Primetime: Battle of the babes?

Published March 28, 2010

What qualifies as a good fairy tale? A fragile beauty, a prince charming, an ogre, some misunderstandings and then a happily-ever-after ending? If you're looking for something similar then Noor Bano is a must-watch where the pretty protagonist is a modern-day princess locked in a castle, waiting to be freed by her prince.

With Noor Bano starting after a fairly short time after the conclusion of Nur Pur Ki Rani (yet another modern-day fairy tale), a lot of viewers have a hard time comprehending that Noor Bano is not a sequel of Nur Pur...

Directed by Fahim Burney and written by Seema Ghazal, the story is set in the backdrop of old traditions and values, where the elderly patriarch has the final word and often wrecks havoc with the lives of others around him.

An orphan, Noor Bano (Mahnoor Baloch), lives with her uncle Agha Ji and Bay Ji (played by Mustafa Qureshi and Samina Ahmed, respectively). Annoyed with his daughter Sara (Nadia Hussain) who has dreams that take her outside the confines of the haveli and turns her into a fashion model, Agha Ji decides to marry his son Moorash (Imran Abbas) to Noor Bano. Though the marriage takes places as per the wishes of Agha Ji, Moorash walks away stating that with him dies the family's name.

Fast-forward a few years, earning the ire of his father, Moorash is a grieving man with ghosts of the past haunting him. In walks Alvina (Tooba) who falls in love with him. The more he shies away from her, the more she pursues him. After a slight misunderstanding, where Alvina thinks of Sara as Moorash's girlfriend, she eventually confesses her love for him and asks him to marry her.

Not sure of what to do, he confides in his sister who tells him to find a way out of his self-imposed loneliness. Although he assumes that Sara would not agree to marry him, he is in for a surprise when Alvina agrees. From there on, the story moves back home with Noor Bano getting to see her husband again, but with a bride in tow.

Quite a few years ago it was Burney who started producing plays with Indian soap stars, and even before that his Bollywood-inspired serials with loads of GGs (glamour girls) earned good TV ratings. Seema Ghazal, on the other hand, needs a good director to come up with stellar plays such as Chandni Raatien and Mehndi (both directed by Javed Fazil), or else the result is a super-duper flop like Asmaan Choonay Do.

Noor Bano seems similar to Riyasat, where the young blood revolts against the old guard, but focuses more on the feelings of the women. While the glamour quotient is high, the melodrama has been kept to the minimum in the first few episodes, making Noor Bano a decent watch.

On the acting side, Imran Abbas is good as Moorash. One of the best scenes is where he is shown suffering from a severe bout of depression and Alvina's arrival angers him. After an outburst, he mellows down. The range of emotions is well-enacted. Mustafa Qureshi plays the role of a stubborn father to the hilt but it's Bindiya who disappoints in her role as Alvina's mother.

Given that the three leading ladies in this serial are all models, it seems like a battle of the babes. Riding high (not talking about thigh-high slits in gowns that she wore with amplomb in Nur Pur) on a comeback of sorts is Mahnoor with her demure ghoongat-clad volte face, she plays the slightly older beauty putting a brave face to whatever life throws her way. With limited screen time in the first few episodes, she does her bit well as the damsel in distress. Although it's her wardrobe that is much talked about. Full marks to the designer whose creations seem perfect for the mehndi scenes.

Moving on, for once Nadia as Sara emotes, though it's a tad hard to digest the fact that she is a model of Pakistani origin in the US. Tooba, on the other hand, is sheer disappointment as she just goes through her lines. The only time where she does seems to be 'acting' is when she struts around the campus in long boots and skinny jeans. Good on the ramp. Bad, bad, bad on TV.

The grand structure where Noor Bano is shot is the famous Noor Mahal, once the residence of the Nawab of Bahawalpur. Though closed to the public, it's the grand façade of the palace, all lit up in the night, that heightens the emptiness inside the characters.

On an end note, Noor Bano's soundtrack has amazing lyrics by Sabir Zafar. After the title track of Meri Zaat Zara Benishaan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan surpasses himself as he soulfully sings “Baat kar le mujh se mere khali pun, Baat kar le meri tanhai ki...” As Noor Bano walks through the massive house with this track in the background, you can't help but feel her pain, and hope that this fairy tale has a happy ending.

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