Review: 'Zid' is a mixed bag

Review: 'Zid' is a mixed bag

While Maya Ali has grown as an actor, the element of direction is absent
Updated 27 Aug, 2015

“Many are stubborn in the pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”

With due respect to Nietzsche, (who is probably turning in his grave to be quoted for a drama serial no less), Zid’s main protagonist, as the title suggests, seems to be stubbornly stuck on the path to freedom paved by others rather than any self-examination of her end goal.

Meet Saman (Maya Ali), a head strong, ill-mannered, temperamental career-driven Pakistani woman whom dare I say is a misguided idea of a feminist. Her history of two broken engagements casts gloom and doom on her household, as her family frets and fumes: Aisi larki se kaun shaadi karega?

Maya Ali as Saman in drama 'Zid'.— Photo Courtesy: HUM TV blog
Maya Ali as Saman in drama 'Zid'.— Photo Courtesy: HUM TV blog

All the talk about presentations and projects notwithstanding, we are sucker punched back into the field of the nation's national sport – marriage. That, as well as the other fallouts thereof namely the first wife, divorce and naturally, the doosri biwi.

Written by Bee Gul and directed by Ahsan Wai Qureshi, Zid is the latest offering from Hum TV. From a writer who presented gems such as Talkhiyan and Pehchan, she seems to have taken a leaf out of the commercial playbook to explore these well-worn themes.

Though her past work is commendable, she does end up inverting these very ideas and is more interested in showing a mirror to society and asking difficult questions than creating neat endings.

The story so far

The twice engaged Saman and her rude and rebellious ways are the things that parental nightmares are made of. Through a lot of hand wringing, head holding, laad-pyaar, blame and other machinations her family conspires to get her married to Omar, once married but 100% American.

While Saman's main gripe with her ex-fiance was incompatibility, she now merely nods her head in assent to get married to Omar — though not before creating a spectacle to include a khula in her nikahnama. Her own little subterfuge of using Omar as a one-way ticket to freedom backfires to the larger duplicity of her family withholding the fact that this is Omar’s second marriage.

With all the deceptions laid bare, there are scars to be healed all around. Saman’s family bids her farewell with clear expectations on how to be a good wife. Saman, hurt and betrayed is still smarting. Omar, actually seems like a decent male trying to do the right thing. In the US, we are introduced to his cousin Rukhi (Rabab Hashim), a mirror image of Saman in more ways than one and her father Qasim (Imran Peerzada) as well as the (so far) mysterious Zainab (Nausheen Shah).

The highs

Though Zid is peddling the TRP triumvirate of the marriage, divorce and the other wife, hopefully with a writer like Bee Gul, we are in good hands. Her ability to combine multiple perspectives and sympathise with each characters point of view, and her use of stand-ins for society who tow the status quo as well as those who challenge these very ideas can make for riveting viewing.

Who better to represent all that the zalim zamaana stands for than Appo? Played with relish and the right amount of nosiness mixed with good will by Sultana Zafar created a funny interlude (ploy really) to keep the bride and groom at a respectable 12 feet distance.

Ahsan Khan and Rabab Hashim in a scene from drama 'Zid.'— Photo Courtesy:
Ahsan Khan and Rabab Hashim in a scene from drama 'Zid.'— Photo Courtesy:

For now, Saman’s parents despair to see their child well-settled despite her stubborn ways, her exasperated brother’s (Humayun Ashraf) annoyance, his fiancé’s (Hina Javed) obsessions with the clothes and arrangements, Omar’s parents' level-headedness, and Rukhi’s singlehood banter about the strange ways marrying strangers all are true to life and situate them appropriately. All the actors are staying true to their characters and this sets the stage for the story to unfold.

Ahsan Khan as Omar in drama 'Zid'.—Photo Courtesy:
Ahsan Khan as Omar in drama 'Zid'.—Photo Courtesy:

Also for a change we have a likable male character in Omar (Ahsan Khan) who tries to do what he can to break the ice and give his new bride a good start to a lifelong journey. Ahsan Khan has a natural ability to infuse Omar with warmth and a certain maturity.

The lows

Unfortunately, Saman has the depth of an eight-year-old.

When writing a commercial project such as this one, is it enough to give a glimmer of a modern, independent, office mein kaam karne wali larki? If the writer has no interest in telling us anything about Saman’s professional life, (and no, throwing about words like presentation, project and office do not count) can the audience really be expected to take her aspirations seriously?

Rude, bull-headed and self-absorbed she may well be but where is her internal conflict? Of hurting the people she loves, of understanding some of her parents despair, of perhaps getting to America the hard way – on her own steam, only to cave to the realisation that marriage might in fact be the easier way out for her.

Ahsan Khan, Maya Ali and Rubab Hashim in 'Zid.'— Photo
Ahsan Khan, Maya Ali and Rubab Hashim in 'Zid.'— Photo

The glaring inconsistencies in her character — rejecting one suitor for being too similar to her and recognising that incompatibility as a recipe for disaster, to leaping into the unknown to accept a suitor merely for his citizenship status —seem too easy a set up. As was the easily resolvable matter of her coming clean for which there are many a technology to bypass Appo’s pehredari.

While the need for young girls to understand and include stipulations such as the khula in their contract can be applauded, this sort of marching up and demanding these rights made Saman look like she had the intelligence of a raisin since she needed to have drawn up her stipulations in advance.

Her hubby’s verbal agreement doesn't equal a written contract and then signing the said contract minus that all-important clause just send her back to behaving like an eight-year-old being placated.

While Maya Ali has grown as an actor, there is an element of direction absent here. Also missing is any sign of visual storytelling or flair.

For now, Zid is a mixed bag. Whether it will go the way of hackneyed plots or be able to carve out something inventive remains to be seen.

Sadaf Siddique is freelance writer, drama enthusiast and sometime drama queen not necessarily in that order.