We watched sparks fly even as Humayun Saeed tried to evict Mehwish Hayat from her childhood home!
We watched sparks fly even as Humayun Saeed tried to evict Mehwish Hayat from her childhood home!

Anyone watching the first episode of Dil Lagi could easily mistake it for the first quarter of a film: there is a thrilling chase sequence in the first few scenes that introduces us to a dabangg heroine, a snappy script and a fast-paced story that keeps the audience riveted.

Dil Lagi is directed by Nadeem Baig, whose TV serial Pyarey Afzal and debut film Jawani Phir Nahi Ani have cemented his position as one of the best directors in the industry. The script and original story are written by Faiza Iftikhar whose repertoire includes social commentary such as the award-winning Roag , Diya Jaley and romantic comedies like the hit AunZara and Aik Naeey Cinderella to name a few. This serial is produced by Shehzad Nasib and Humayun Saeed and is playing in the prime time Saturday evening spot on ARY Digital.

The story is set in the narrow back streets of Sukkar in interior Sindh, where Anmol (Mehwish Hayat) lives a simple life with her mother (Asma Abbasi) and younger sister (Maryam Ansari). Before he passed away, Anmol’s father had paid off a debt he owed to local moneylender Kifayat Ali using his home as security, but Anmol’s mother has no proof of the debt repayment so they are an easy mark for fraud. Kifayat Ali engages Mohid (Humayun Saeed), who specializes in real-estate, and a little goondagardi on the side to evict Anmol’s family. The clash between Mohid and Anmol is the crux of this story.

The highlights

Watching the courageous and practical Anmol fight a bag snatcher for her hard-earned money and then visit lawyer after lawyer to save her family home was a breath of fresh air.

A woman with a strong personality, as opposed to the generic 'good girls' we see on screen, may come as a jolt for slumbering audiences but it is a much-needed wake up call.

After Preet Na Karyo Koi’s Ghoshi, we have another interesting character to watch. Mehwish Hayat’s performance is simply flawless; the audience can see exactly why Mohid is enamored with her in their first meeting.

No shrinking violets in this drama serial
No shrinking violets in this drama serial

Director Nadeem Baig has sacrificed the usual floodlights on the face, red lipstick and brightly colored clothes that mark our 'heroines' for absolute integrity and authenticity. No doubt Mehwish Hayat is a beautiful woman but it is Anmol’s personality that shines in every scene.

Speaking of strong women, Saba Hamid seems to be gearing up for another unforgettable performance as Mohid’s mother. She too knows her mind and has little time for women who won’t help themselves. She has brought her son up to be both brave and principled but despite having such a mother as a role model, Mohid’s sister (Uzma Hassan) seems to be the weak link in the family.

Uzma Hassan is an actress who manages to make any role shine, whether it’s the zamindar’s keep in Ullu Baray Farokht Nahi or the typical Punjabi bhabi in Ghoondi, which only adds to the potential of this serial.

The other end of the equation in this drama is completed by Humayun Saeed as Mohid. After an absence of a few years from the small screen, Humayun Saeed looks fresh and has this character perfectly in hand, conveying Mohid’s quiet, powerful personality with understated charm.

The downturn of his head as Anmol throws him out of her house for being a gunda and the slow smile of amusement that follows lets the audience know exactly who's in charge of the situation. The chemistry between Saeed and Hayat is electric - they hardly interact but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that these two belong together.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by Imran Ashraf, who provides a few lighter moments as Mohid’s second in command Dastagir. It wouldn’t be a Faiza Iftikhar script without a touch of humour and from the promos it seems like Dastagir and Anmol’s sister will provide them.

Director Nadeem Baig deserves all the credit for extracting such controlled performances from such a diverse cast and building an easy chemistry between them. He easily sets up the premise of the entire story while keeping the action moving at an exhilarating speed. The characters’ motivations are understandable without sacrificing nuance and there are no forced, illogical situations to wrack our brains over.

Director Nadeem Baig with Mehiwsh Hayat, Humayun Saeed and Qasim
Director Nadeem Baig with Mehiwsh Hayat, Humayun Saeed and Qasim

In other words, the writer, director and cast are all on the same page, so the viewer can actually relax and (gasp!) be entertained instead of chewing over each episode and wondering what is going on in some character’s head as 'homework'.

While first episodes can be misleading, Dil Lagi's first promises to be the kind of family entertainment we have been missing.

The only drawback seems to be an epidemic of slapping. As a rule, I don’t like violence and if there has to be a slap, could we just limit it to one slap per serial?

When Mohid slaps one of his henchman, it is a pivotal, necessary point in the story. With this one action, he manages to manipulate his way into Anmol’s house and at the same time establishes himself as a thug in her mind.

However, with Anmol slapping her unwanted Romeo in the library earlier in the episode and then a promo for next week showing Mohid slapping the poor guy all over again, it seems to cross the line to ridiculous in an otherwise excellent drama.

Besides, Mohid looks as if he could just whistle and the poor would-be Romeo would fall over, a case of overkill to say the least. Apart from that, this looks like a must-watch on everyone’s list.

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