Shahzain and Saad’s reunion was an unexpected gift this episode
Shahzain and Saad’s reunion was an unexpected gift this episode

Of all the prime-time dramas this season, Hum TV’s ISPR sponsored serial, Ehd-e-Wafa has been giving viewers consistently high-quality viewing week after week.

A very relatable story about four friends who met and bonded at Lawrence College before life, and how some of their own bad choices drove them apart. This coming of age saga spans the confusion and mischief of their teenage years through the tests and struggles that mold them into the men they are destined to be.

The drama has done a good job of showing that male friendships don't have to be toxic.
The drama has done a good job of showing that male friendships don't have to be toxic.

Like ARY Digital’s recent Meray Pass Tum Ho and Geo’s Alif, Ehd-e-Wafa flips the usual female-oriented drama script, by focusing on the male protagonists.

The show's come a long way

Saad (Ahad Raza Mir) is a soldier, the son of a General; he is dedicated to fulfilling his father’s highest expectations. Shahzain (Osman Khalid Butt) the spoiled, elder son of traditional landlords becomes a politician, but learns a painful lesson about anger, loss and friendship along the way.

Sheheryar (Ahmed Ali Akbar) is the son of a middle-class band master, the college topper. He becomes an Assistant Commissioner but never forgets his humanity or his roots. Rounding them off is Shariq (Wahaj Ali), another class topper, supported by a widowed mother and hard-working sister. He becomes a journalist, guided by principle rather than ambition.

Also read: Ehd-e-Wafa is a rare drama about friendship

On a purely technical level, this is show is a pleasure to watch. Momina Duraid’s production team has gone to great lengths and there are few, if any, loose ends. Director Saife Hassan has once again proven what a master he is at bringing multiple storylines and characters to the screen without losing focus on the big picture.

Shahzain and Saad’s reunion was an unexpected gift this episode. With all the stereotypes of toxic, angry, abusive and demanding males that we see parading across our screens, it brought tears to at least my eyes to see some real men on screen. Real men, who are flawed but whose ultimate guidance comes from the better side of their natures, acknowledging their mistakes and moving on to forgiveness and reconciliation.

From moments of comedy to social commentary and high emotional drama, he has kept up the tension in each track. The light, breezy style of the drama has pulled in viewers normally lost by painful accounts of misery that give more commercial projects such high ratings, proving that good writing can trump the misery porn and helplessness producers claim is the only way to succeed.

To match this more accessible style, author Mustafa Afridi has stepped back from his usual, highly detailed explorations of human nature in projects like Aangan, Sang-e-Mar Mar, Firaaq , Aseerzadi and more but maintained the quality of writing throughout. This serial’s charm lies in the depth and context Afridi has given to each protagonist and the way light and dark shift through their circumstances and personalities.

For regular viewers, last Sunday’s episode was a tour de force, a gathering of all the threads that had been pulled awry. The major split between the friends began with Saad and Shahzain and the deficit of support and unity of purpose caused by that rift made each hurdle these young men faced became even more difficult.

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Shahzain and Saad’s reunion was an unexpected gift this episode, giving talented actors Osman Khalid Butt and Ahad Raza Mir an opportunity to shine in what was one of the most iconic sequences of brotherhood and friendship we have seen on our screens in years.

With all the stereotypes of toxic, angry, abusive and demanding males that we see parading across our screens, it brought tears to at least my eyes to see some real men on screen. Real men, who are flawed but whose ultimate guidance comes from the better side of their natures, acknowledging their mistakes and moving on to forgiveness and reconciliation.

In a power-packed episode, we had another beautiful track played out to maximum effect by Ahmed Ali Akbar, Sajeeruddin Khalifa (college warden, Firdaus) and the character’s son, Khursheed. Broken by an unjust system, Sheheryar comes across his old teacher literally begging to be heard by the now powerful Assistant Commissioner.

There were no theatrics, just an illustration of ethics and compassion that everyday good people maintain no matter how high they rise. The South Asian tradition of unending respect for elders and teachers and the bonds of friendship were renewed as Sheheryar offers hope to his old classmate gave us yet another emotional high.

But where are the women?

While Mustafa Afridi has written some strong female characters, they have all been accessories to the male leads and that does take away from the sheen of this project. It is 2020 and this ISPR serial is leaving the contributions of women to the usual support system of achievement or love interests.

We need more substance from the female characters.
We need more substance from the female characters.

The goal of any ISPR sponsored serial is always about national unity, national character building and in this respect, they have missed a great opportunity to show a woman who can achieve and succeed in her own right.

As a gentle reminder, let us remember Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s words: “No nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.“

While Mustafa Afridi has written some strong female characters, they have all been accessories to the male leads and that does take away from the sheen of this project. It is 2020 and this ISPR serial is leaving the contributions of women to the usual support system of achievement or love interests.

Dr. Dua’s (Alizeh Shah) character maybe an attempt by Afridi at patching that hole but it seems to fall short of the kind of self-actualisation many Pakistani women are aiming for and reminds of characterisations decades back. While Rani (Zara Noor Abbas) has delighted us with scene after scene of the kind of sassy comedy we love from our Punjabi princess, she, too, has not been able to cover that gap because of the limits set by the story.

Zara Noor Abbas does the best she can with the material she's been given.
Zara Noor Abbas does the best she can with the material she's been given.

Apart from the solid entertainment, this drama has some subtle political imperatives skillfully woven into the script. Saad and Shahzain represent the military and political establishments, two pillars of society often seen as competing for power and leadership in Pakistan. The break up, the make up of these two characters is not without significance.

No country can succeed where civilian and military leadership are constantly at odds with each other. Similarly, corruption, land mafias and the responsibility of individuals in power towards the powerless is highlighted. The use and misuse of the powers of both traditional media and social media is brought out in sharp relief as the story progresses.

Choosing some of our best looking and talented actors and actresses combined with a great script and good production values is unsurprisingly a great recipe for attracting audiences. Ehd-e-Wafa is turning out to be a lot better than its first few episodes might have suggested, and looks as if it will get even better with time.

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