It’s That Time of the Year: When Drama is in Suspense!

Those specific characters, that specific language by the brilliant writer could be nothing else but literature. Aangan, late 2018, gave me a feel of the classics! Bila shubha, what this pen-wielder wrote was a true picture of the fall of the conservative lifestyle of old Muslim India! The new serial, Aangan, written by the late ace fiction-writer, Khadija Mastoor, proves that in that age, the top writers wrote less, in years, but then their pen produced something that stood the test of time!

Any discerning mind would immediately find that this particular book wasn’t harping on nostalgia, as was the style of many masters like Intezar Hussain. Here, Khadija Mastoor shows a perfectly objective approach to novel-writing, instead of going into raptures over the stunning grandeur of a Mughal haveli. She observes things with a complete understanding of what went down at Partition. Nostalgia, though it’s there, takes a back seat to a ruthless, bitter analysis of what was considered an enviable civilisation. Because she shows how it collapsed. From the first episode on 20th December, Aangan brings forth characterisation that would baffle those, who are churning out lacklustre men and women with hardly any characteristics or habits, personality traits or prominent features!

Despite overall shortcomings, private drama throughout 2018 brought forth a much more evolving picture than what went by during the last decade on the drama channels. Granted the local serials still mostly concentrate on domestic drama, the fact is that we are, at least, attempting to enter from the wings, instead of the main door. Issues are being introduced in the tracks that could be a window of progressive thought. And that vital factor that is lifeblood of all spectacles, i.e. suspense, which was in Humsafar, which made it such a powerful serial, has returned to our dramas almost a decade later, in a big way!

Very few serials before 2018, projected real suspense. I mean, if you have Belapur kee Dayan, or Balaa, or Saya, you know you’ll have fear and anxiety to play with, but generally, the basic ingredient of drama, suspense was lacking in most of the serials, which could number fifty, if you include three main segments, seven to eight, eight to nine, and nine to ten! Aside from those, you have replay of old hits, like we are having Zindagi Gulzar Hai, these days, or the appetite-quenching dish of the binge watching. So, you have a gross menu of nothing but drama, hour after hour, after the office-goers return in the evening! No wonder, men immediately invite wives to eating out these days! Tsk tsk! Anti-climax for bechara shauhar!

But, I was saying that why is suspense lacking? Just throw your mind back, and what do you see? In Ta’beer, did you expect a sudden twist in the script? No, and even when her son died accidentally (culprit being Safina), it was more like b/w Pakistani films used to thrive on tragic incidents, one after another, that fell on the poor heroine! It was Safina, whose acting, a singular case, that livened up the screen. At least, Pagli was an interesting tale told in a light-hearted way. Take the case of that pain in the kanpati, called Band Khirkiyan! Every episode is similar to the last. Moreover, the one-tone acting of Ali Agha forced me to gulp down a Dispirin. Then, just look at Zan Mureed, decidedly the worst fare this year. Where was the suspense in it? And then they say our homes and our lives lack excitement!

So, drama can’t thrive without suspense, and mostly, in our fifty or so serials lack drama. Where’s the drama if you keep on repeating young pairs breaking up in every serial, and being hooked up with other partners. Either the scripts are tactless, or the makers can’t engineer suspense. You could see how situations were brought to bear that created drama in Daldal. Khair, in that serial, the acting was such that one enjoyed the serial; Zahid, Armeena, Asma Ejaz and others lived their lower-middle strata. Its end was unconvincing.

But, even normal pace, without being melodramatic, can put enough zing in a serial. Khamoshi is one case, where a meaty script did absolutely fine. And Zara Noor acted with such panache that she is surely heading for the top slot. Her maturity, her controlled delivery, and her sober expressions just floored all. Arguably, Zara could be the best actress of the year, with her other two serials, Lamhay, and Qaid still going on. Only Iqra Aziz, that insuppressible girl, has created doubts in hearts regarding the numero uno, after a late-season Ranjha Ranjha Kardi stopping traffic. Later, this year, Kaisee Aurat Hoon Main, leading with Nadya Khan, brought another study in working woman history. Nadya did above average, but there’s room for improvement.

