TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai (2013)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai (2013). The 23 Episode limited TV series is directed by Sakina Samo and is a Momina Duraid production. Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai was aired on HUM TV from Dec 2013 till May 2014.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Sakina Samo
  • Written by Umera Ahmed
  • Edited by Tanveer Alam and Afzal Fayaz
  • DOP by Ilyas Kashmiri
  • Music Composed by Shani
  • Opening Theme song “Ye Jo Ik Subha Ka Sitara” by Harshdeep Kaur
  • Produced by Momina Duraid

+ Note

Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai is a case study on family politics and how wealth could potentially always be the root cause of Evil. Sanam Jung plays the part of Romaisa who, due to her father’s valuable lessons in Life, is apparently left uncorrupted by envy and greed that plagues humanity since the beginning of time. When Romaisa was young, her father told her the tale of the mysterious morning star. Even though the star is always visible, one cannot see it just through vision but with the aid of their heart. Throughout the show, Romaisa is constantly in search of that star, the one that could finally bring peace and happiness in her Life.

At 3rd Hum Awards in 2014, Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai won ‘Best Actor” by Mikaal Zulfiqar and “Best Supporting Actress” by Mansha Pasha.

 + Main Cast

  1. Sanam Jung as Romaisa Sikandar
  2. Mikaal Zulfiqar as Nabeel Sikandar
  3. Adeel Hussain as Zeeshan Sikandar
  4. Mansha Pasha as Aliya, Romaisa’s aunt daughter.
  5. Mira Sethi as Rabia, Zeeshan ex-wife
  6. Farah Shah as Romaisa’s Khala

 + Supporting Cast

  1. Naeem Tahir as Nabeel and Zeeshan’s father
  2. Aini Zaidi as Nabeel and Zeeshan’s Mother
  3. Ali Tahir as Nabeel’s elder brother
  4. Tara Mehmood as Nabeel’s brother wife
  5. Hira Tareen as Hamna, Nabeel’s sister and Romaisa’s sister in law
  6. Hassan Noman as Hassan, Hira’s husband and Nabeel’s brother in law
  7. Sania Shamshad as Nayab, Nabeel brother’s wife sister (Guest Appearance/cameo)
  8. Rashid Farooqi as Romaisa’s father (only flashbacks)
  9. Kiran Fatima Bader as Jameela, Romaisa’s sister friend

+ Plot

Romaisa (played by Sanam Jung) is a young, orphan girl who, after the death of her father, is adopted by her aunt and her daughters. But life has never been easy for Romaisa as, due to her pure heart and kindness, is always taken advantage of by the people who surround her. In comes Nabeel (Mikaal Zulfiqar), a wealthy businessman who, due to Romaisa’s innocence and purity, falls head over heels in love with her. But as Life would have it, things do not go according to plan and Romaisa needs to search for that “morning star” so that she could finally achieve inner peace and happiness in her Life.

+ High Points

i – Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai is fantastic in its execution when it comes to characterizations. Each of the main cast and side characters’ motivations are very well defined and depicted onscreen for the audience. And each character is not just a stereotypical version of themselves but rather, have subtle complexities within them. 

ii – Speaking of subtle complexities, the family drama is one of the key aspects of the show. And Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai’s star shines the brightest when it comes to interaction with various family members. From the confident and brash to the weak and incompitent, the Sikandar family has it all. And the show was always compelling when the episodes solely focused on these integral dynamics between the siblings and in laws.

iii – Even though the performance was not always consistently flawless, Adeel Hussian as Zeeshan did a decent job in conveying his character to its fullest potential. As the story progressed, it became obvious that Zeeshan had to play a crucial part later in the show and the performance was more than up for the task.

iv – As a viewer, it’s also exciting to see how people from different social classes massively differ from one another. From the brash, sassy aunt of Romaisa and her daughters to the timid but cruel family members of the Sikandar family. And on some level, they still all seem very human. Credit here should go to Umera Ahmed’s writing and how her strength always lies in capturing different aspects of life within the city of Karachi.

