Written by Shahid Nizami, directed by Angeline Malik and co-produced by Angelic Films and Center for Communications Pakistan, Mujhay Jeenay Do is a new serial that addresses the issue of child marriages prevalent in smaller towns and villages. The first episode aired past Monday on Urdu 1 and I must say that of the recent lot of issue-based serials this one had the most effective begining, writing, direction and acting coming together just so.
From the barrage of promos and pre-publicity it was no secret that this was about child marriages. The first shot of Saira, happily playing with her chooris and her dulhan doll, was almost expected. I braced myself for the inevitable heartbreak that seemed sure to follow but kudos to the writer and director for the superb framing of their story. I loved how this colorful sweet peek into an innocent child’s world led us very organically into the darker larger story of women systematically stripped off their rights to live their lives.
Malik Shahbaz’s daughter wanted Saira’s guriya for her gudda so her indulgent father makes this rishta possible by paying Saira’s brother, Murad. Clearly what the Maliks want the Maliks get. Saira’s father refuses to attend the wedding because he considers himself too much of a siyana to play along with these childish games. But as per the precap he may be not have been willing to attend the inanimate guriyas’ shaadi, but will have no problem attending his own real live guriya’s shaadi with a much older man.
Leading off of this main track are other related stories which touch on other women-related issues. Yasmin and Shaheena are orphaned sisters. Yasmeen, the older of the two, is a village health worker married to Iftikhar who works in the city. Shaheena is a stay at home mom, with a small daughter and a boy on the way. She is married to Mamdu, a farmer strugling with making ends meet but easy with heaping abuse on his pregnant wife.
Mamdu is friends with Murad, who not only enjoys easy money for himself but also advises his friend to pressurize his wife to ask for her share of her father’s property. When things don’t pan out the way Mamdu expects he lets loose with his words and blows. Domestic violence is the bane of Shaheena’s life, but she puts up with Mamdu for the sake of her child(ren).
Lack of proper prenatal care and information about reproductive health is another big issue addressed here. Bushra, Saira’s older sister, is married to Naseeb, a relatively well-off hotel owner. Naseeb and Bushra are happily married, but even with a caring husband and financial resources she is not allowed access to proper medical care. Despite being told to not rely on local midwives, the men in Bushra’s family choose to ignore Yasmin’s warnings and the result is tragic – Naseeb is left with his wife’s memories and a brand new baby boy.
While for Bushra it was her first baby, her brother Murad’s wife is expecting her third child. Khairi has no complications for now, but that her two young sons are already working touches on these villagers’ lack of interest in education. Financial stresses make the short term benefits seem so much more important. Conversely even as they are strapped economically they see no correlation between the number of children and the shortage of money.
For a first episode this was a good introduction to the characters, their contexts and their web of relationships. Even though this is yet another NGO -sponsored project – CCP also sponsored Sammi – Shahid Nizami’s script looks and reads like a proper drama rather than a string of issues tied together with long-winded preachy monologues. Even in this first episode the characters felt authentic and their issues real and relatable.
Speaking of characters being real, who can be more real than Nadia Jamil and how fabulous is it to have her back on TV!?! She was fabulous as Yasmin, as real as only she can be. I so so wish other actresses would take at least half a leaf out of her book and realize that there is more to acting than looking glamorous. This is also Mehreen Raheal’s comeback and I enjoyed watching her tackle a character with a lot more meat than her usual fare. I am not quite onboard with the bronzer and the shiny lipstick but I liked her as Shaheena. The accent was well-done and I am glad she did not go down the melodramatic route with her character. Mehreen and Sarmad make a good pair – sadly don’t think we’ll get to see any warm moments between Shaheen and Mamdu.
Ali Tahir I liked as Mamdu’s BFF, Murad. His wife, Khairi, is played by Farah Tufail, who was generally okay but her 24/7 perfect hair and makeup made it impossible for me to buy into her character. Gohar Rasheed was another one who was not quite convincing either. I felt he was trying too hard and all those closeups of every reaction did not help his case either. And, this is her first serial and she is acting with stalwarts, but I have to say Eman Sher was the pick of the whole lot. She is so very confident and so very natural in front of the camera. Loved her as Saira!
Angeline Malik has started this serial off on a very strong note. Her direction is on point and I liked her use of visuals to add texture to the story. The camera work was very good. The shot of the little boy pouring chai broke my heart as did the shot of Shaheena using the hand cutter. Also lovely were scenes of Saira getting dressed for her doll’s baraat, what a heartbreaking visual contrast to the next time there’s going to be a shaadi in her house. All this said, there was way too much emphasis on capturing everybody’s reaction to everything with closeups. Bushra’s death announcement scene being a case in point.
Pros and cons considered Mujhay Jeenay Do has gotten off to a strong start and I for one an intrigued to see where the story leads us to eventually. What about you all? How many watched the first episode? Kaisi lagi pehli qist?
Written by SZ~