Pinjra ~ Episode 1 Review

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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~ 

 

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10 replies

  1. Dear SZ, I’m not following this one yet. I’ll wait and see how things pan out over the next couple of weeks – if you still think it’s a compelling watch, I’ll join in. By the way, did NI sign a 3-play deal with A plus?!

    I did enjoy reading your take on it. And I’m with you on the violence. We were having this conversation on one of the chai threads I think, about ratings. We also spoke about it on the SeMM post. Recent dramas are raising the threshold for the amount and intensity of violence and graphic scenes shown. Plays like DeD normalised it when it was totally unnecessary. I can’t remember any recent play that didn’t have some sort of hitting in it. Not only in plays, even morning shows milk domestic violence for ratings. Most of these are watched by all in the family. And all this comes on without any warnings or age-appropriateness advice or watersheds. Very frustrating. Not sure what to do about it.

    • @VZ: Exactly what I was thinking .. we’ve been talking abt violence and ratings since a year or so .. and dekh lo they just keep upping the volume .. I wonder what it will take for them to stop this … even Sania in one of her responses to me agreed on the need for ratings and curbing violence .. I wonder what the produces are thinking or rather not thinking .. and why just producers.. actors like NI could ask to do scenes differently .. the scene in this ep was really uncalled for .. more so when the story is strong enough to need these lame crutches .. sigh!!
      Khair, I’ll keep an eye on this one and see if the story holds my interests .. will report back off and on ..

    • @VZ: LOL @ NI signing a three drama deal with APlus …actually hes everywhere these days. Have you seen teasers of Ahsas? I dont know where that is airing but there I think he’s paired with Sara Khan. He also has a new project “Khan” coming soon on Geo, I think.
      Check out these teasers and see if they remind you of the Raees trailer …

      • Oh dear! Welcome to our very own Raees! Yes NI is everywhere these days, playing variations of the same sort of characters, most of the time with heroines half his age. No problem with that if that’s what the story demands, but it does seem like the makers don’t quite know what sort of stories/characters will suit actors like him, Faysal Q, etc. They find one prototype that does well and push variations of those stories onto the audience. I don’t know what the conversations must be like, when producers go to sign him or what he must be thinking (“Baddie role again? OK, (a) with good heart, (b) pure evil or (c) bad initially but transformed into white by PYT paired opposite?”). Sorry, that sounds rude, but that’s what I’m seeing him play. Really admire his talent, but afsos, sign of the times that there are no meaty roles for someone of his calibre…

          • @SZ Nooo!! really?! The trailers didnt remind me of Imran Khan (ok except the tehreek tehreek one) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VILdzA9S5e0 – Khan has too strong a gangster type feels for IK…. a pk drama version of raees : haan that’s an ineteresting alternative.. Theatre mein shahrukh + mahirah ”Khan” nahin tou tv par 6 maheene ”Khan”!!! lol @in and as khan .. But to me it seems like Bashar Momin season 2.. or should I say BM reincarnated! why oh why Geo!!! It could be quite an interesting hatke story /genre – a political drama – why ruin it with those disastrous OTT sets (woh bhi dark!!) and the thrones, the bright, ugly suits, and what’s with the obsessions with monograms… sigh!

  2. I watched this last night after you flagged it on the SeMM thread. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t wowed by it. As a first episode, it did all the things it should have: we know who the main characters are, how they’re related, and the basic conflict between them. But I was a bit underwhelmed by how all that unfolded. It was a case of too much exposition in some scenes, and not nearly enough in others.

    I’m watching this alongside SeMM, and I couldn’t help but notice that this show doesn’t have SeMM’s sense of place. Everything in SeMM–from the location to the sets to the costumes–blend perfectly into the story. In Pinjra, on the other hand, the costumes and the sets stand out a bit too much and take me out of the story.

    Noman Ijaz’s Ranga character is frightening and brutal, and again, in contrast to SeMM, we haven’t seen that other (softer?) side to his personality, so it’s difficult to even watch him much less understand him or root for him.

    Finally, I like Asiya, the main character, but that scene with her freeing the birds combined with the girl-in-pinjra marketing worry me a bit. I think we’re going to get clubbed over the head with a lot of not-so-subtle references to caged birds in future episodes.

    • @RK: Thank you for checking this one out after we talked abt it …
      So, it seems like we’re both pretty much on the same page re: the pros and cons … I dont know if you are planning on watching Sammi, but it would be interesting to compare and contrast the two …

      Yumna Zaidi was in the fantastic serial Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahin … its really really nicely done with NI and the same director as Pinjra. And this is the thing .. Ullu was a fab serial that didnt work with the masses because it was almost like an art serial with none of these shots of forced glamor, no loud acting, nothing in your face .. and from there the same director went on to make Sannata a very deeply philosophical serial which was also beautifully subdued.. and again it didnt do well (and worse than Ullu because of the heavy duty philosophy and the esoteric dialogues) so the director is now trying his hand at experimenting with the TRP bringing masala, while still trying to tell a meaningful story. And this is the tragedy of a lot of really good creatives, who are forced to bring down the quality of their work to make it saleable otherwise no channel is interested. HUM TV, the channel for SeMM and Sammi, wins on this score with their aesthetics… but then seriously good, nuanced stories are becoming a rarity from them .. SeMM is a one off because from what I gather the success of SeMM was a surprise even for the producers …ab one can only hope that they ar taking notes from the success of SeMM…
      Mind you though, this is only my opinion, that HUM TV dramas are losing their quality, because for vast majority many of the dramas that I have issues with are deemed perfectly fabulous.
      Sorry.. I have go on too long … #rantover

  3. Ok so I watched this.. And i liked this far far far better than Sammi.. Since watched both dramas today so have fresh picture in mind… I was so much engaged while watching P… It seemed more dangerous and severe while S sorry to say i found bit local.. Attention to detail was more in P… Their accent, referene to pinjra, showcasing leads nature the baddie’s evilest nature that can make you shiver unlike Chourdry in S.. Nope no scary at all.. Promo for P was brutal.. Almost making myself to not miss the next epi, while S.. By the end i was like. Ek maheena baad dekhungi kya hota he

    Sorry have to rush so jo jo zehn me araha he im writing without thinking k mi making sense or not

    Samina ahmed was brilliant, NI .. Tired of seeing him in same roles again n again.. yumna too was nice… Liked her.. Didnt like zukekha’s husband.. Bilkul out of league lagraha tha..

    I agree with your cons.. Juti maarna was ridiculous in terns of showing.. Just make us hear sound why damn show.. Ab itne bhi bache nh k v cant get wht this sound is..

    Poster.yes my main reason not to watch but your amazing review tempt me to watch n i wasnt disappointed..

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