Described as a story about "true friends on their journey of hardships and hustle, willing to sacrifice for their country", Hum TV’s new serial, Ehd-e-Wafa looked as if it might just save the many drama fans exhausted by the usual female-oriented sob fests that haunt our television screens.
Two episodes down and we can see that Ehd-e-Wafa is a rare male-oriented drama, focusing on the lives of four friends who meet at Cadet College in Murree.
Before its first episode, Ehd-e-Wafa had garnered a significant fan following because of the fun teasers showing us boyish escapades, a little light romance and more than the average amount of eye candy.
Looks aside, the cast includes proven actors like Osman Khalid Butt, Ahad Raza Mir, Ahmad Ali Akbar, Wahaj Ali and Zara Noor Abbas. With a good budget, ISPR backing, a strong director like Hassan, this should have made an instant hit.
However, in spite of the fairly low-key roll out for the serial, the weight of expectations from previous ISPR sponsored serials like Sunheray Din and the iconic Alpha Bravo Charlie did hit hard, plus a slow and unfocused first episode left some disappointed.
Instead of giving the audience an introduction to the characters and story, the first episode seemed like an endless roll of overly self-aware skits.
Then there was the lack of attention paid to styling, an oversight which only emphasised the fact that all these actors are well beyond the usual age for a college cadet.
Part of any actor’s skill set is to use styling techniques such has hair, makeup and wardrobe to project their characters most authentic image. Both actors and the director seem to have ignored this important aspect of storytelling, leaving behind the jarring impression of men playing at being boys.
This is director Saife Hassan and writer Mustafa Afridi’s latest collaboration after the brilliant Sang-e-Mar Mar, which gave a surprisingly thrilling edge to a simple story about life in Swat.
Despite the recent run of dramas authored by Afridi, he isn’t known as a prolific writer, choosing to concentrate his undoubted skills on one project at a time and it shows.
His projects show a meticulous attention to detailed plotting, character motivation and nuanced personalities for each of his protagonists. How well that translates onto our television screens is firmly in the director’s control.
His recent drama Angan (based on Khadija Mastoor’s novel) is prime example of an exceptionally well-made serial that didn’t win the ratings war because it was slower, more melancholy and more contemplative than audiences expected. So, let’s see how audiences have received his newest offering, Ehd-e-Wafa.
Happily, the serial has picked up a lot of the slack in episode 2. Although the styling didn’t change, the show this week was much better edited and actually funny, with enough serious moments to draw each protagonists character out. While nothing is known for sure, the rumours are that the story will show these four friends going in very different careers like politics, army, journalism and business.
The way their choices and lives change and intersect again will be the focus as the show progresses, so the actors will look more at home in their characters as the narrative moves forward
Osman Khalid Butt is one of our most versatile performers but it’s no surprise that he really excels at comedy: his Shahzain is manipulative, woefully ignorant and a liar of some skill, but his antics are the life of the show.
Episode 2 gave him some memorable lines about Newton leaving his country a message about proof of guilt before conviction making a laugh out loud fruit salad of historical facts.
Playing the straight man to Shahzain is Ahad Raza Mir, as Saad, who is the typical beeba bacha (good kid) kind who somehow always end up friends with the roguish Shahzains of this world.
Ahad makes good use of those Raza Mir good looks and expressive eyes, which manage to convince what might have been a skeptical audience into easily believing that he really might have fallen for Dua at first sight.
Ahmed Ali Akbar’s wonderfully deadpan dialogue delivery marks him as the cynic, while Wahaj Ali’s sweetly naïve Shariq rounds out a well-blended cast. It has only been a couple of episodes but we really need more dialogues and many more scenes of these two talented actors.
Akber in particular makes an impression with just a few words so it will be a crying shame if Mustafa Afridi’s script doesn’t give them the opportunity to contribute more .The fluid chemistry and well-timed, easy banter between these four young actors is a delight and one of the biggest strengths of this show.
So far, the female leads include Zara Noor as the impish Rani and Alizeh Shah as Dua, another army brat, like Saad. Zara Noor has come a long way in the last two years and is very much at home on the big and small screen.
Her role in this year's Eid release, Parey Hut Love was a pleasure to watch and she has perfected the kind of fun, frothy mischief maker kind of personality that audiences love.
Rani is a drama queen who knows how to lie her way out of anything and seems like more than a match for Shahzain. Any other actress would have looked forced and annoying while cheating some mohallay waley bachay at a cricket match but she glides through with the kind of charm and confidence very few other actors possess.
Meanwhile Alizeh Shah’s Dua seems to be our typical drama heroine, a little rich girl with nothing to mark her personality except a few over reactions to perfectly normal situations.
We can only hope her character will show more nuance and complexity over the course of the story. Shah’s dialogue delivery needs some work but otherwise playing everyone’s spoiled little girl is well within her range of abilities.
While the rest of prime-time drama viewing is overwhelmed with scheming sisters, shaqi shohars (suspicious husbands), extra marital affairs and the usual who marries who favoured by our producers, Ehd-e-Wafa makes for a refreshing change.
A young cast, making their way through life and the positive friendships they share is a side of Pakistani culture that is too often ignored by our dramas. Ehd-e-Wafa is solid family viewing, with something for everyone, so long as the director keeps up the pace.
As the characters grow, we will see them face the more complicated dilemmas of adult life but so far, it’s a thoroughly entertaining way to spend a Sunday evening .