v– The whole “Cinderella” story of Romaisa and her cruel Stepmother/ sisters who eventually meets her prince charming Nabeel was meretriciously integrated into the plot of the show. Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai does have a very strong fairytale vibe to it and plays off seamlessly through its various characters and situational drama.

vi– An argument could be very well made that it is in fact the supporting cast of the show that makes it so compelling to watch. While the main cast does come off as bland and uninteresting at times, supporting characters such as Romaisa’s Aunt (Farah Shah) or Mansha Pasha who bring some life into the show.

 + Low Points

i – While the setup is interesting and the supporting cast is always fun to watch, Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai has major flaws when it comes to the pacing and execution of the show. Firstly, the drama series did not need to be 23 episodes long. The length does not justify the time the viewer invested into the show, especially during the later half where the plot progression seemingly comes to a screeching halt. Almost a half of the supporting cast just disappears from the show and the themes of wealth and respect became incredibly repetitious till the last episode. Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai starts off promising but is arguably a let down by the end.

ii – When it comes to the lead protagonist, the casting and writing of that character can either make or break the show. Even though Sanam Jung as Romaisa was fairly decent, the writing felt desperate in making her likeable for the audience who just ends up feeling incredibly naive and unintelligent at times. And if I be so honest, Romasia is not a likeable character at all. She comes off as a person who lets people emotionally abuse her for no good reason other than the fact that she wants everyone to like her. And what’s worse, this continues on till the last episode of the show! There is absolutely no character arc or a journey for Romaisa which is extremely disappointing for audiences who are supposed to empathize with her plight. And to top it off, even her future husband Nabeel makes fun of how naive and clueless she is about life. Initially, this is all justifiable as long as her character learns in the end to overcome her flaws. But sadly, that is not the case. 

I do not blame Sanam Jung because she did exactly what the script wanted her to do. It is clearly the writing which is at fault.

iii – As someone who has read my reviews before, knows beforehand that I am a fan of Umera Ahmed’s writing. I believe she has written great dramas and telefilms in the past but unfortunately, Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai is one of her weakest works that I have come across. Most scenarios or vital scenes don’t feel organic but forced because the script wants it to happen. Case in point…

iv – The love story between Romaisa and Nabeel is incredibly forced and absurd. At first glance, how could Nabeel know that Romaisa is the one with “pure heart”? How much time did they spend talking to each other? Throughout the earlier episodes, Nabeel only comes off creepy who forces Romaisa into “dates” and lunches which she is visibly not very fond of. Only when she is forcefully married to Nabeel, does she “learn” to love her husband. How and why? What changed? Nothing is explained other than the fact that it needed to happen so the show could progress. Normally, one could claim that the male creatives write such depthless female characters but in this case, the writer and director are both women! There is no excuse for such terrible writing and reinforces the fact that a woman just needs a man to show her the way in life. Utterly disappointing.

v –  The production of the show is nothing special. Even with its various locations, the moving pictures are dower and bland. And that’s a real shame.

vi – There are way too many flashbacks of Romaisa and her father, always exclusively discussing what the morning star means. Does she literally have no other memories of her father? She is depicted to be around 7-8 years of age at the time so I’m sure she remembers a lot more than that.

vii – SPOILER ALERT!!! In the next point, I will talk about the ending of the show. You can skip directly to Overall if you would like to avoid it:

As a viewer, I waited for the episode where Romaisa finally stood up for herself and took control of her own life. But sadly, nothing such happens. Instead, Zeeshan comes up to her and painstakingly explains to her why she should’ve stood up for herself. What? What is the point in that? Why did Romaisa’s character arc not naturally bring that to the conclusion of the show? And apparently, that speech by Zeeshan made Romaisa finally see her “morning star”? The ending is so absurd and illogical. It ultimately leaves the viewer exhausted as to why he/ she invested so much time into this show.

