Television dramas make up that hallowed dreamscape where most folks go for their daily dose of entertainment.
In them, the domestic terrain is a minefield of manipulation, emotional blackmail and if we are lucky, some loving relationships. While there are saas and saazishes galore, there are also those few and far in between productions that try to tackle serious issues, some with more success than others. And then there are those that aim for entertainment with the time-honored formula of domestic drama plus high dose of romance multiplied with a cartful of eye candy. Tum Mere Kiya Ho (TMKH) is one of those productions.
Perhaps the small screen is catching up on the idea of equal representation because TMKH's eye candy quotient is mostly geared towards the female audience's benefit. Fortunately, Mikaal Zulfikar loves the camera and it loves him right back — every shot of his is a beautifully lit, carefully curated image. It almost feels like he is shooting one very long commercial, on umm, himself, not that I am complaining.
This being his first venture as a producer has its advantages.
Knight. Armour. Shine
Mikaal plays Ahmer, a wealthy widower who loses his wife Sadia (Mehreen Raheel in a short-lived performance) to an accident and pivotal plot point. He is coming to terms with his loss and bringing up his young daughter, Hira (Eshal), on his own.
Ahmer’s sister is hoping to get their lives on track by having him re-marry. However, when she utters the line “apni halat dekhi hai tumne (have you looked at yourself recently?)?", I wanted to her tell her to please clear the fog from her glasses since clearly Mikaal hasn’t looked this good in a while!
When every shot features him walking, talking, driving and ruminating in soft, often (way too often) candle-lit lighting, dressed in sharp three-piece suits (yes, with waistcoats!) with his hair not shifting a micro-millimeter, it is hard to remember that he is in mourning.
Mikaal plays Ahmer, a wealthy widower who loses his wife Sadia. When every shot features him walking, talking, driving and ruminating in soft candle-lit lighting, dressed in sharp three-piece suits, it is hard to remember that he is in mourning.
While he slips into the role with ease, Mikaal Zulfikar is a director’s actor. That he has boatloads of charm, can romance a stone and even rock a grey mustache is a given. In his best work, we have seen him balance his rakish allure with humour and not-so-holy intensions as Shamraiz in Kuch Pyar Ka Pagalpaan and give a very restrained performance as Mansoor in Durr-e-Shehwar and a total laugh riot in Abhi Toh Main Jawan Hoon. The tension between him and his co-stars was deliciously palpable. It shaped his characters and showcased his ability as a good actor.
Of late, he is falling into savior roles where all he has to do is have to show up as the knight in shining armour (or a three-piece suit) who saves the day. And the dame. It might be too early to judge, but in all this perfect posturing and setting, it seems he has little to do.
Let’s hope director Siraj-ul-Haq manages to bring out more substance than just the shine.
Bringing up baby
Meanwhile, Hira is struggling to come to terms with this sudden gaping void in her life and this manifests itself in unresolved anger, pain and mortification at the idea that her father will marry another woman whom she will have to accept as her mother.
So far, we have been thrown right into the thick of things and rather than just showing us a sad child, this etching of the child’s character feels like a well-thought-out detail. The child actor Eshal is good, although the poor girl has to cry a lot.
There is also a loving relationship between father and daughter. Ahmer fixes her (burnt) breakfast, tucks her in at night and offers a hand of friendship to his daughter so that he can win back her trust and steer her through troubled waters.
TMKH features a loving relationship between father and daughter. All this makes Mikaal seem a lot more relatable and he is extremely effective wearing the single-dad hat.
All this makes him seem a lot more relatable and Mikaal is extremely effective wearing the single-dad hat. Hira reciprocates by opening up about her feelings on the looming specter of a step-mom and whole-heartedly, along with cute heart shaped stickers, leaves little notes for her dad.
Though that was cutesy, (heart shaped stickers!) any scene involving a child should stick to balloons and cake and not candle-lit interiors. Children and open flames are a bad (and also slightly creepy) idea and now I have an added wrinkle just worrying if she lit all those candles!
So, where then is our savior doing the saving? Glad you asked.
