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 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