'Zid' review: Engrossing – warts and all

'Zid' review: Engrossing – warts and all

There is a freshness in 'Zid' that gives its women characters the space to explore the choices they make
Updated 27 Aug, 2015

You have to hand it to Bee Gul, what Jackson Heights took 20 plus episodes to get round to, she delivered in one.

But then again, the writer has done it before. In her previous drama Pehchan she was able to show in full the emotional journey of her character in just one episode, along with questioning a woman’s traditional place in society.

Here in Zid, her script manages to highlight immigrant issues with working class lads struggling with course work and low paying jobs, a quick green-card marriage alongside choices women make and the control others exert over their lives. All this while managing to illuminate backstories for all the characters to help us get to know them better, warts and all.

There is a freshness in Zid that gives its women characters the space to explore the choices they make – good or bad or muddling in the middle. While the women seem strong, and hold their own, the men on the other hand, seem merely as conduits to get these women where they are today – which in itself seems a subversive twist.

The plot progresses fast and though the story centres around Saman (Maya Ali) and her adjustment to her new life in the US, it expands to include other characters that come into her orbit as well.

Having been kept in the dark about Omar’s (Ahsan Khan) first marriage, Saman finds it hard to accept her duplicitous marriage.

Read more: Review: 'Zid' is a mixed bag

Unable to live a lie, stubbornly unwilling to hear Omar’s side of the story, and searching for her own identity, Saman moves out of her home and away from Omar.

Finding refuge at Omar’s uncle's home, Uncle Qasim (Imran Peerzada), she develops a friendship with his daughter Rukhi (Rabab Hashim) where she learns more about both their lives and loves. She gets caught up in their revelations too –Qasim Uncle’s uneasy truth that marriage to his American wife Julian was a sham, merely a way for him to stay in the US, and the fact of Rukhi’s secret boyfriend.

Conversations between Rukhi and Saman about their differing views on marriage truly strike a chord. Rukhi’s views stem from actually falling in love, and making her own decisions versus Saman’s who feels tricked into an arranged marriage.

Rukhi’s ideas reflect her liberal upbringing in the West, where marriage is a mutual bond based on love and respect and more importantly of ones’ own choosing.

For Saman, marriage was the be all and end all, and quite literally forced on her. Her work, her achievements in fact, her entire sense of self, pale in comparison to the title of being in a marriage, arranged by others and suffused with expectations from a patriarchal society back East.

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

How often have we heard these same unending arguments and being on different sides of the fence?

That’s the magic of Bee Gul’s pen – the ability to show us different points of view and understand each character even if we may not agree with them.

Though Rukhi wants to get married to her American (read white) boyfriend, her father, who she believes to be progressive and accepting, reacts with shock and horror despite the inherent hypocrisy of the situation. He lays out a complete plan to take her to Pakistan, (complete with shades of Khuda Ke Liye – heck, even her suitor is called Dav(e)id!) which mercifully Rukhi foils.

Rukhi is actually a level-headed character who handles her situation with maturity and lets her actions speak louder than words. Rabab Hashim looks and sounds like that modern girl her character is and carries Rukhi with a quiet inner strength.

However, this situation could have been dealt with a little more nuance, after all it’s not like these questions haven’t arisen before. Neither are parents ignorant of this possibility of their children marrying outside the religious fold and nor are kids naïve about their parents' expectations.

We wonder: Did Uncle Qasim miss the memo on desi parenting? You know, the one where parents start brainwashing their kids from age five, sorry, age three, that they can never ever marry (insert all non-Muslim communities here). Or that his daughter escaped puberty and/or her rebellious questioning phase and that Daddy dearest didn’t notice?

Anyhow props to Rukhi for taking her own decisions.

Rukhi and David in a scene from 'Zid'. – Photo credit: Zid Facebook page
Rukhi and David in a scene from 'Zid'. – Photo credit: Zid Facebook page

After a series of slights and silent accusations Saman bumbles her way to her friends Zainab’s place. The mysterious Zainab (Nausheen Shah) turns out to be a goth-inspired (but verging on a confused preppy chic-style) kleptomaniac, into substance abuse of all kinds with shady dealers constantly threatening her. Her grandstanding is limited to her shouting them down, but not really getting them off her back.

Raving and ranting against the unfairness of a dog-eat-dog world, where people run only after money, commiserating on Saman’s situation by advising her to drag her already married husband to court and mete out punishment, ‘Z’ as she is called, isn’t your average good desi girl. Nausheen Shah manages to play her with spunk if, occasionally, a little loud.

Nausheen Shah as Zainab in 'Zid'. – Photo credit: Zid Facebook page
Nausheen Shah as Zainab in 'Zid'. – Photo credit: Zid Facebook page

I suspect Zainab will wear the mantle of ‘bad’ girl with the heart of gold that Bee Gul is fond of – Kuku of Pehchan reincarnated as Zainab in Zid.

There is also a twist that most discerning viewers are probably on to, but it is a smart move to lay bare each character and their motivations before revealing their intersecting lives.

Zainab also finds Saman work as a caregiver. This brings her into Shazia’s (Angeline Malik) home where Saman looks after Shazia’s unhinged Harry Potter loving mother-in-law (Ismat Zaidi in a short lived performance). While Saman develops a relationship with the family, somewhere she hurts and misses her own while nursing her betrayal.

These situations serve as a mirror to show Saman and by extension the audience, many different kinds of marriages and relationships and the ways in which loved ones both deceive and shield one another.

Maya Ali holds her own ably as the stubborn Saman determined to live life on her own terms.

So who is the good, bad and muddling middle?

The beauty of Zid is that no one is starkly black and white, and the audience is left to make their own decisions about these characters. The drama is standing on the strength of its script and there are enough nuances for the actors to explore in their characters. Though technically sound, it does however lack visual story telling.

Zid explores the choices we all make and hopefully can reconcile ourselves to. Let’s hope the story continues to move on at a steady pace and we are treated to more food for thought.

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