TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Maat (2011)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Maat (2011). The 25 Episode limited TV series is directed by Amna Nawaz Khan and is produced by Momina Duraid. Maat was broadcasted on HUM TV Pakistan.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Amna Nawaz Khan
  • Written by Umera Ahmad
  • DOP by Shehzad Kashmiri
  • Edited by Husnain
  • OST Theme composed by Farrukh Abid and Shoaib Farrukh
  • Produced by Momina Duraid

+ Note

Maat (adapted from the book of the same name) is written by the prolific Pakistani Urdu writer Umera Ahmad who is well renowned in the Pakistani Literature as well as Drama Industry as one of the most talented writers in Pakistan. The show is an exploration of themes such as moral defeat and victory in the eyes of our society. How far should one be selfish or selfless in order to survive in this world? Umera’s key strength in her writing has always been indulging in close family affairs and how differences in lifestyles can destroy the loved ones around you.

After its original broadcast on HUM TV, Maat instantly gained its popularity amongst its fanbase and was aired once again in 2013. This also led to the show being dubbed in Pashto for Hum Pashto 1 and drew numerous fans outside the country’s borders (such as India, Iran and Turkey). At the Lux Style Awards, Maat bagged Best Television Actress for Saba Qamar, Best Director, Best Writer and Best Television Serial awards.

 + Main Cast

  1. Aamina Sheikh as Aiman
  2. Saba Qamar as Saman
  3. Adnan Siddiqui as Faisal
  4. Noor Hassan Rizvi as Hadeed
  5. Shamim Hilaly as Faisal’s mother
  6. Rabia Noreen as Afia
  7. Asad Malik as Aazar
  8. Samina Ahmad as servant
  9. Maheen Rizvi as Shaila
  10. Sadia Ghaffar as Munazzah

+ Plot

Two sisters; Aiman (Aamina Sheikh) and Saman (Saba Qamar) have vastly different visions of a perfect life. Aiman dreams of a modest, honest life whereas Saman dreams of a luxurious life with no consequences. Ideals clash when Faisal (Adnan Siddiqui)  proposes to marry his long time love Saman but her perfect Husband might not have a clear face so long as he can fulfill every material need that she desires in Life.

+ High Points

i – This is by now no secret that I am a massive fan of Umera Ahmed and her writing. She is undoubtedly miles ahead from many other drama writers in the Pakistani TV Industry. And Maat is no exception. Every episode is written with intricate precision and attention. With depth and understanding, each character feels a real and integral part of the story. Throughout its 25 Episodes, the show never felt staggered or prolonged (which is a rarity in modern Pak Television!). Each episode had a purpose to exist and that is perhaps one of the biggest compliments I could possibly give to a episodic soap opera. 

ii – Even though Maat is (yet again) a story of love triangle on the surface level, the plot goes much deeper than that. The show is an exploration of selfness vs selfishness (similar to Umera Ahmed’s previous work Daam (2010) but interestingly enough, the role of Aamina Sheikh reversed). It’s obvious that the sympathies lie solely on Aiman but she herself is not flawless in her woes. She fails to understand where the limits lie when it comes to personal sacrifice. Saman (on the other hand) fails to understand why the world doesn’t revolve according to her needs. She has no issues in manipulating people in order to get her way. The concept of ‘philanthropy’ is all alien to her. 

What I really admire about the storyline is all characters (whether good or bad) have flaws within them. The victim nor the oppressor can remain blameless throughout the show. It’s a balanced style of Umera’s writing which I truly applaud about her work. But with that being said, I think a lot of credit also should go to Amna Nawaz Khan’s superb direction. Her meticulous direction of her cast of characters and the scenes that they were part of really brought a lot of life into the show.

iii – The performances are great all around but it’s mostly the main cast of Aamina Sheikh, Saba Qamar and Adnan Siddiqui that shine throughout the show. The audience naturally tunes in for them to take the center stage and they never fail to deliver. But surprisingly, as the show progressed, Saba Qamar quickly captured the limelight of the show and most of the later episodes were solely through her perspective. And that I felt was very refreshing to view the events from the “Antagonist’s” point of view.

iv – The supporting cast of Shamim Hilaly, Rabia Noreen and others also contributed a lot to the show’s strength in its performances. Apart from the servant actors sounding a bit stiff, the main supporting cast was excellent throughout its 25 episodes. The scenes between Shamim and Rabia were also great to watch as their onscreen chemistry really had me believe that they are in fact sisters long after the cameras have stopped recording for the day.

v – The setting, locations and backdrop was all brilliantly realized for the show. The living condition differences between lower social classes and upper social classes were very apparent and added much needed depth and diversity to the moving images of the show.

vi – Apart from the brilliant OST by Muhammad Ali, most of the music was fantastic throughout the show. The integration of flute with melancholic piano really brought a sense of pain and regret onto the small screen. The music never felt overbearing but only ended up enhancing your viewing experience.

vii –  The conclusion to the show was outstanding and fit right in the tone and narrative of the show. Most TV dramas fall into the trap of a great setup but a terrible payback at the end but the writer of Maat knew in which direction she was taking the show and how this particular story would end. The conclusion of any show always makes or breaks it but fortunately, Maat had a very satisfying conclusion to the show.