+ Overall

Mohabat Subh Ka Sitara Hai starts off strong but ends with a whimper. The main protagonist is not sympathetic enough to sustain the audience’s interest throughout its 23 episodes. While there are some beacons of engagement with its colorful supporting cast, it unfortunately does not justify the time the viewer needs to invest in the show.

 Rate: 2.25 out of 5 stars

Tele-Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Behadd (2013)

A review on Pakistani telefilm Drama, Behadd (2013). The TV film is a directorial debut by Asim Raza and is written by the Urdu novelist Umera Ahmad. The film stars Nadia Jamil, Fawad Khan and the young Sajjal Ali. This telefilm is produced by Momina Duraid and is a HUM TV production.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Asim Raza
  • Written by Umera Ahmad
  • Edited by Kashif Ahmad and Wasim
  • DOP by Suleman Razzaq
  • Theme music by Fawad Khan
  • Music Composed by Hasil Qureshi
  • Produced by Momina Duraid

+ Note

The famous commercial TV director/ producer Asim Raza announced to the press beforehand that Behadd is going to be his directorial debut in the world of telefilms. As many of Umera Ahmad’s screenplays, Behadd serves also as a ‘slice of life’ tale and explores the relationship between a widowed mother and her young teenage daughter. The telefilm indulges in themes such as single parenthood and ‘selflessness’ verses ‘selfishness’. How important is one’s own happiness as compared to your child’s. 

The film was primarily shot in Karachi, Sindh and used real locations and settings of the city. After its release, Behadd received praise from critics and viewers alike and was the recipient of Hum Awards for Best Producer in 2014.

 + Main Cast

  1. Fawad Khan as Jamal “Jo” Ahmed
  2. Nadia Jamil as Masooma “Mo” Jamal
  3. Sajal Ali as Maha
  4. Nadia Afgan as Shafaq
  5. Nasheen Masud as Popi “Po” Masood
  6. Rahma Saleem as Fareena

 + Supporting Cast

  1. Adnan Siddiqui as Hassan (Masooma’s husband)
  2. Adnan Jaffar as Shafaq’s husband
  3. Shamoon Abbasi as Masooma’s boss
  4. Hira Tareen as Shaista (Jo’s proposal)

+ Plot

After the unfortunate death of her husband, Masooma (Nadia Jamil) is left to take care of their daughter Maha (Sajal Ali) all on her own. Along her journey to single parenthood, Masooma ends up meeting her old friend’s brother Jamal (Fawad Khan) and they both quickly realize that they have much more in common than they could ever hope for. 

+ High Points

i – Behadd’s ‘slice of Life’ plot is what makes most Pakistani Television so appealing to watch. With Umera Ahmad’s impeccable writing and Asim Raza’s meticulous direction, the telefilm works pretty much on every facet of successful storytelling. Even if you have never had a child or been a single parent, Behadd just feels so magnificently real and relatable. 

“If you indeed have to be selfless, how far can you take it?”

“What if your selflessness and wellbeing is being detrimental to those around? Should you then focus on your own happiness?” 

These are incredibly valid questions that we, in our line of duty of being a parent, tend to forget. 

ii – Brilliant performances all around but what stands tall above the rest is Nadia Jamil’s depiction as an overzealous single parent. Her reading of dialogue and body language conveys greatly her anguish and suffering behind the facade of being strong for her daughter.

iii – Some of the best scenes came not only from the climactic scenes of the telefilm but also the much quieter moments when Masooma is just casually interacting with her friends and colleagues in the office. The nonchalant manner of speech and dialogue is so crucial in inviting the audience to become part of the scene itself and Behadd’s writing and supporting cast exactly does that.

iv – And of course, the breakout performance by Sajal Ali as Maha was also a valiant effort in making this telefilm a success. Her performance was essential in order to captivate the audience into buying into this tale of mother/ daughter relationship. 

