New drama Sanam could offer a fresh take on mental illness, but it's off to a slow start
Hum TV's latest offering Sanam comes — pardon the post-Eid metaphor — wrapped as a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
The drama pits a stock character like the bad Westernised, can’t-cook-to-save-her-life wife against the good anda paratha-wielding, dupatta chador-clad neighbour, and duly wraps this killer combo with some paranoia, a little bit of progressive veneer, and an innocent husband coveting his neighbour. Voila, a potboiler is born.
Problem is it doesn’t stick, or even boil.
The story so far
Harib (Osman Khalid Butt) and Ayla (Hareem Farooq) are a recently married, much-in-love couple. Although they seem to know each other before marriage, they are barely aware of each other’s life-changing moments. The newlyweds enter a rough patch as Ayla frequently descends into fits of rage when envy strikes.
Add to this their new neighbours, the chador-clad Aan (Maya Ali) and her baseball cap-wearing mom (Hina Bayat) as the new Qureshis in town. Visions from their old middle class life keep popping up at inopportune moments. ruining Mrs. Qureshi’s (Hina Bayat) plans of global domination. I kid, I kid, just daughter domination, also known as 'Hai, Allah, iski shaadi kab hogi’?
A cast so cold
Osman Khalid Butt plays the progressive city boy, who doesn’t expect his wife to cook and clean. He also makes her breakfast but like all martyred mothers worldwide, forgets to eat his share. This veneer comes sliding off when presented with anda paratha with a side of traditional bholi larki who can cook, clean and earn a six-figure salary!
Moreover, Butt looks bored and the banter between him and the Mrs is deflating faster than a day old helium balloon with zero chemistry to prop it up.
Though they both look unconvincing, Hareem Farooq looked pretty as the newly wed bride and frazzled as a new cook. Her ability to underplay her character’s hysteria and suspicions hinted at an unbalanced state of mind.
Aan, played by Maya Ali, is the young, hard-working girl with simple clothes and simple dreams. For some reason, though, her dialogue delivery seemed rather sedate and even the famed #OSMAYA chemistry seemed lacking here. However, she is once again playing a role we’ve seen her in many a times and has it down pat.
Talking about mental illness
Mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder, needs to be dealt with sensitivity. Both patients and their families are affected. More often than not the patient feels helpless and needs support and good medical care to manage their illness. This should be Ayla’s story as well.
Ayla’s paranoid episodes and anger are very believable and here, script writer Mona Haseeb, has penned very realistic situations. Her earlier work Nanhi was a convincing script so there is hope that we get to see Ayla in a sympathetic light too.
As the drama progresses, there needs to be more nuance to the character than just the ill -mannered, strong-headed wife with an inability to text her husband.
As of now, the script reads tired and ‘inspired’. The dead husband (Abid Ali in a role he’s done before with more panache) is a straight lift from Bunty, I Love You. The other problem is that you can predict the entirety of the serial based on the very black and white portrayal of the two lead women who are invariably going to be fighting for the darling husband/neighbour’s attention.
A slow start
Despite the need to sketch out main and other characters such as Aan’s extended greedy clan, two episodes down, the pace remains slow. Part of it is the very boring dialogue which just tells you the same old thing. Director Haseeb Hasan really needs to jolt it awake. There is slow and there is somnambulistic and Sanam is (sleep) walking on the edge.
All the characters look like they would rather be elsewhere. The only two characters that make an impression are Sheroze, Emmad Irfani as Harib’s (slightly creepy) friend and an energetic Hina Bayat, whose mannerisms complement the character she plays as a one-track and determined woman to get her daughter married to any rah chalta larka.
For now, Sanam is just old wine in a new bottle. Problem is the label is peeling, the actors are bored and the script is predictable: Ayla, the headstrong, domineering wife without a care for tradition versus the simple-minded mashriqi Aan. As for our hero, Harib, when trouble strikes, looks to covet thy neighbour.
Sanam needs to wake out of its stupor (or at least hire someone with editing chops) if it is to muster even a glimmer of interest.
Sadaf Siddique is a freelance writer, film and drama enthusiast and sometime drama queen, not necessarily in that order.