 + Low Points

i – The production was serviceable to say the least. Shehzad Kashmiri’s camerawork was subpar and lacked any sort of creativity in its visuals. Shows like Raqeeb Se (2021) are a prime example how inventive framing and camerawork can really contribute to the overall aesthetic of the show.

(Warning! Spoilers Ahead! If you would like to avoid it, please skip to the Overall section):

ii – One major problem that left me perplexed was the shift of perspective from Aiman to Saman. Why? Why could not both have been the audience’s window into the world of Maat? Since the two sisters have polar opposite understanding of the world, this unique dual perspective would have worked seamlessly into the narrative but for some reason, Umera’s script solely focused on Saman’s view mostly throughout the show. A bit more balanced screentime between the two sisters would worked better for the show.

iii – Although Saba Qamar’s performance was great, she had a certain tick in her performance that whenever she said something in a condescending tone, she shook her head on the side at the end of each sentence. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a tick that Saba invented for her character or if it was the director’s suggestion but became a bit distracting as episodes went on. 

iv – There were times when the audience might lose their empathy towards Aiman because she is gratuitously more generous than anyone ever should be. It’s hard to sympathize but only pity someone’s lack of intelligence if it’s already written on the wall that caving into Saman’s stubbornness and Faisal’s self-destructive desires will lead to nothing good in life. Perhaps it can be noted as a flaw of Aiman but these were the times when I momentarily lost sympathy for Aiman for being so naive and clueless.

v – The “elderly” make up in the last two episodes was laughable. It looked ridiculous considering the white hair but perfect “wrinkless” skin. A random guy called Aiman ‘old lady’ just took me completely out of the scene. Stage plays have better makeup than this!

vi – The last few episodes have a bit too many inner monologues from Aiman. I think that dragged the episodes a bit and could’ve been avoided. The visuals were enough for the audience to understand what was happening without the show spelling it out for them.

+ Overall

Maat is such an entertaining watch. The characters are interesting and the plot progression is excellent throughout its 25 episodes. One of the best shows to come out of the last decade.

 Rate: 4.0 out of 5 stars

TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Daam (2010)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Daam (2010). The 18 episodes limited TV series is directed by Mehreen Jabbar and is a production of 7th Sky Entertainment. Daam is an ARY DIGITAL Production.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Mehreen Jabbar
  • Written by Umera Ahmed
  • Edited by Mehreen Jabbar
  • DOP by Asad Malik
  • Music Composed by Ustaaz
  • Opening Theme song “Daam Tha” by Zeb Bangash and Haniya Aslam
  • Produced by Humayun Saeed and Abdullah Kadwani

+ Note

Daam is a “coming of age” tale of young Karachities who dream big and stars soon to be famous actors like Sanaam Baloch, Aamina Sheikh and Adeel Hussain. This show  is the brainchild of the famous Urdu novelist Umera Ahmed who has been credited to writing more than 30 books in her career, most notably ‘Peer-e-Kamil’ and ‘Meri Zaat Zara-e-Benishan’. Most of the TV series has been shot in the city of Karachi and is filmed on real locations. When first premiered, Daam became an instant rating sensation for ARY Digital and in 2015, made its premiere in India on Zindagi TV.

Daam indulges in social themes like friendship, betrayal and of course, the price of Happiness. 

 + Main Cast

  1. Sanam Baloch as Zara
  2. Aamina Sheikh as Maleeha
  3. Adeel Hussain as Junaid
  4. Nimra Bucha as Aasma
  5. Sanam Saeed as Fiza
  6. Pari Hashmi as Mano
  7. Muhammad Yasir as Jamaal (Zara’s brother)
  8. Lubna Aslam as Amna (Zara’s mother)
  9. Shahid Naqvi as Hidayatullah (Zara’s father)

 + Supporting Cast

  1. Faisal Shah as Yasir
  2.  Muhammad Ahmed as Sami (Maleeha’s father)
  3. Parveen Malik as Maleeha’s mother
  4. Behroze Sabzwari as Haji Saab
  5. Atif Badar as Ghulam Ali (The Shopkeeper)
  6. Farah Nadir as Mumani
  7. Ahmed Zeb as Jibran

+ Plot

Daam is the story of a group of young adults, living in the city of Karachi who (regardless of their social classes) have a strong bond of friendship that binds them together through thick and thin of Pakistani societal hardships. This all changes when Maleeha (from a financially well off family) finds out that her best friend Zara (from a lower middle class family) is in love with Maleeha’s brother Junaid and are engaged to be married. 

