Last week marked the ending of what was billed as the most expensive serial on Pakistani television—Bashar Momin.
Anyone watching the show could not have failed to see the influence of Turkish dramas, but like most feats of reverse engineering, it produced mixed results.
Directed by the well-known Syed Ali Raza Usama, this A&B productions magnum opus was one among a crop of more male lead-focused dramas released this year. It is interesting to note that the tidal wave of Turkish dramas has subsided to a trickle, an afterthought, where once they threatened the entire Pakistani entertainment industry. Meanwhile our own indigenous, original dramas are getting rave reviews and critical acclaim in India’s giant entertainment market.
Termed as a take on Beauty and the Beast the story describes how Belle (from the tale), in this case the innocent Rudaba (Ushna Shah), is manipulated out of her impending marriage to Buland (Sami Khan) and forced to marry political magnate and money laundering criminal: Bashar (Faysal Qureshi).
This is a story of transformation and redemption through unconditional love. The fabulous script by Zanjabeel Shah has been Bashar Momin’s strong point— well plotted, well-defined characters and some truly great dialogues managed to keep this serial’s head above water even when the director was playing around with special effects.
|Ushna Shah and Faysal Qureshi from a scene in Bashar Momin.- Photo courtesy Bashar Momin Facebook page|
“Aurat do kisam ki mohabbat karti hai: aik hoti hai aurton wali mohabbat— khudgarz, lain dainn wali...aur aik mohabbat hoti hai jo Maa kay pyar ki tarha hoti hai selfless …bura hai bhalla hai mera hai” says Rudaba to a snapping press corp , hungry for information on her recently indicted husband.
To which Bashar (in his safehouse) responds: “abb mujhay koi nahi haraaa sakta” as he watches her on the television screen.
The dialogues above do not only explain Rudaba’s feelings for Bashar but in the nutshell, the concept of the entire drama. She accepts him completely into her heart, for better or worse and whether he deserves it or not. This, unconditional love is a rare painfully bought gift which finally heals Bashar’s much damaged psyche.
Hurt and broken by his faithless mother’s childhood abandonment, followed by his father’s suicide, Bashar is a man, who stoops so low that he tricks his own wife into an abortion simply because he absolutely fails to trust anyone. His transformation begins when his remorse awakens after realising that Rudaba does not stop loving him even after all the pain he has caused.
Innocent women suffering is a staple of Pakistani dramas, but a lot of women in particular were turned off by the amount of mental torture Rudaba is put through by her suspicious, disturbed husband. There were definite echoes of the much-talked-about novel 'Fifty Shades of Grey' which seemed at odds with the spirit of the main narrative. While anyone who has read Beauty and the Beast knows that Belle is impressed by her captor’s kindness rather than his attempts to cower her into obedience.
|-Photo courtesy 'Bashar Momin' official page|
Pakistani audiences have gotten used to heroines like Khirad from Humsafar, Kashaf from Zindagi Gulzar hai and even Zara from AunnZara who have expectations from their men, be it a father or husband. Simply put, they want respect. Although some have labelled Rudaba’s character regressive, her true worth lies in her ability to love and forgive unconditionally. This is indeed a very rare but powerful ability even if it seems as if it comes at the price of a complete loss of agency.
Perhaps Bashar Momin’s biggest achievement is that it still managed to regain at least some of its momentum even after Geo was taken off air and the serial had to take almost three month hiatus.
Bashar Momin in terms of acting:
Bashar Momin may well be one of versatile actor Faysal Qureshi’s most difficult roles, apart from some over acting in the beginning; he managed to make this transformation incredibly moving and memorable giving a formidable performance.
|Sami Khan in a scene from Bashar Momin.- Photo courtesy Bashar Momin Facebook Page|
Ushna Shah has great screen presence and an ability to create the most amazing chemistry with all her co-stars. Despite her inability to bring out the more nuanced layers of her character at some points she is still one of the main reasons this serial was so intriguing.
Bolstered by good performances from Sami Khan and Yasirr Mazhar this drama should have been iconic. However, the lavish sets and designer clothes barely made an impact through the theatrical smoke and shadows style the director chose to shoot this serial in.
Overall despite some exceptionally good episodes and portrayals, Bashar Momin did not realise the absolute potential of its script. There were amazing scenes and dialogues but the execution was inconsistent at best—and bad execution can easily ruin well-written scripts. Bashar Momin would have been a raging success had the director focused on the script more than the special smoky effects and ostentatious attires.
The best projects are always the ones where director and writer understand each other and try to stay on the same page and let's just say, Bashar Momin wasn't the best yet Zanjabeel Shah's strong words will keep echoing in your mind:
Khair aur shar ko milaya jai toh basher takhleeq hota hai, insaan bayak waqt khair bhi hai aur shar bhi.
Sadaf Haider is a writer at dramapakistani.net