v– Behadd is a perfect example of why a show/ telefilm doesn’t need overbearing music and editing to force the audience into feeling sympathy with the characters. The writing and performances have to be good enough to invite their audience into that. Never did my attention falter or felt manipulated in any way. And that’s a sign of pure class from the creative team behind this telefilm.

vi– The song “Nindiya Re” by Kaavish is how seemlessly music and visuals can create the perfect rhythm. Perfect selection for Behadd’s OST.

vii– The conclusion of the story was also brilliantly handled and executed. Considering the circumstances of the storyline, this was probably the most logical conclusion that could have occured. Kudos to the entire team behind this telefilm!

 + Low Points

i – Honestly, whatever low points I have are mostly nitpicks but are still issues with the telefilm’s onset production. Namely, the overuse of Close Ups. Now close ups can be very impactful in visual language but only if they are used sparingly. Behadd unfortunately indulges in it a tad bit too much and it does lose its impact after a while. 

ii – And speaking of close ups, the cinematography is also nothing to admire at. Although it’s fairly competent by Suleman Razzaq, he did not use the visual language to its full potential and now just comes off sub par in contrast to the brilliant writing and performances of the telefilm.

iii – As much as I adore Behadd, it also suffers from the “rich people with rich people problems” syndrome. Now being wealthy does not equate to happiness, that’s fairly obvious but almost all Pakistani dramas/ telefilms shoot in lavious, massive houses so that they visually look pleasing to the eye and almost never a decision made based on the script. But have to give credit to Behadd as they did explain that they are living in the house as tenants. 

+ Overall

A well written script, brilliant performances, no overbearing use of music/ dramatic effects, Behadd is what every Pakistani telefilm should strive to be.  

Rate: 4.25 out of 5 stars

TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Khaas (2019)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Khaas (2019). The 27 Episode limited TV series is directed by Danish Nawaz and is a Momina Duraid production. Khaas was aired on HUM TV.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Danish Nawaz
  • Written by Sarwat Nazir
  • Edited by Mehmood Ali and Nasir Inayat
  • DOP by Tameen Nizami
  • Music Composed by Sohail Haider
  • Opening Theme song “Woh Jo Tha Bahut Hi Khaas” by Natasha Baig
  • Produced by Momina Duraid

+ Note

Back in 2019, Khaas was a show which strived to be unlike any no other on Pakistani Television. On the surface level, Khaas could be your typical run of the mill drama between In laws and daughter in law but Sarwat Nazir’s writing strives the show to be much more than what it seems to be. Khaas is about an emotional plight of a woman in a male dominated culture. Where certain expectations are required from the woman of the house. The show is primarily a case study of what emotional abuse a woman has to face in order to be loved and respected by the Pakistani society; be that sustaining composure while your Husband makes hurtful jokes about you or extinguishing your goals and ambitions in order to please the traditional “norm” of being a housewife. Although this word is treated as poision by most of the Pakistani community, Khaas is in fact a ‘feminist’ drama in which the target audience is not necessarily women but also the male counterparts of our everyday life.

Khaas was a critical and commercial success throughout the country, garnering praise and applause from audiences who saw themselves in the protagonist Saba. The drama was nominated by Lux Style Awards for Best Writing and Best Original Soundtrack.

