Jharna and Farhad might be the “it” couple of the silver screen, the blessed two who have it all, but that’s all on the outside. On the inside, at home, when its just the two of them, they are no different than any of us ordinary folks, or perhaps a bit more worse off, given the pressures and temptations that come as a part and parcel of being a celebrity. Whether it is the particular context of their profession or the nature of their personal and professional partnership, it has proved almost impossible for them to draw boundaries keeping the public and the private separate. This overlapping of spheres had lead to many repercussions but never had there been any with as much import and as far reaching an impact as when Jharna decreed that Suraiya became Sitara.
That her dreams would come true like this was something that Suraiya had never thought possible, even her wildest dreams were more realistic than what she felt when Jharna dropped this bombshell on her. But little did she know that this was only the begining. It was not just the hard work and effort that such an endeavor entailed, but also the fact that she now found herself smack dab in the middle of the war games being played by Jharna and Farhad.
Jharna had never thought the little scared girl she had raised out of sheer kindness would one day turn out to be such a handy pawn. For her part, Suraiya is so completely beholden and so in awe of her baji that the thought of being used has never once entered her head. But now that the game has begun, Suraiya is perhaps begining to enjoy this a little bit more everyday. Now, with the initial nerves are settled, the rush of approval is heady, the rush of her talent being appreciated headier, and the rush of being viewed as a rival the headiest. A glamorous star like Naseem Dilruba being threatened by her? Farhad Sethi approving a shot of hers? Jharna needing and depending on her? Who would’ve thought this then? From Suraiya to Sitara it’s a been quite the journey, but the best is yet to come. Whose purpose the future serves is yet to be determined.
While Sitara counts down days to her future stardom, Naseem, the start of the present is none to happy at this unexpected challenge that has popped out of nowhere. Just when she thought she had Farhad all wrapped up around her finger, Jharna played her move. Now it is back to square one. Actually, maybe square minus one, since she has also lost the loyalty of someone close to her, Jamal. They’d been together for a while and she had taken him for granted, but there was only so much he was willing to take without getting anything substantial in return. If she didn’t need him he would go to someone who would. And so to Sitara he is now looking. After all, as a newcomer she would need guidance, wouldn’t she? She has her baji for now, but for how long? Don’t children move out of their parents’ shadows? Everybody grows up, so why shouldn’t he be the one to help Sitara cross that bridge when she comes to that point? Naseem’s time has just about gone, it will be Sitara’s time tomorrow and why shouldn’t Jamal be there standing by her side when that happens?
The film industry is not a place for the faint of heart. Nothing is handed over for free and everything comes with its own asking price. Jharna had made her choice when she chose Farhad over all the others who were pursuing her the because he was the best of the lot. He was young, he could be molded in to the kind of partner she was looking for and he seemed appropriately besotted with her. So what if he was from TV, so what if he had strange class based notions, about not working with people from questionable backgrounds or from a lower socio-economic strata, all those middle class biases could be changed. The film world was nothing like the TV industry, here there was a secularity all its own kind.
When we first met her Jharna seemed to have it all. As we’ve gotten to know her, however, we see all is not as perfect as it once seemed. She has more than her fair share of insecurities and she is not above manipulations and games. But what makes her so very likeable and real is that we see reflected in her bits and pieces of ourselves. The same vulnerabilities, the same ambitions, the same frailties, and the same strengths. Steel sheathed in silk, is perhaps the best way to describe her.
Farhad, her husband, is another beautifully written character. Again, in him we meet a man very familiar. Unlike the cry babies or the brutes we tend to get on our screens these days, Farhad is refreshingly normal. He is by no means perfect, makes more than his fair share of mistakes and is unashamedly self-centered, but then there is nothing wrong with having ambition. He has never lied to anybody that making films is his passion, that this may not be align well with what Jharna wants of him is not his problem.
For a serial set in the past, Mein Sitara is a refreshingly modern story. Faiza Iftikhar merits a huge round of applause for giving us a familiar story in a completely new context. And it is the context that makes this one such an engaging watch. Beautifully woven within the narrative are bits and pieces of history. Stray comments here and there offer valuable insights into the socio-cultural mindset of the time and make for a fascinating comparison with the social setup today.
Jharna’s point about Sitara being too thin and needing to put on more weight, because audiences like their heroines filled out, was interesting and rings true when one looks at heroines of the past. Similarly Farhad’s continued references to the socio-economic backgrounds of his actresses, Naseem and Suraiya, point to the difference that existed between film and TV at the time, where TV people were relatively more white collared as compared to more awami background of those associated with films. These and other similar insights make this one a great watch.
Director Seema Taher continues to maintain her grip over the narrative pace of the story and she gets great performances out of her actors. Aisha Gul is excellent as Jharna and plays this very layered character so very elegantly. Meera is fabulous as Naseem, Mikaal, minus his stick-on sideburns, is very good as Farhad and it is refreshing to see him really sink his teeth into this character. Hasan Ahmed is effective as Jamal.
Saba Qamar is the star attraction for many, but she is not as effective here, at least not at this stage where she is transitioning from Suraiya to Sitara. There are many places where she slips up and seems to forget she is playing a naive girl. The scenes where she was talking to Jamal belied Suraiya’s age and experience. Similarly when she was dancing, initially nervously then with confidence, the change in demeanor and expertise was a bit too pat. That said, her scene with Meera was fantastic.
My one peeve here has to do with the picturization of the song sequences. The choreographer, if there was any, needed to do more than simply make the women go round and round in circles. Also, I dont get why all the songs had to be shot indoors, and that too in the same room. Surely an outdoor sequence, or at least a change of rooms or two wouldn’t have hurt? The way it stands now, the novelty of songs and dances is getting old really fast. This complain aside, Mein Sitara continues to be a great watch.
Looking forward to the next installment!
Written by SZ~
My overview of Mein Sitara written for The Friday Times