Cheekh ~ Telefilm Review

Cheekh is a cry of despair. [A s]tory of originality being suffocated in the race for quantity and mediocrity.”

Written by Ali Moeen, directed by Naeem Khan and starring the ever fabulous Rehan Sheikh along with brilliant actors like Rashid Farooqui and Saleem Mairaj, Cheekh is a telefilm I have had on my watch list since 2013, since Hina Bayat recommended this one as do-not-miss-TV. It took some 4+ years but last week I finally managed to find it online and promptly saved it on my playlist.

I don’t know if you all have the same problem, but when something comes so highly recommended I am almost afraid to watch it – achi nahin hui tau dil toot jayega type bekar khayals.

Khair, for this one I needn’t have worried.

Barely five minutes in and it became easy to understand why Hina had recommended this telefilm. And that’s precisely the reason I think it will appeal to you all as well.

Cheekh is the story of a TV writer Jamal. His writing has garnered him fame and fans and his scripts are aggressively pursued by eager producers. Ek telefilm likh dein Jamal sahab, please ek serial likh dein, mera career ban jayega, please …

For someone seemingly so in demand Jamal is surprisingly irritable and embittered, angry with the world at large. Why is disjunction? It is pretty clear he is desperately in need of funds – bijli cut gayi, phone cut gaya –  why then has he not written in over five years? Why won’t he agree to the producers’ pleas? They are willing to pay top dollar.. what more is he holding out for?

As the narrative unfolds Jamal’s hat dharmi starts to make sense … but for how long can he live by ideals alone? Can principles feed the man and pay his bills? Is he in the right or is he just a fool who refuses to move with times. As I continued to watch Jamal’s heart wrenching dilemma I was reminded yet again of the question posed in Manto’s Toba Tek Singh: Pagal kaunandar waley ya bahar waley?

Brilliant as it is on the storytelling front, this telefilm is made all the more poignant on account of all that it reveals about functioning of the drama industry these days. I am often asked why I am so critical of producers and channels, well this telefilm tells it all.

Holding nothing back, Ali Moen’s script lays bare all those ugly truths that nobody will own up to, at least publicly, and goes a long way towards explaing why stories of this ilk are a rarity. That a telefilm of this caliber remains unsung and uncirculated is an absolute shame.

Suffice it to say that if you have more than a fleeting interest in dramas, and are looking for something more substantial than an exchange of coy glances then this telefilm should find a place in your watch list.

Written by SZ~

Cheekh ~ Part 1

Cheekh ~ Part 2


10 replies

  1. This was brilliant. Thank you for recommending it, SZ! (You have me pegged exactly right, lol).

    I especially enjoyed the parts where the lead character refers to his story as a living, breathing thing, and every time he changes feels like he’s killing one of his own children. I think every writer struggles with the same thing, and this really hit me where it hurts, so to speak. Kudos to the writer!

    This was obvious commentary about the industry, but I also appreciated how meta it was to have serious actors like Saleem Mairaj and Rashid Farooqui–both of whom have complained about the lack of good stories in the industry–playing two men who are all about the money. Rehan Sheikh was terrific too. Loved that first scene with the dhud wala!

    Props to the director as well. Even in a short film, it’s difficult to tell a story by shooting it all in one room, and with the main character often speaking to just himself.

    Taaliyaan for everyone!


    • @RK: Yay!! So glad you enjoyed it .. I knew this one would speak to you on multiple levels, and this is precisely why I loved this .. that I could watch this multiple times and come away with different things to think about each time.

      I too thought the director did a fab job in terms of keeping the visual narrative interesting despite the fact that it was in a small apartment, and didnt really have much going on other than ppl just talking.

      And uff! did you cringe when the seth called the script maal and how it was all a dhanda to him and then when his name was changed to a Jameela Khatoon ..

      Ali Moeen won the best screenplay award for this at the Kara Film Festival, an independent film festival that I think is now defunct. It was screened on TV as a part of a telefilm festival … and there used to be quite a few such festivals just a few years ago, but ab its all about making long dragged out serials .. and telefilms are relegated to only eid and bakra eid times when its all abt the shadi – afsos!


      • Ha! The Jameela Khatoon bit was a clever bit of irony, considering what a huge swipe the writer took at the digest-writing khawatin.

        I sometimes wonder why channels don’t make more mini series. Most of these dramas don’t have enough plot for 25+ episodes, but a 6 to 10-episode mini series would be perfect, no? But I guess channels want to milk their prize cows as much as possible.


      • @SZ when I read – this one would speak to you on multiple levels ..

        I liked this thought so very much.

        I am imagining, when you are writing a review, you can imagine reaction of your audiences with a very good accuracy.


        • @AS: Actually when I write a review I dont think of anyone else except where the writing takes me .. It might surprise you but I dont even think of an outline when I sit to write .. If I started to think of audience response and write with an intention to reach out to x or y or z then Im not being honest with what I am writing.
          But when I respond to a specific comment then that ofcourse is directed towards the specific person,


  2. This was brilliantly realistic amazing portrayal of genuine frustrated writers and what happened with their stories n thus the dramas now a days.. RS was pitch perfect and script was clear winner.. i love the scene where Jamal talks to sea having food plate in his hands.. that and last scene where he says apne bache ko maar diya.. uff moved me deeply..

    Seems like quality stuff is now limited to telefilms only. Hardly 1 or 2 serials offer something interesting.

    Thanku sooo much for recommendation..


    • @Rehmat: Apologies for the late response – my bad!
      Thank you for checking this out and am so glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, sadly good stuff is few and far in between .. ab tau even telefilms are being relegated to the eid slots and all about slapstick comedy and chichoray romances :/


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