If you've ever wanted to escape the ordinary or to simply run away from the restrictions and routines of life, you'll understand the premise behind TV drama Dil Banjaara, which aired on Hum TV last night.
This new drama is about two people trapped by the circumstances of their birth; Nida (Sanam Saeed) has a heart that wants to break free of her small, suffocating, middle-class existence and see the world.
Despite their disabilities and lack of means her parents have always supported their daughter’s education but tradition and conservative attitudes in her family hold her back.
The gypsy or banjaara of the title is Sikander (Adnan Malik), a photographer who enjoys life to the fullest, traveling and spending as much as he earns without a care in the world. But he too is bound by something — gratitude.
Orphaned as a child, Sikander is raised by his mother’s best friend, whose daughter Shama (Mira Sethi) thinks all his friendly banter means love. Sikander (or as Shama calls him Sikki) first spots Nida through his camera lens on one of his early morning photography escapades.
Writer Faiza Iftikhar is known for her strong, authentic characters and the inspiration for Sikander comes from a real life, New York-based, Pakistani businessman Zorain Iqbal. Just like Sikander, Zorain travels all over the world and is famous for taking the most amazing photographs.
The whole serial has a bright, modern look. The lighting, sets and locations all show that producer Momina Duraid has made a great effort to keep the fresh flavour of this story alive. First episodes are not always a reliable indicator of quality but this one certainly looks promising.
Sanam Saeed, Adnan Malik and Mira Sethi are a new combination and stylists seem to have been working overtime to give them all a shiny new look to match the mood. The story and the characters are established with ease and it's to both writer and director’s (Siraj-ul-Haq) credit that the audience immediately understands each situation.
While Sikander’s adopted “family” is straight out of a generic Karan Johar movie, Nida’s family is so much more interesting. It was wonderful to see Hina Bayat take on the role of playing Nida’s mentally challenged mother, whose lack of the most basic skills has made her the target of disrespect at worst and benign neglect at best. Still the woman is no victim, often enjoying a moment of gleeful fun at her supposedly smarter family and Bayat plays it flawlessly.
Nida’s father is also an interesting man. He hasn't allowed his physical disability to make him bitter and finds solace in sharing poetry and dreams with his intelligent daughter.
As with all serials written by Faiza Iftikhar, the female characters are wonderfully detailed.
Madiha Rizvi plays Nida’s frustrated cousin, forced out of school by her parents’ backward thinking, then there is the Inimitable Samina Ahmed, one half of the petty dictatorship running this domestic setup; proud that she saved her daughter from reading thick books and a living illustration of “the banality of evil.“
Sakina Sammo provides a sharp contrast to all of these women as the rich phupo whose son is engaged to Nida. As in any good comedy of manners, she never tires of pointing out her family’s wealth and superiority. There were quite a few moments of subtle comedy as the interplay between all these women brought out all the hypocrisy and mind games families play with each other.
Sanam Saeed and Mira Sethi look simply fabulous and both have their roles well in hand. Sanam Saeed is usually seen in very strong, very practical avatars so this softer, more vulnerable role will give her another chance to prove her versatility and so far, she is very much at home.
It is hard to play the ingénue while keeping the bholi larki vibe (see Mannu from Mann Mayal) at bay but Saeed manages keep fight it off without losing any of her character’s charm.
Mira Sethi is perfect as Shama, the artist who cannot think beyond her first love, Sikander. Their easy relationship and his careless banter are so typical of modern relationships, where there are no boundaries and friendship can easily be mistranslated as romantic love.
Since Sadqay Tumharey, it’s been obvious that underplaying a role is an alien concept to Adnan Malik, so this role as the free spirited,” high energy” photographer looks tailor made for him. Malik looks great as Sikander and if he can bring the control and depth this role also requires, then it's going to be a memorable one.
So far Dil Banjaara seems like fun way to pass a Friday evening and if the director can build on this good beginning, it should find a way into everyone’s schedule.
There are some serious issues lurking under the layers of fun and froth: can we escape our fate, what really limits us and perhaps more importantly, what it means to follow another path.
Not all of us are doctors, lawyers or business people; there are always those whose brains work differently, whose deepest desire is to create. Sikander is a photographer who sees things through his lens that others often overlook. Nida loves poetry and is a dreamer at heart, while Shama is a painter, all people who chafe at every limit put on them.
If nothing else, Dil Banjaara is a celebration of those whose passion and creativity makes them walk away from set paths and into the new and yet to be discovered lands of our imagination.