THE WEEK THAT WAS

Clickbait | Netflix

This gripping thriller integrates a critical look at the way social media, and the voyeuristic society it has fostered, can help and hinder a murder investigation.

A happy family is torn apart when the father is murdered after being shown on YouTube holding a sign saying that he abuses women and has killed someone. Just like Pakistani dramas, American serials have their cliches, where everyone is having affairs and like the marriages, no one is happy. Despite that, this is great binge watch material for a lazy weekend, efficiently using the changing perspective and protagonist per episode format.

Zoe Kazan as the rebellious but caring sister opposite Betty Gabriel, as the perfectionist wife, breathe life into the story. The best part of this show is the rare, nuanced portrayal of an American Muslim in a leading role unrelated to terrorism. Phoenix Rael is authentic and believable as Iranian American detective Roshan Amiri, who can end an exhausting night’s work by praying Fajar at his local mosque but also match with the victim’s sister on a dating/hook-up app, showing us the many layers of his hyphenated identity.

Qissa Meherbano Ka | Hum TV, Saturdays 8.00pm

The good news is that the first episode looks much better than Zebaaish, the previous debacle directed by Iqbal Hussain. How long the impression lasts remains to be seen, but the stellar cast does provide some hope.

Meherbano (Mawra Hocane) is a good girl cliché, resigned to the empty life forced on her by the selfish decisions of her father and brother 10 years ago. Her niece, Noor (Areej Mohyudeen), is a fun-loving rebel who wants her aunt to break free, and is often at odds with her conservative grandfather (Mohammad Ahmed). Zaviyar Naumaan Ejaz makes a good debut as Mehran, the younger neighbour in love with Meherbano, who would also like her to move on. The missing face in this episode was Ahsan Khan’s as Murad Ali, Meherbano’s nominal husband. By next week we will see if Khan’s screen presence can build some momentum for this show.

Ishq Hai | ARY, Tuesdays 8.00pm

Belying his declarations of eternal love and the desperate measures he took to marry Isra (Minal Khan), Shahzeb’s (Danish Taimoor) mind is poisoned by suspicion. His decision to ‘punish’ her with a second marriage to Nimra (Mah-e-Noor Haider) is not surprising for the kind of disturbed man who abducts a girl and forces her into a nikaah at gunpoint.

What is disappointing is the way the women around Shahzeb are willing to be used. Isra swears revenge after Shahzeb’s behaviour leads to her father’s death and Nimra, too, is consistently humiliated by Shahzeb — yet both women ultimately acquiesce to his whims. The generic, facile personalities of all the women in this story show a weakness in their writing and a lack of substance in the script. Pulp fiction and even stereotypes may not be enlightening, but well-sketched out characters and a fast-paced story can still make a show entertaining. Fitrat and Deewangi are great examples of this genre, let us see if Ishq Hai can still catch that wave.

What To Watch Out For

Mera Saaein | ARY

While we’re talking about toxic men cast as flawed heroes, a good drama to watch would be Mera Saaein which ARY Digital is rebroadcasting (it’s also available on Youtube). Malik Wajahat (Naumaan Ejaz) is a powerful politician who knows how to charm as easily as he knows how to control. This serial shows us that it’s possible to illustrate evil and portray a negative character without normalising or romanticising it.

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 5th, 2021

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