 + Main Cast

  1. Sanam Baloch as Saba Faraz
  2. Ali Rehman Khan as Ammar Saud
  3. Haroon Shahid as Fakhir
  4. Behroze Sabzwari as Faraz Ahmed; Saba’s father
  5. Lubna Aslam as Sadaf Faraz; Saba’s mother
  6. Saba Faisal as Kanwal Saud; Ammar’s mother
  7. Mashal Khan as Sonia
  8. Anam Goher as Nida Saud
  9. Sajida Syed as Nusrat

 + Supporting Cast

  1. Natasha Ali as Farah
  2. Amna Malik as Javeria
  3. Shehryar Zaidi as Saud; Ammar’s father
  4. Sonia Nazir as Anam
  5. Areesha Shah as Mehak Faraz
  6. Sanam Baloch as Fakhir’s late mother 
  7. Danish Nawaz as Fakhir’s late father (only seen in flashbacks)
  8. Hira Tareen as Salma

+ Plot

Khaas is a story of an ambitious woman named Saba (played by Sanam Baloch) who strives for her career and other goals in Life. That all unfortunately gets cut short once Ammar (Ali Rehman Khan) proposes to her and her family. Due to unwarranted pressure from her parents and society, Saba accepts the proposal and focuses on her married life instead. Even though Ammar is considered charming and loved by everyone around him, something seems not right about him. Slowly, the façade of Ammar breaks down and Saba gets to see what lies behind the curtain.

Meanwhile Fakhir (Haroon Shahid), a timid, shy artist who falls in love with Saba and steadily, a friendship brews between them, proving that within all that is dark, there is a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

+ High Points

i – Khaas is a textbook example of how it should be done! Engaging storyline, memorable characters, cliffhangers after each episode, never once did my attention span falter while watching the show. The show hit every narrative beat picture perfect and its success and admiration by the fans is the living proof of it. 

ii – A lot of praise and attention should be devoted towards the main cast as each one of them portrayed their characters with absolute perfection. Sana Baloch as the strong yet sympathetic protagonist, Ali Rehman Khan as the narcissistic, petty manchild and Haroon Shahid as the shy, timid artist who sees good in everything. That’s a perfect dynamic of characters one could have for any TV show. And their performances were excellent throughout the series. 

iii – The character arcs of each of the main cast is also incredibly well written and realized onto the small screen. As a viewer, you can empathize with Saba’s journey from a shy, dominated girl to an empowered, striving woman. Experiences made her change, become more stronger in a cut throat environment of male domination. In Pakistan, men usually get away with a whole lot more than a woman can and Khaas highlights that aspect with total honesty and sincerity. And that is one of the main reasons why Khaas was such a mainstream success.

iv – Apart from the main cast, some of the supporting characters also resonate incredibly well, mainly Saba Faisal as Ammar’s mother. Saba is such a versatile actress that she could adapt to any character she would like and this one is no exception. Her perception towards womanhood and blindness towards her son Ammar is a story seen numerous times in our culture. Men mainly get away with such ruthless behaviour because there are certain women who support and tolerate them.

v– The production of the show is also a key aspect of its success. The colors are vibrant, the sets and costumes are adapted well to its narrative. Momina Duraid’s shows are usually top notch in quality and Khaas is no different.

vi– The story progression of the show is meticulously handled and executed. With each episode, you get to learn more about each of our main cast of characters, their motivations and their ambitions in life. Each episode just revealed enough for the audience to eagerly anticipate what would happen next.

vii– The dream sequence scene involving Fakhir’s parents was inventive and brilliantly executed. Especially casting Sanam Baloch as the mother (since Fakhir sees his mother in Saba) and the father played the director of the show Danish Nawaz.

viii– SPOILER ALERT!!! In the next point, I will talk about the controversial ending of the show. You can skip directly to the Low Points if you would like to avoid it:

So the most vital question in each viewer’s mind was how the show will conclude? Would Saba and Fakhir live happily ever after? Would Ammar learn the error of his ways and rekindle his love with Saba? The answer is; perhaps a little bit of it all? A lot of people were disappointed not to see Saba and Fakhir happily living together and granted, his supposed life threatening accident was a forced narrative decision (which I will elaborate more in the Low Points) but to see Saba, even in her most vulnerable position with her new born child, reject Ammar’s proposal for remarriage was the absolute right outcome. Fakhir’s untimely death and Saba’s decision to live her own life the way she wants it is the most logical conclusion to the story. She needed the conflict of decision making when life doesn’t go as planned. 

