When we said we hoped for a wider drama canvas in 2016 that would look to a rich heritage of writing and intersect personal lives with everything from current affairs to satire, we didn’t dare imagine those words would come true so soon.
Preet Na Kariyo Koi, currently on air on Hum TV, seemed to be waiting in the wings ready to grab that mantle with its enticing grasp on social commentary and political machinations.
From the get-go, the fast-paced narrative weaves together multiple lives, the rural and the urban, as well as the personal and the political. Preet Na Kariyo Koi is a story rooted in a strong Pakistani ethos. With its recognisable local colours, flavours and political landscape, it makes for a unique and a refreshing change to the domestic sagas we see on screen ad nauseum.
From a Lahori's old homes and families in the walled city to Gujranwala Chaudhary’s rural stronghold, to the goons on the ground and the slickness of political spin doctors, Preet Na Kariyo Koi is part social commentary, part thriller and an all-round engaging story.
What it's all about
The story follows Shagufta Shezadi urf Ghoshi (played by Hira Salman), a strong headed girl. Growing up as the daughter of a mother-less child, she is the apple of her father’s (Irfan Khoosat) eye and equally loved by her chachi and engaged to her cousin Ilyas (Hassan Noman).
Ghoshi’s character is a master class on how to write about women – or any multidimensional character for that matter.
She stands in complete contrast to the mazloom aurat fare that is staple of dramas these days. She is a strong, confident but thoroughly spoiled child. She has her own hopes and dreams and is unafraid to reach out and grab them. When she meets Shams Siyal (Ahsan Khan) and falls hopelessly in love with him, she makes sure she gets what she wants.
She disposes of her fiancé with a sleight of hand that paints her as victim to Ilyas’s wayward ways. In reality, and a delicious subversive twist, it was this other girl (Mira Sethi as the quiet but determined Mariam) that dares to ask for Ilyas’s hand in marriage. Shagufta meanwhile plans her escape from her provincial family to bigger dreams.
Small-time thug Shams Siyal (played by Ahsan Khan) has dreams big enough to rival those of Shagufta Shezadi urf Ghoshi, the female lead (played by Hira Salman). He is a rural Chaudhary siyasati to the core.
Shams isn’t exactly the stuff our drama heroes are made of. He is a thug and goon – a foot soldier of a political party but with big dreams and aspirations of his own. He is a rural Chaudhary siyasati to the core. He and his brother (Adnan Shah Tipu) see their service to political bigwig Soleri sahib (Rehan Sheikh) as a stepping stone towards this eventual goal of gaining an MNA seat and advancing their political career.
In a fit of misplaced chivalry, Shams marries his bhabhi’s sister to save her from domestic torment. Though he rebuffs Ghoshi many a time, her antics present the larger problem of stalling his political advancement, so he marries her too. While all seems going according to plan, there is of course a twist of fate.
A spanner in the works
Nothing here, is as it seems.
Each character has their self-interest at stake and is willing to play dirty to outwit the other. Sham’s brother fears his advancement and frames him in a murder case which lands Shams in prison for 17 years.
Ghoshi, having cut off all family ties turns to the oily Soleri sahib for assistance but he proves to be a slippery fellow. She manages to eke out a living working for a good-hearted lawyer who also takes on Shams case. Sensing the changing political tides, Soleri sahib invests in Ghoshi as the women’s representative of his political party and remains the power behind the throne.
Shagufta marries Shams, but has to settle for being a second wife. But her ability to speak up for herself and challenge the status quo makes her a force to reckon with.
Through the cloud of cigar smoke and the veneer of urbane sophistication, he masks his ignoble intentions and effectively uses his clout to make Shagufta and Shams dance to his tunes.
The story now turns to Shams and Shagufta’s 17 year old daughter Nurulain. While she is privy to her mother’s struggles, she hurts when she is sidelined by her father’s return. While she remains meek even as she tepidly explores freedom and romance, her parents are not above using her as a pawn to further their own ambitions.
Amna Mufti’s excellent writing brings the story full-circle. Future episodes foretell crossing of paths and persons long forgotten and of the histories we are condemned to repeat.
While in any other drama, Zarina, Sham’s long suffering first wife would have been the heroine and one to gather the audience’s sympathies, writer Amna Mufti turns this trope on its head.
Ghoshi is enacted with great verve and spirit by Hira Salman who shows us all the nuances of this flawed protagonist. As a headstrong girl daring to live life on her own terms as well as a dusri biwi, she should not have our sympathies, but her ability to speak up for herself and challenge the status quo makes her a force to reckon with.
Rash enough to chase bad-boy Shams at the risk of losing her family, unsympathetic towards Sham’s first wife, a determined single mother who has to move past her heartbreak at Sham’s imprisonment and her wretchedness at having to drug her child to sleep so she can work speaks to her pain and suffering. It becomes hard to neatly push her into any preconceived boxes of good or evil. Hira Salman is well-cast and does complete justice to her character.
Hira Salman as Shagufta is well-cast and does complete justice to her character. Ahsan Khan as Shams is a powerhouse to be reckoned with in the hands of the right director.
Ahsan Khan too takes up the challenge of playing Shams with equal vigour. He downplays his character’s natural swagger which makes it all the more powerful. Shams is a product of a patriarchal society and despite spending majority of his years behind bars is still delusional enough to believe that his wife’s political success is a placeholder for his eventual return. Ahsan Khan is a powerhouse to be reckoned with in the hands of the right director.
The other cast members are all equally outstanding. Irfan Khoosat is marvelous as the doting father who isn’t blind to his daughter’s shenanigans but is merely helpless by his love for her. Adnan Shah Tipu embodies what a good actor can do with just one look and the right inflection, even if he is getting typecast as the go-to goon. Hassan Noman has surprised everyone with his rock-solid performance as the large-hearted Ilyas Kashmiri with a lisp that never slips. Rehan Shaikh as Soleri sahib is a joy to watch and he plays his villain with strains of muted anger at his un-reciprocated passion.
On the same page
Amna Mufti comes from a tradition of literary writers who hone their craft and create works that don’t exist in a vacuum.
Similar to her last rural-urban drama Ullu Baray Farokht Nahin, the personal, social, political – everything is woven into her story with an eye for social critique and an understanding of people that allows them to be delusional, flawed, manipulative – sometimes all together. She also manages to bring in subversive twists and questions the status-quo, all while being true to her characters and story.
This drama proves that when a writer and director share a vision, the result is more than satisfying.
Director Ethasamuddin whose previous works include Sadqay Tumhare and Azeerzadi proves once again that he can create atmosphere and extract strong performances. Here too he manages to bring visual depth to Amna Mufti’s words on to the screen.
He breathes visual lyricism to match her astute social commentary. The lovely old Lahori homes, shops and gullis add to the laid back atmosphere, the rural settings and all through the spit and polish of political chicanery he has an eye for detail which lends to the narrative.
This is truly a case of the writer and director being on the same page and that in itself is a treat for viewers.
Though the story is well-paced, sometimes it moves a little too fast. The episodic nature of the narrative leaves little breathing room for the audience to relate to the characters and build intimacy. Sometimes in slowing down there is a little more room for reflection and that helps bond the viewers to the protagonists.
Still, Preet Na Kariyo Koi is a well-conceived and intelligent drama that is a cut above the other current crop of dramas. We only hope it can hold up to the end, we know we will be watching!
Sadaf Siddique is a freelance writer, an avid reader, film and drama enthusiast and sometime drama queen not necessarily in that order.