Pagli ~ Episode 1 Review

Based on the celebrated humorist Shaukat Thanvi’s novella by the same name, Pagli opened its account on HUM TV tonight. Adapted for TV by Khurram Abbas, directed by Ali Masud and produced by MD Productions, this new serial stars Hina Mani as Gul Rukh, Noor Hasan as Dr. Khalid, Mahmood Aslam as Hakim sahab, Asim Azhar as Najam, Sajida Syed as Dr. Abid’s mother Hina Altaf as Zubi, and Saba Faisal plays Dr, Khalid’s phupo, Zubi’s mom.

The story kicks off with Dr Khalid newly arrived from the US with an advanced degree in psychiatry, travelling to Karachi by train to reunite with family eagerly awaiting his return. It is on the train that he runs in to Gul Rukh, a complete stranger who by the end has somehow ended up as a guest at his house offering muft mashwaras on everything and nothing to everyone and anyone.

Be it Khalid’s mode of practice or Zubi’s interest in poetry, Gul Rukh has a jawab for everything and har koi in ke aage lajawab. Look beyond Gul Rukh’s nonstop bakbak, however, and there emerge questions: Who is she? Why was she travelling alone? Why did she finagle herself an invite to Khalid’s house? What’s up with the constant talk about psychiatrists not being of any use in Pakistan? And why the hints that her visit might not be quite as temporary as she makes it out to be?

Well, some answers will come as the story progresses, some are already being hinted at, Hakeem sahab’s complaint at the Lahore police station for one, and the most pertinent answers have already been happily leaked by HUM’s over eager PR department. I so wish I had not read the spoilers that have been plastered all over social media since the past couple of weeks (Read at your own risk here, here and here). Why o why the need to reveal such a crucial plot twist? As things stand now, my interest has been considerably dampened because I already know what is next in store. Why do channels/production companies/actors do this? How and why do they then expect audiences to tune in?

Setting that major peeve aside for the moment and evaluating the episode on its own merit, I thought it made for a different kind of an interesting opening. Mind you though there is required a suspension of belief because this is not a story to go looking for reality, also unavoidable are the reminders of Geet from Jab We Met. That said, Hira is believable as the know-it-all Gul Rukh and she and Noor have a good equation here. Gul Rukh and Dr. Khalid are characters rife with possibilities and I am looking forward to their evolution.

Apart from these two, other characters fell into easily labeled boxes and here I am disappinted with the unimaginative adaptation. Hina Altaf plays the probematically stereotyped mashriqi larki with nothing better to do than to sigh and read poetry as she waits for her knight in shining armor. Saba Faisal is the done to death typical widowed mother looking to secure her beti’s future by marrying her off to the son of their benefactor, and Sajid Syed, cute curls ‘n all, is the quintesential mother anxious to get her foreign quailfied beta married to his bachpan ki mangetar. We didn’t see much of Mahmud Aslam and Asim Azhar, but what little we did see, did not impress much.

In terms of writing, this was a dialogue heavy episode and the servants’ scene was way too long and unfunny, but overall I thought the lines, particularly Gul Rukh’s lines were witty and had the necessary sparkle. The direction looked good and the narrative was well-paced. My big complain has to do with the overloud constant background music. Could someone please lower the volume and reconsider the need for music in every single frame. Thank you.

Shaukat Thanvi’s Pagli is potential waiting to be explored and exploded but whether this adaptation can do it justice is a whole other question. Going by HUM TV’s previous record with stories dealing with mental health issues I am not holding my breath but am happy to be surprised. Lets see …

What about you all? Did you guys check out the first episode? Kaisi lagi yeh pehli qist?

Written by SZ~

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12 replies

  1. Hey SZ
    Yes , I watched it and found it amusing.
    I liked Guls panache. I’m sure there’s a whole lot going on in her life that will be disclosed later.
    And once again cousins mein shadi , when will that ever end ?
    Saba Faisal is in a dozen dramas airing now , not joking , she’s everywhere 😞
    SZ did u watch Imam Zamin?

  2. It was good with different approach towards 1st epi.. liked Guls character.. hira has played nicely.. not sure abt other actors.. but i too liked psychiatry being involved here.. cant say for sure if will follow this or not

    • @Rehmat: If you havent read the spoiler, then don’t .. thats the only way to enjoy it 🙂 I liked Hira in this character and I thought her comic timing was spot on… I think she is really turning out to be quite the surprise pkg.. I too am not sure if I will follow through to the end, but will keep an eye on it and see how it goes .. .

  3. If we haven’t read the spoilers, we should not follow? I’m confused.

    I came across a couple of tweets where you were discussing the production houses (in)ability to pick scripts for dramas and all we end up with these days is novel based/inspired scripts. And here we are with another adaptation.
    Without meaning to judge their writing style, I remember as young adults we weren’t encouraged to read the ‘digest’ stories as they would (seemingly) plant unrealistic expectations in our head – knight in shining armour, Prince Charming etc, you get the drift.
    Has this now permeated into households and now (being) entrenched in minds via the tv medium?

