Mr. Khan’s Review on Pehli Chori (1999)

A review on Pakistani classic telefilm, Pehli Chori (1999). This low budget telefilm is directed by Khursheed-ul-Hassan and written by Banoo Qudsia. Pehli Chori was aired on PTV in 1999.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Khursheed-ul-Hassan
  • Written by Banoo Qudsia
  • Cinematography by Aslam Sheikh
  • Editing by M. Hamza Max
  • Production by Rahim Khan and Naveed Ahmad

+ Note

Pehli Chori is a showcase of future Pakistani television talents, Sania Saeed and Nauman Ijaz. The telefilm is primarily visualized as a long stage play, tackling issues like poverty and abuse of higher power. 

 + Main Cast

  1. Noman Ijaz  as Ali
  2. Sania Saeed  as Bushra
  3. Firdous Jamal  as Doctor Daud Kazmi
  4. Roohi Khan  as Kishwar
  5. Khyam Sarhadi  as Baba Roray Maar
  6. Tariq Mustafa  as Azhar

+ Plot

Bushra and Ali are a middle aged married couple who are financially struggling to maintain their status quo. As their young son falls fatally ill, the parents are struggling to pay for his medical treatment by any means necessary.

+ High Points

i – If you are a fan of Nauman Ijaz or Sania Saeed, its great to see them as young and upcoming talents of Pakistani television. Even with budgetary and creative constraints, the chemistry between the two actors is fairly evident and noteworthy. Their performances might be a bit rough around the edges but one can see how these veteran actors have grown throughout the decades to improve upon their craft as legends in the business.

ii – Even though the production standards are incredibly outdated, the thematic elements of the telefilm have not. The issues of unemployment and abuse of power are still as prevalent as they were 25 years ago. Inadvertently, it also portrays issues that are severely lacking from the Pakistani television of today. No ‘Saas/ Bahu’ melodramas but rather, addressing societal issues head on.    

iii – Pehli Chori has a good heart but the execution of the script, production and some of the performances cannot be ignored. But all that said, I do have to admit, the telefilm had the courage to give it an appropriate bleak ending. This is undoubtedly a bold move that I cannot ever imagine happening in the television of our present day.

+ Low Points

i – Clocking in at an hour’s length, Pehli Chori is a hard watch for sure. Tonal inconsistencies, terrible production work, some fairly oddball performances from the supporting cast makes Pehli Chori a difficult time to sit through. And it’s a shame because even back then, it was fairly obvious that Sania Saeed and Nauman Ijaz work so well together onscreen. Their pairing makes the telefilm almost worth a watch.

ii – It is by no means an exaggeration when I say that Pehli Chori has terrible production (even for its time!). The camerawork seems completely amateurish as there are multiple scenes with overexposed backgrounds, the music is at times overlapping on spoken dialogues, scenes purposefully shot in a single take in order to save time and budget, odd music choices that misrepresent the tone of the scene and I could just go on. Technically, this telefilm should have never been allowed to air on national television with this quality of production.

Whenever I watch a classic Pakistani drama, I always try to keep in mind the budgetary/ skill limitations of the production as well as the censorship but unfortunately, Pehli Chori was fairly outdated even back then.

iii – On one hand, Bushra accuses her husband Ali of infidelity and it is always played for laughs for some reason. But as Bushra confronts her employer regarding the cash she needs for her son’s treatment, the topic of infidelity is now all of a sudden supposed to be taken with utmost seriousness. You cannot have your cake and eat it too, one needs to establish a tone for their show in the first 5 minutes and follow through with it.

iv – Firdous Jamal as Doctor Daud Kazmi was arguably the most absurd performance I have seen in all of my classic reviews. While the other actors’ performances imitated reality, Firdous Jamal went for a more “Shakespearean” route for some reason. The inner monologues, the random emphasizes on certain phrases, the absurd dialogue delivery which felt so out of place for the telefilm; I can just imagine the director was nervous enough not to fill in Jamal sahib that this is a telefilm replicating reality and not a punjabi stage play.

+ Overall

Pehli Chori has a lot of heart behind its shoestring budget and terrible production quality but ultimately, it is a tough gig to sit through. Only recommended for diehard Nauman Ijaz/ Sania Saeed fans who would like to witness the genesis of their onscreen chemistry together.

Rate: out of 5 stars