Saba’s experiences living under Ammar’s thumb and eventually self-emancipating herself from the shackles of society would have been in vain if not for this conclusion. Fakhir taught her to be responsible, to live her own life the way she sees fit. With his passing away, Saba can put all of this to the test. Whether she would ever remarry, could be anyone’s guess but Saba decided to raise her child on her own was the right outcome of the show. And a lot of praise and admiration should go to the writer Sarwat Nazir for making this happen in a mainstream TV show.

 + Low Points

i – While I really applaud the show’s audacity and determination to show such a unique storyline of how women are emotionally abused in Pakistani culture, what Khaas really should’ve done is make the show as close to reality as possible. This was necessary in order for the audience to relate to the protagonist beyond the world of TV dramas. Unfortunately, this is what the show failed to accomplish. The script is merely written for the sole purpose of melodrama entertainment. And sadly, that is what Khaas ends up being. A TV show. There are too many unrealistic scenarios, coincidences (in convenience to the plot), characters act completely dumb in order for the misunderstandings to happen, too many times where two characters gossip about someone and that “someone” is eavesdropping at that exact moment. Yes, it is possible to brush all of this off and say “It is just a TV show!”. Well, that is why one cannot take the story of Khaas seriously. It’s only true within the confines of your TV screen.

ii – Speaking of dumb characters, Behroze Sabzwari as Saba’s dad should really be awarded the “Worst Father of the Year” award. Judging how the character was written, even the slightest words of encouragement from anyone in the show would persuade him to jump off a cliff. Unless of course, you are his daughter. Then he will not believe a single word you could say. Saba’s father was incredibly dumb and gullible whenever the script wanted him to be. He was written with absolutely zero intelligence, arriving at the most awkward of moments and did not possess the intelligence to even put 2 and 2 together. Sabzwari ‘s character is by far one of the worst written characters I have come across and is the embodiment of what a bad writing looks like.

iii – There are way too many flashbacks in the show. There are several flashbacks of scenes and dialogues that happened just a few minutes ago! Does the show think we have a memory of a goldfish? It’s a bad move from the creative team’s part to treat its audience like they are not intelligent enough to follow a single episode without a reminder every five minutes of each character’s motivations. 

iv – Whenever a dramatic moment occurs, this show just abuses it with a barrage of slow motions, melodramatic cheesy music and anything they could get their hands on. The first episode especially was the worst offender in all this. In visual art, subtlety is always the best option and Mehreen Jabbar’s TV dramas have proven that.

v –  That “twisted ankle and rubbing ointment on it” scene. Just a perfect example of forced romantic moments between the two protagonists. Ugh.

vi – SPOILER ALERT!!! In the next point, I will talk about the controversial ending of the show. You can skip directly to Overall section if you would like to avoid it:

Even though I praised the ending of the show above, the demise of Fakhir’s character was incredibly lazy writing. In every good script, there needs to be a set up and a pay off. Granted, Fakhir had this one nightmare and kept reminding Saba to be brave if she ends up alone but that is not enough to earn that pay off. A terminal illness of Fakhir could’ve been hinted at right at the beginning of the show and then his passing away in the final episode would’ve made a lot more sense. In short, the script wanted to kill off Fakhir so Saba could have her moment of realization that she could live and be happy on her own. It feels very unearned and possibly divides the audience on this decision.

+ Overall

Khaas has a very unique story to tell. It is bold and pulls no punches when it comes to exposing the hypocrisy against women in Pakistani culture. Unfortunately it also gets muddled up with too many TV drama cliches and mediocre writing. But at the end of the day, it is the cast of the show that makes Khaas special. True, the show could’ve accomplished a lot more than it ended up with but for what the show is, Khaas is definitely worth your time.

 Rate: 3.25 out of 5 stars