Pretty young thing
Parallel to Ahmer’s track is Anwar sahib, who works as a manager in his company for many years as a wafadar employee and whom Ahmer sees as a father figure. Anwar sahib, loving father to Hina (Sajal Ali), is worried about her future. Not the my-daughter-should-be-financially-independent kind, the (surprise!) woe-on-to-me-who-will-she-marry kind.
Here writer Mehr-Un-Nisa reaches for stock characters and keeps them coming.
So insert Ikhlaq bhai, a money-grubbing best-friend turned potential in-law, pair him with a hypocritical wife, make them parents to hot-blooded Jehangir and you get the regular cardboard cut outs of greedy family. Trying to balance that with the sympathetic daughter gets a B for effort even if we already know that in the cycle of drama universe bite-back, she will be married to into a hypocritical money-grubbing family to pay for her family’s sins.
In contrast to good-girl Hina, Ahmer's 'other' love interest Maheen has been painted in the most unflattering light as a slightly unhinged, selfish woman lost in her past which she is trying to gain back at any cost. When oh when will this post Humsafar Sara hangover that has gripped our writers come to an end?
While Ahmed sahib is busy trying to placate Hina’s to-be-in-laws increasing demands, things reach a head when they ask for the papers to his flat to be made out in Jehangir’s name. Hina too becomes uncomfortable with these asks, but good farmabadar girl that she is, she goes along with her fathers’ wishes. Anwar sahib visibly distraught by these unending requests ends up asking Ahmer for an advance in his bonus as well as a loan to settle his debts.
Despite their reservations, father and daughter carry on with wedding plans. On the wedding day however, Ikhlaq’s family stages a walk-out when their demands are not met. , Anwar sahib suffers a heart attack and Ahmer ends up taking him to the hospital where he breathes his last but not before having Ahmer promise to look after Hina.
Since the storyline seems to be a hackneyed (two women battling it out for the love of a man, now where have we seen that before?) and somewhat Humsafar-inspired, we just have to hope that the performances pull us through, because the writing sure as heck isn’t going to.
We’ve already been treated with gems such as Ahmer blaming Hina for the (mercifully) thwarted attempt by Jehangir on her honor. Also, contrast Hina’s entrance with chai in hand and her doting daughter dialogues to Maheen’s. Kiran Haq’s entrance getting ready for a party, layering on the red lipstick, preferring socializing in defiance of her husband and son’s wishes to stay at home. Clearly, we know where the writer and director’s sympathies lie.
At least we're in the company of strong actors – Mikaal Zulfikar, Sajal Ali and the latest entrants - Kiran Haq and Umair Rana. Whoever said (eye) candy is bad for you?
Maheen has been painted in the most unflattering light as a slightly unhinged, selfish woman lost in her past which she is trying to gain back at any cost. When oh when will this post Humsafar Sara hangover that has gripped our writers come to an end?
And now Ahmer will be torn between the younger, mild-mannered, conservative shalwar-kameez wearing Hina versus the older, western clothes clad, strong-minded, liberal Maheen. No brownie points for guessing who wins in the end.
Sajal Ali is preternaturally gifted with the fountain of youth which makes her look not a day older than 12. Ok, ok, 15. She is also a wonderfully gifted actress. Her every action and every hesitation is writ large on her expressive face. She is also adding to the non-calorific sugar high. A young girl faced with troubles ahead is no doubt something she has played many times, so this too is a walk in the park for her.
Even if Sajal-Mikaal pairing is a little awkward as is the premise, we are in the company of strong actors – Mikaal Zulfikar, Sajal Ali and the latest entrants - Kiran Haq and Umair Rana. It might be left to these actors to add some spark to this staid fare.
Eight episodes down and so far the story has maintained good pacing as well as excellent production values. The attempt at a non-linear narrative is appreciated as well as the lovely shots of Lahore in the winter add to the eye candy effect. Still, we must focus on the important thing, and right now, he’s looking good.
Whoever said candy is bad for you?
Sadaf Siddique is freelance writer, film and drama enthusiast and sometime drama queen not necessarily in that order.