        Over and out!

  7. SZ, friends,

    Finally managed to watch the episode and found it very engaging. It’s (at least so far) one of those plays that forces you to give your full attention. I enjoyed reading your review SZ and the insightful discussions going on here 🙂

    I really enjoyed the developments in Jharna and Fahad’s lives – I think the word people use these days is “organic development”. The progression in their story is realistic and gradual. Both are right in their own ways, it’s just that they are looking for different things in the relationship now: Fahad wants a partner with whom he can discuss professional matters and not nappies/maasis, Jharna feels her priorities are her family now, especially her small children.

    This is typical of so many families, once kids come into the picture the dynamics of the husband-wife relationship changes. Unlike the West, where spouses arrange to baby sit and go for meals out or take time out for one another, most desi spouses go through a change in hierarchy, with wives putting hubbies after children. Most men adjust to this by typically immersing themselves in work. Unfortunately for Farhad, his work is one where he feels the absence of his wife the most. Communicating with Jharna could’ve probably made life easier for both, especially Fahad’s expectations about the role he wants Jharna to play with his new film venture. But it’s easier said than done. There’s ego, worries about things getting worse than at present, resentment etc which stop him from having a proper chat with her. And she is too caught up with her domestic issues to give time to him. It’s hard enough trying to make a normal marriage work, given their industry and circumstances it’s nothing sort of a miracle that couples in the entertainment industry actually last as long as some do. And this story is in the pre-internet era, just imagine their situation today! Jharna’s Instagram feed will be all about her family and Farhad’s will be probably all sorts of philosophical quotes lol. Their FB statuses would be quite telling…

    The girl playing Suraiyya has indeed been perfect in her portrayal. And like JR, I see the resemblance with SQ too. Very good choice of child actor. I just hope SQ doesn’t ruin Suraiyya.

    I too enjoyed the Mughal e Azam scene juxtaposed with what was happening with Suraiyya – beautifully done!

    It troubled me that although Jharna is kind to Suraiyya, she is still treated as a help – she has to earn her keep, she has to press the children’s uniforms (whereas she too is of school going age). But they did mention something about she not being good at studies in episode 1.

    I do wish the sitar volume is turned down or given a rest every now and then. That curl stuck on Jharna’s hair can go too. But these are minor gripes in what is a very well told story so far…

    • @VZ: don’t think Farhad would be penning intellectual quotes .. Pseudo intellectual more likely given the way he’s retreated so very easily in to the I’m-a-neglected-child mode

    • @VZ its very interesting how you generalized this issue. Yes children do bring about that change in the dynamics of husband-wife relationship.. and life can never really go back to exactly how it was before… but especially for celebs where there’s added public pressure..

  8. @SZ brilliant review as always and I’m loving the convo!

    Just caught up with two eps. Will hold back on my lamba chora comment for the next ep.

    As much as I’m enjoying the nostalgia, old songs and movie clips, (perhaps because I watched two eps in a go), I felt that it was taking a bit too much of screen time. Smaller chunks would be just as effective if not more. Otherwise thoroughly enjoying the presentation, how the characters are being fleshed out and how we are getting to see a life behind the screens…

    Made me think of how when a heroine/ female artist disappear after shadi, we as a society automatically assumes that it was the male counterpart (and his mardangi / ego issues etc) who must’ve forced that decision,.. how it’s ingrained within our social set up… The latest ep also made me think of so many artists who made a come back, some sooner than others, and how much of a part their married lives might’ve played in making that decision.. and how successful/unseccessful their comeback was…

    @VZ lol @ fb status and IG feeds lol .. @SZ yup pseudo intellectual it would be! lol

    • FA, don’t you feel that Pakistani drama industry is one of those places where women who come back post marriage, babies etc are welcomed (sometimes with lot of affection and respect)? Syra Shahroz or Ayeza Khan spring to mind. Contrast this with mainstream Bollywood where heroines post marriage and babies struggle to make a come-back, even ones like Madhuri Dixit? May be Aishwarya Rai is an exception given how sought after she is…

      • @VZ true that, but thats also to do with the fact that TV is more giving, and that we in Pakistan do seem to struggle in finding star quality artists (readily available), whereas in Bollywood there’s plenty of fresh talent fighting to get an opportunity…
        Once I heard this senior artist, who had made a comeback back then, talk about the lack of substantial roles for not quite middle-aged but not so young women either. Unfortunately not many women are as gifted as Syra who would go back to their pre-baby sizes with much ease, (not that I have seen any of her post marriage/ baby work onscreen)… I might sound a bit off here, but didn’t Ayeza look so much older / maturer in Tum Kon Piya? Abb imagine her making such a comeback on big screen..
        How did Ashwarya’s comeback in Jazbaa do? She managed to get a meaty role of a youngish/professional mother..
        I think Kajol’s return was pbbly more welcomed and more successful in Dilwale… no?

        • FA, good point about the lack of star quality artists. There’s definitely a gap between the top heroines and the next rung. The addition of Ayeza Khan to the cast has definitely added to the star power of TKP. But isn’t it the case in Bollywood too? There are not many top star heroines, still the “married, with kids” label affects the projects those ladies get… May be because the movies made in mainstream Bollywood bank more on the heroes probably?

          I think it’s harder to compare Kajol versus Aishwarya Rai, as Kajol has done more mainstream roles since coming back after babies, whereas Aishwarya has gone for female-centric roles, which generally don’t gross high numbers anyway. It will be interesting to see which way the Ranbir Kapoor (and Fawad Khan + Imran Abbas) starrer goes, as that will be a mainstream movie.

  9. Finally saw ep 2 today. That scene where Suraya’s mom calls her n calls her, then leaves was so heart rending. was wanting to just swicth off the show…itna mushkil tha dekhna. But great one!
    Everyone’s doing a good job. Love the li’l girl and even MZ and Aisha Gul. Where have I seen her before?

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