TV series

Mr. Khan’s Review on Fraud – Episode I (2022)

A review on Pakistani drama TV series, Fraud Episode 1 (2022). The new TV series is directed by Saqib Khan and written by Zanjabeel Asim. Fraud is a story of love, innocence and treachery as our protagonist is manipulated into marrying a forged personality. Fraud is an iDream Entertainment and ARY Digital Production.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Saqib Khan
  • Written by Zanjabeel Asim
  • Produced by Abdullah Seja 
  • Production by iDream Entertainment

+ Note

Fraud is a case study of Pakistani families who always strive for betterment of their children. Obsession with wealth and power almost always ends up leading to unfavorable consequences. The director Saqib Khan is known for his numerous television projects and his upcoming cinematic film Ghabrana Nahi Hai (2022).

 + Main Cast

  1. Saba Qamar as Maya
  2. Ahsan Khan as Tabriaz
  3. Mikaal Zulfiqar as Shaan
  4. Rabia Kulsoom as Maila
  5. Adnan Samad Khan as Nael
  6. Mehmood Aslam as Nisar

+ Plot

Fraud is a story of Maya whose father wants her to marry into the richest family that he could find. But wealth does not equal character as she ends up marrying a wealthy man named Tabriaz who, through his trickery, makes life for Maya full of deceit and fraud.

+ High Points

i – The premiere episode to the show was engaging and had some interesting foreshadowing towards the upcoming storyline. The narrative flowed well with the performances and the cliffhanger to the episode will definitely intrigue its viewers for several more weeks to come. Just a keen observation but Fraud has some incredibly strong vibes of the HUM TV drama Khaas (2019) where the female protagonist ends up marrying an egotistical maniac due to parental pressure and ends up ruining her life in the process. All in all, a good first episode. 

ii – The performances ranged from decent to great. Particularly Mehmood Aslam as Nisar (the father of our female protagonist) stood out from the rest with his emotional yet misguided well being for his daughter. Saba Qamar as Maya also gave a convincing performance in bringing out the innocence of a young adult who is shedding her naivety and entering the real world of deception and falsehood.

iii – The show should be commended for its storyline as many parents in Pakistan feel compelled to marry their daughter off to rich families regardless of their daughter’s emotional well being. This has always been a continuing issue in Pakistani culture as wealth is given priority above all else. On the other hand, as a parent, one would want their child to be financially secure but having an abusive life partner can never prove to be a good move in the long run. Fraud has an interesting but essential plot that deserves attention from the mainstream audience.

iv – The first episode had some good exposition, dialogue heavy set pieces as the plot is carefully set up for the ultimate payoff at the last episode of the show. I was particularly fond of Maya’s parents as they argued back and forth about what is best for their daughter. And last but not least…

v – The final act with the rejection of the Rishta was well written and fantastic performances all around. The emotions of rejection and humiliation drove the scene forward and made us empathize with the Khala’s side of the family. Of course it is good to be optimistic in life but some facts unfortunately cannot be overlooked namely wealth and social status; something that always plagues Pakistani society.

+ Low Points

i – The opening scene of the show… was something I guess. I’m sure the show was going for a more metaphorical foreshadowing of the coming weeks but unfortunately, its horror tone just felt out of place with the rest of the show. Where did they end up finding so many bats to begin with?

ii – The show looks visual bland. There are no interesting perspectives, no innovative camera framing or editing. The production of the show only manages to reach the bare minimum what TV or film can accomplish. Shows produced by Momina Duraid are a good example that there is always room for visual experimentation, even for such a commercial medium like television. And it’s a real pity since the storyline is deserving of a more talented production crew behind the camera.

iii – Speaking of visual quality, it is unfortunate that the show resorts to mainstream Indian drama TV style of visual storytelling as it can definitely do without it. Let go of the “chamak dhamak” style of camera work/ editing as it ends up making your product look cheap and lacks originality. A perfect example can be Daam (2010) by Mehreen Jabbar where the show, even with its so-called “slow” visual presentation, brought so much depth and realism to the plot and its characters.

iv – The title of the show ‘Fraud’ seems way too much on the nose. Couldn’t the show runners have come up with something a little less conspicuous?

+ Overall

A good, promising first episode; Fraud has the capability to be one of the best shows currently on television right now if not for its lackluster presentation.

Rate: out of 5 stars 

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