The bare bones sketch of Farhat Ishtiaq’s popular Bin Roye Ansoo disgusted me when I first heard about it from a friend; when I read the novel, however, there was something about the way Farhat had captured Saba’s internal world that I could not help but be drawn to this young girl’s story. Skipping over everybody who was anybody in the story and not caring about anything else that happened, I only read Saba’s parts, not putting the novel down till I had finished it. And this – imbuing life into paper and pen sketches, shading them in with grey tones, and layering them with complex and complicated emotions – is the power of Farhat’s writing. Combine this with the effortless ease with which the writer plays with time and you have on your hands a very engaging read.
Recently I have read many describe Bin Roye as a simple love story but I would beg to differ on that. As a novel, this one might’ve started off on a lighthearted tone but over time the story takes on very dark overtones, a swirling vortex of emotions that very nearly destroys a once happy, carefree girl, the shadows of which continue to chase Saba till the very end- and it is in arc that the real power of the story resides. Bin Roye is the story of a young girl’s dangerous obsession, nothing simple or frothy about it.
The problem lies in the fact that what works on paper does not always translate quite as fluently on to the screen. In the case of Bin Roye specifically, that I could whizz through the written text, focusing only on Saba’s parts, is not as easily accomplished while watching. On screen, the fact that all other characters are mere cutouts, serving no other purpose than to propel Saba’s story, cannot be overlooked quite as easily. Nor can we ignore that compelling as Saba’s story is, we have no real clue about Saba as a person in her own right – who is this girl when she is not busy obsessing over Irtiza, her much older cousin? And then there are related questions: What does it say about a supposedly happily integrated family where not one person could discern the disturbing direction of Saba’s thoughts? This obsession did not develop overnight nor did it happen in a vacuum … how come nobody picked up on it? What does this say about our desi setup where girls grow up thinking of shaadi as the only real issue worth worrying about in life?
Add to these theoretical issues, MD and their penchant for romance and glamour, lead actors who do not meet the requirement of the story, directors and revolving doors and musical chairs, confusion about whether this was to be a film with dramatic undertones or a drama with filmy overtones, and it is easy to see why this much anticipated project turned into something very hard to take seriously. If the film version wasn’t enough, we now get the serial – and it is not much better the second time around.
Much like the film version, Mahira Khan (and her stunning wardrobe -two thumbs up Feeha Jamshed) is the main reason to watch Bin Roye redux. She is fabulous despite the fact that she is miscast as Saba in her tweens and her character has lost much in its transition from the textual to the visual medium. Humayun Saeed looks the part and tries to make an effort but there is only so much he can do with his flatlined character. Armeena Rana Khan is beautiful but seems as bewildered as us viewers – who is this ultra placid Saman? Lack of chemistry between Irtiza and Saman makes their track all the more difficult to digest. Supporting characters all go through the motions, complete with happy faces, impeccable wardrobes and on point hair and makeup, without making much of an impression.
Farhat Ishtiaq’s once complex story has been simplified to the point where all that is left are the beautiful people and their lovely clothes and the glitzy sets. Farhan Alam’s cinematography makes everyone and everything look beautiful, but despite all the patented MD bells and whistles, Bin Roye lacks warmth and soul, appearing plastic and sterile. What does make its presence felt, much more so in the serial than in the film, is the ick factor – young Saba’s uncomfortably close interactions with her much older cousin, Irtiza. Chalo even if Saba is naive surely Irtiza should’ve known better?
In terms of technical stuff the narrative is bumpy and pace fluctuates. There are times when we get stuck on everybody greeting everybody at Eid namaz, but then Saman’s parents’ die and she is in Pakistan just like that. Editing is choppy at best; the opening sequence, transition from the present to the past, was very clunkily done and its hard to believe this is Tanveer’s work. Patching of songs in to the narrative is another weak area. And on songs, what the heck was going on in that Sarmad Khoosat directed song Tere Bina Jeena? Bangles, gypsy fortuneteller (straight from Shehr-e Zaat), marionettes, fire crackers, fire eaters, qawwals…. talk about orientalizing the Orient for the Orients!
All in all, where I could just about sit through a 2+ hour movie because of Mahira, I don’t think I have it in me to follow the serial for however many weeks this one is stretched. I will, however, keep a lookout for Saba’s breakdown scene and see if it gets better treatment this time around. Rest, I think I will pass. Your thoughts?
Written by SZ~