    I don’t know if it’s related or off topic but between the typical family politics type storylines and these adaptations, it seems we are stuck between a rock and a hard place as viewers.

    • @Arisha: Nooo! You should totally follow if you havent read the spoilers. My annoyance is with the fact that they had publicized the twist so it was no fun for me to watch because I knew what was to come.. since you dont know you will watch with a clean slate …

      Re: the tweets .. so… the original tweet I was responding to was problematic in its generalizations and the conclusions it was reaching were based on incomplete info regarding the process of drama making. Now to respond to your query:

      To begin with not every adaptation is from a digest ..and this , as I have mentioned in the very first line, is based on a novel written by someone whose work is considered to have literary merit.

      Secondly digest writing has evolved over time. There was time when digest stories were serious stuff – over time, say around the ’90s onwards these digest stories became very mills n boons type with little or no literary merit and their targeted audiences were women who read in Urdu and were typically stay at home, the language was simple, plots simpler and the stories were those that were expected to resonate with the female audiences .. hence the ghar and gharelu masail and the living room to bedroom stories etc .. at that time these were never considered “literature” … with the start of private tv channels and the increase in drama slots there was a need for new writers and and channels were looking to expand audience bases and hence was born the hypothetical “middle class housewife” who only wanted to watch these gharelu masley masail dramey. So an audience was created by the tv channels for the new writers they were putting to work, the digest writers… and they churned out stories aimed at the mythical audience identified by marketing depts as per the TRP meter boxes. Edged out in this rat race for TRPs were the serious writers, the ones who were writers on their own merit, those who had been trained in literary tradition, those who had read world literature etc .. and so the drama became all abt the household.

      Over time reading habits have also changed and so readers of serious literature have also waned, and writers who wrote serious stuff have also been edged out of the market and digest stories have started being sold in novel form, and now passed of as literature. The point of this long winded history lesson is to underscore the difference between pulp fiction and serious literature and the difference between the various adaptations. So, in view of the above, adaptation are not necessarily a bad thing.. they bring to life classic stuff that might not otherwise be read etc …

      Your other point, about lack of original scripts, well, I just see it as laziness on the channels’ part. Where classic literature is fine to bring on TV, there is no reason to dramatize contemporary popular novels. The reason we see so many is ’cause there is a built in audience for these… YKS, DeD, MeJ, Humsafar, all were very familiar to audiences and so the channel was assured of at least a warm opening. Now compare this to an unfamiliar story, where there is no guarantee of an opening, and it is easy to see why channels would bank on the sure shot. And then this is the same thought process that leads channels to “leak” stories or put out entire synopses out on their fb pages .. the going belief is that audiences like to know or feel familiar with the story .. they wont try anything new …

      And it is this mindset that leads to channels and producers commissioning the same stuff again ‘n again … and in this scenario why blame the writers .. they are being invited to the party .. not like they are gatecrashing .. hence that tweet ..

      • OH, right. My bad! I seemed to have jumped the gun on this one, assuming it was another adaptation similar to the run of the mills stuff, we’ve become accustomed to, what you have described so kindly above. I overlooked the part in my haste to register this fact; what sort of and whose adaptation it was.

        (thank you for the history lesson. Of course, things weren’t always the same. Hence, our indignation too at being asked not to read the same stuff our elders were reading from in their youth – not realizing that the content was miles apart!).

        By the way, I wasn’t criticizing your tweet, only using it as a point of reference to present my (ill informed) thoughts on the subject of adaptations.

        Laziness, yes. Quite right.
        I think and it’s only because I haven’t followed much, the last classic piece of literature masterfully adapted and executed on tv was Dastaan.
        Truly, why doesn’t anyone bring those pieces of work to life? Reading hasnt been a national past time for a long while. At least not good old proper literature and poetry. Why doesn’t anyone try it bring to the audiences this way instead?

        I know, I know.
        Another long debate and tonnes of talking points again. Maybe for another forum.
        🙂

        • @Arisha: I write as I think and lose track of the length of the comment and kahan se kahan baat chali jaati hai .. I should learn to read back and edit .. sorry for the length .. abhi dekha tau I was like wth?!

          I know you werent criticizing,and I shouldve made it a general comment addressed to All. I wrote this because this question of writing keeps coming up again and again on various threads and I wanted to put my thoughts out on this matter .. I should do a proper post on this but I know it is unlikely to happen soon, hence the history lesson 🙂

          Yes, Dastaan was I think the last one .. ab watch out for Aangan, written by Khadija Mastoor. It is being adapted by Mustafa Afridi and directed by Ehteshamuddin and will in all probability star Sania Saeed. It should be out on HUM TV sometime next year. This novel has a historical value and has been translated into English as Inner Courtyard.

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