Can relationships be bought and sold in the market of Life? Daam is the story of the price that Maleeha has to pay to her best friend in order to stop the marriage and retain the status quo of social norm of Life.

+ High Points

i – The success story of Daam has to be credited to the brilliant talented team behind it. Mehreen Jabaar’s impeccable direction throughout the series brought the hardships of Life out on the forefront. Jabbar is excellent when it comes to directing a large cast of actors and Daam was no exception. Her talents are best utilized when she is given free reign to make her actors emote tension, excitement and sorrow and inturn, create exciting Television for her viewers. Although Jabbar has also indulged in Cinema, her strength has always been in Television and Daam is a prime example.

ii – The TV show entails incredible, highly convincing performances from its lead actors; Sanam Baloch, Aamina Sheikh and Adeel Hussain. Whenever they were together onscreen, it was evident with every dialogue and physical interaction, they were in fact, not mere actors but actual characters that they were portraying on screen. After the premiere of the show, all three went on with their own career success stories and Daam could very well be the pinnacle of where it all began for them. 

iii – But it’s not just the lead actors, the supporting cast of Daam was also a major contributing factor to the show’s success. The parents of each character led out love, anger and empathy in such a convincing manner that one cannot help but compare them to someone we know in our own lives! The intercracy of marriages and family life in a Pakistani society is extremely vital and Daam’s depiction was of incredible depth and delicacy that the story so richly deserved.

iv – Some say that behind each great performance, it is the writing that holds it all together and for Daam, it could very well be the case. Umera Ahmed’s brilliant writing was probably a major contributing factor for the TV show’s success. The elegance in her writing dialogues and set pieces makes you as a viewer utterly convinced by the sheer urgency and warmth behind each character and the emotions behind the facade. Regardless of male or female character, Umera’s writing is frightently convincing and sometimes, the simplicity and naturalness of her dialogue makes you forget that you are in fact watching a scripted TV show.

v– The pacing of the show from beginning to the end was superb. Each episode was crafted with such precision by Umera Ahmed that every single one of them can be seen solely on its own personal merit and still, the narrative of the show was simplistic to follow through.

vi– The set design, locations and costumes play such a key role in presenting the reality of societal hardships and Daam seamlessly shifted back and forth between the divide of rich and poor communities of Karachi. 

vii– The soundtrack ‘Daam tha’ by Zeb & Haniya for the show is fantastic with its slight Jazz influences and melodramatic traditional music that leaves you humming each time you are through with an episode!

viii– A lot of TV shows start off great but by the end, fizzle out and become a mere relic of how great they once were. Not this show. Daam was carefully planned, right from the getgo and the plot seamlessly flowed from the first episode till the last. The show ends on such a high note that will leave a lingering thought in your mind for weeks to come. And that for me, is a sign that Mehreen Jabbar and ARY Digital really made something special.

 + Low Points

i – While Daam is flawless in almost every way when it comes to narrative, plot development and characters, it does unfortunately lack in its technical execution; namely the sound mixing. Numerous times, it was evident that the collar mics got muffled in between characters hugging each other or the audio levels were extremely off; some scenes too loud, echoing can clearly be heard in some locations. Such a great show but tad bit disappointing that the audio team behind the show did not do a decent job that the show deserved.

ii – But the problem is sadly not only limited to Audio; the editing of the show was incredibly amateurish. The editing and pacing at times was out of sync with the flow of each particular set piece. For example, Telephone calls were edited one dialogue from each character at a time which makes the scene incredibly monotonous and boring to observe/ listen to. With each scene, the editor needs to decide where the emphasis of the scene should lie and cut accordingly. One to one editing has the tendency to make scenes much more tedious than they should be. Since Mehreen Jabbar credits herself to be the sole editor of the show, it can be safely concluded that while Jabbar is excellent in directing her actors, she is also unfortunately in love with every image she shoots with her Director of Photography. Perhaps the show would’ve benefited much more if an external Editor was hired to edit the show for a more polished look.

iii – There were numerous repetitions of the ‘city of Karachi’ scenes in between scenes. Within a single episode, the exact same main road scene was seen twice within a 15 min span. That’s unfortunately just lazy editing and momentarily takes the viewer out of the show.

iv – There were perhaps too many flashback scenes at times in the later episodes. It is obvious that the show wants to keep their new viewers up to date as to what is happening but the show would’ve benefited if they kept some flashback scenes out, especially when you saw that scene just in the last episode!

+ Overall

With excellent performances, superb direction and writing, Daam is one of the best modern dramas Pakistani television has ever produced. Even with its obvious technical flaws, the show speaks to its audience like no other. Daam is one for the ages.

 Rate: 4.25 out of 5 stars