Zar, zan aur zameen – money, women and land – pick up any story and you will find one of these themes or a combo thereof to be the basis of the central conflict, and Pakistani drama stories are no different. Airing Wednesdays on APlus, Pinjra, written by Imran Nazir, directed by Kashif Nisar and produced by 26th Frame Entertainment, has gotten off to an interesting start, with a style of story telling reminiscent of the PTV Lahore center serials like Waaris.
Pinjra is the story of two families, their web of relationships so complicated it is hard to figure out kaun kis ka chacha, mama, taya. Even with all this confusion though it is clear that the central bone of contention is a disputed piece of land to which both families lay claim.
On one side of the conflict is chaudhry Mubashir’s happy easy going family, included in which is an elderly mother, two sisters, a wife and a young daughter. The story starts off with preparations for Razia, Mubashir’s sister’s, wedding. On the other hand is Aurangzeb Mazari, aka Ranga, a family with a very different vibe.
The Mazaris are socio-economically better off than their chaudhry cousins. Ranga is running for political office and is the stereotypical debauched feudal. That he has a dutiful wife and two preteen sons seems to not bother him in the least; he is brazen enough to bring his women to the house and has no qualms in raising a hand – and a shoe in this case – to his wife if she dares question his behavior. Ranga might’ve cared a bit more had he not had his mother, Jannat Bibi’s tacit approval. Unlike Mubashir’s benign mother Jannat Bibi is not to be taken lightly. She rules the household with an iron fist. Rounding out their family is a younger brother who is married to Zulekha, once betrothed to Mubashir.
The darkness of the first episode was lightened by the presence of the chirpy Asiya, Mubashir’s youngest sister, a carefree girl who lives in a world filled with sunshine and happy dreams, who yearns to live a life on her own terms. That these dreams will be cruelly shattered soon enough has beem revealed in the teasers and OST, it is what happens after is what the story is all about.
As first episodes go, this was a pretty strong opening, the first scene was intriguing and the screenplay segued into flashback mode seamlessly; the pinjra scene set up the premise of the story nicely. Despite that Imran Nazir’s story has many tracks, past and present, there is an ease with which the screenplay unfolds and the focus is rightly on the bigger picture, establishing the main characters and their defining traits, leaving the details, kis ne kis se kyon shaadi ki, for later. Kashif Nisar is an experienced director, with masterfully directed serials like Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahin and Sannata under his belt. Pinjra, with its multi track story set in rural Punjab, is in a zone he is very familiar with and it shows in his deft handling of the narrative.
Of the actors, the first episode was unquestionably Samina Ahmed’s to shine and that she did brilliantly. I don’t think I would ever want to cross paths with such a menacing woman. Nauman Ijaz as Ranga is compelling, but it is frustrating to see him typecast as the ghunda, debauched, brutish bhai loag types. Yumna Zaidi has done a lot of forgettable characters since her impressive early days in Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahin and Dil Mohallay Ki Haveli, and I am hoping the director, who knows her capabilities well, can push her to do something more here. The rest of the cast was adequate and I am looking forward to seeing their characters develop.
While all this worked for me there are issues I must highlight: First off, what the heck is up with gratuitous violence – why?? Why do we have to show women being beaten up with a shoe?? Why?? Wasn’t slapping enough for the TRP tyrants??? And all this at primetime with no warnings of graphic violence being dumped on unwitting viewers? Why the need to resort to such ghatiya tactics to draw viewers? All this to get TRP nods from the 1000+ households?? Where is the faith in the story and the story-telling? What are we trying to show and propagate here?? Is this how we we want to represent ourselves to a global audience? And then we wonder why the world perceives us they do.
The other issue is the impulse to amp up the volume of everything – why is everything so loud? The ladies are all fully made up 24/7, with fancy braids and parandas and jewelry. Why? It’s a drama not a fancy dress party. And its not just the characters, even the sets are dressed up. Ranga’s house boasts patently brand new paint – electric blue walls- and windows are decorated with colored plastic paper to pass off as the real thing. I understand that locations are not always perfect and need to be spruced up, but not in such an in your face manner. Going easy, be it with depicting violence or glamorizing characters and over decorating locations, will go a long way in selling the story as real and relatable.
Thirdly, even if the story is about a woman forced to live like a caged bird, making posters with such vivid imagery is very off-putting. So many have told me the poster was/is enough to turn them off the serial, no matter how good a story it might be. I honestly don’t get why producers and channels don’t have faith in their content. Trust me, there is an entire audience out there which is yearning to watch good stories, the kind which this one hold the promise of, minus the marketing gimmicks.
So, this was my take… did you all check this one out? What did you think of the first episode?
Written by SZ~