THE WEEK THAT WAS

Khuda Aur Mohabbat 3 | Geo, Fridays 8.00pm

The third of writer Hashim Nadeem’s series of dramas for Geo, mixing love and spirituality, is easily the most popular, despite a clumsy script that depends on toxic, male fragility. Feroz Khan plays yet another obsessive lover, Farhad, who decides a girl who played a couple of pranks on him at a wedding is the love of his life. When Mahi (Iqra Aziz) quite reasonably refuses to reciprocate, he curses her with a “bad-dua” (curse) for “breaking” his heart. Already bowed down with guilt over rejecting Farhad and his subsequent “death”, Mahi is again struck by tragedy as her young groom is murdered in an attack by her brother’s enemies. A broken Mahi feels responsible for both deaths, and decides to stay on with her grieving in-laws to complete her iddat (period of mourning), as both penance and self-punishment. Iqra Aziz is a fantastic actress and her journey from bubbly young girl to victim of circumstance gives this show much-needed depth. Feroz Khan’s strong screen presence and charisma make what might have been an unlikeable character seem at least initially sweet.

By episode 20, it is evident that Farhad survived but his character has lost all its initial naïve charm. Although writer Hashim Nadeem has spared no effort to justify and sanctify Farhad, with a parade of characters lamenting Farhad’s assumed death and condemning Mahi, it’s not enough to prop up this flimsy plot line. For some inexplicable reason, Farhad is destined to be revered as a holy man or Pir, despite having done absolutely nothing to deserve such reverence. Lets see if the makers can pull some rabbit out of the proverbial hat and turn what increasingly looks like a devaluation of consent and the glorification of male entitlement into something better. Lavish production values, a beautiful OST by Ustad Rahat Fatah Ali Khan, cinema-style picturisation by director Syed Wajahat Hussain and a strong supporting cast are keeping this drama high in the ratings.

Raqse Bismil | Hum TV, Fridays 8.00pm

Hum TV’s popular Raqse Bismil is another Hashim Nadeem drama employing his signature mix of star-crossed lovers set against a background of traditional spirituality. Excellent individual performances from Imran Ashraf Awan as Musa and Sarah Khan as Zohra, plus their amazing on-screen chemistry, have made up for some weak plot points and a smaller budget. The action-adventure feel given by Musa’s headstrong persona, and his willingness to respect and accept Zohra’s initial refusal, could have provided a welcome change to the domineering men on our screens. However, this seems to have been too much for the writer to bear, so a forced marriage was provided in the form of Essa (Momin Saqib) and Sakina (Anoushay Abbasi), reassuring audiences that traditional standards were being maintained. This patchy but entertaining serial is reaching a climax soon, but it could have been better with fewer episodes and a better integration of the Islamic concepts of love and compassion it claims to be based on.

What To Watch Out For

Neeli Zinda Hai | ARY, Thursdays 8.00pm

After the dark thriller Dulhan, writer Adeel Razzaq gives us a supernatural mystery in Neeli Zinda Hai, for ARY. When Amaan (Mohib Mirza) sees how his possessive mother has abused his wife Sumbul (Mishal Khan) and daughter, he decides to quit his job overseas, taking his family to settle in a new house to heal instead. However, the three of them find no peace, because their house is haunted by the ghost of Neeli (Urwa Hocane). Meanwhile Amaan’s mother Meharbano (Kinza Malik) continues plotting her “revenge” through black magic. Sumbul tries to understand the strange phenomenon in her house but Amaan sees this as a sign of his wife’s mental deterioration. Both Khan’s and Mirza’s understated acting are a great foil to the melodrama inherent in any horror-based serial. Kinza Malik usually plays the ideal sort of loving mother, and her negative role only adds some shock value to what might have been an ordinary role. Despite her limited appearances, Urwa Hocane is the star of the show: frightening and powerful, yet strangely vulnerable. This well-made show is quietly making its mark.

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 4th, 2021

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