You have to admit that throughout 2018, drama moved towards some positive vectors. Not only did the working women got some mention, other crinkly issues also surfaced. From girl molestation (Dar See Jati Hai Sila) to people smuggling and exploitation of workers in the foreign lands (Daldal), some new angles did appear. Then, connivance of woman against woman in bazahir settled households (Ghar Titlee ka Par) was brilliantly highlighted, as well as abuse of women at private offices (Ab Dekh Khuda Kya Karta Hai) was underlined. In this context, Sanam Chaudhry’s versatility was observed in two back-to-back serials. We do have an embarrassment of riches, and Yumna Zaidi and Kinza Hashmi in Hum TV’s DSJHS, and Ishq Tamasha stood out. Both are highly talented, portraying different moods. They are still being praised for the jobs, but more is to be watched before any verdict can be given. Of course, how can you forget Sajal Ali, who has thoroughly been judged as a stunning artiste for the last almost a decade. Her work in Yaqeen ka Safar was also appreciated. The verdict for her has already been given: First Class! The cherubic child-woman did just great in O Rangreza, and she is proving it again excellently in Aangan. If quantity was one of the criteria, Aiman Khan would be standing up front, because this year, she’s had the highest number of serials. Yet, most of those serials have one-dimensional roles for her. Sadly for her, she was intentionally given these monotonous roles. But, eventually, she’s the one suffering from this, as you can see in Baandi, otherwise a very pertinent story. For the moment, these six girls, Zara, Sanam, Kinza, Yumna, Sajal, and Iqra stand out! But, Sajal has an edge over the other five, as she’s much more experienced than them. My own vote goes to Zara Noor Abbas!

This year, the important news is that Shehzad Sheikh is finally learning to emote. He looks and acts normal for the most part! In Ghar Titlee ka Par, he wore brands, that fitted him, and he also ruffled some feathers by his small-screen anger. But, Ta’beer was another loose libada! Now, when the year ends, two brilliant artistes have been conspicuous by their absence. Bilal Abbas, after some good work in O Rangreza, was hardly seen in any other serial, and Zahid Ahmed, too, turned invisible in the second-half of 2018, after Daldal, and To Dil Ka Kya Hua.

Amongst the youngsters, Ramsha and Vihaj caught the eye in the serial, Mah-e-Tamam. The serial, itself went down like a ton of bricks in the later half, because there wasn’t enough craft of writing in the climax. Moreover, Imad Irfani could not shoulder the vital role of a troubled husband. He screamed at the top of his voice, and botched up emotional delivery. He is just about average in Tawan, another terrible fare! Naveen, of course, is better every time you watch her in a new serial. Sahifa Jabbar is another charming addition to the fare, as she proved in Teri Meri Kahani. In Ishq Tamasha, quite a few young ones showed promise, which is nice to see. Ahad Raza Mir has been out and about, and Aangan may give him some good footage. But, the man who stole the show this year was definitely Imran Ashraf, who stunned in Ranjha Ranjha Kardi as a mentally retarted street urchin. He reminded us that even today, we can produce gifted men like Qazi Wajid and Behroze Sabzwari. Azfar Rehman had a few serials this year, which gives us the hope that he will move up the order in the coming years.

Enough of that! Now, once again, that desperate question pops up: why is domestic drama dominating? Why isn’t there any variety in our private circuit?

I mean, scratch a one-line story, and you excavate a clichés-ridden domestic saga! Ninety percent of our serials are about a household. But, by example, this isn’t true of Aangan! In this classic tale, the whole society is targeted by the author. It is the tasveer of an age before us, which connects with the early 20th century, a period in which a still-born nation faced the top-notch colonialist nation of inventors and intellectuals. It’s the depression and frustration of a century, which pummels the generation of the 1900s, and the next! Aangan exposes a whole world around these nawabs and nawabzadis, along with the children coming next!

Thankfully, as I noted earlier, this year, some new corridors have opened up for us. Aangan is one such opening. Some issues have been raised, like the power of the landed elite in Baandi, the plight of the home servant in Aatish, the molestation of girls in the household in Dar See …. Sila, the issue of the working girl, what goes on in offices, what transpires in poor neighbourhoods in Ranjha Ranjha Kardi etc. It’s good to see a musical comedy serial in Romeo Weds Heer. This year, it’s been some progress, surely!