Sinf-e-Aahan is one of those rare dramas that has generated a great deal of interest since its first trailer. Arguably, there was no reason that it wouldn’t. Serials depicting cadet life have always been consumed with dedication across the demographics owing to break they offer from the predictability of the usual on-screen narratives. Factors such as patriotism, glamour, camaraderie all contribute to the interest in these serials as does the glimpse they offer into life beyond the cantonment gates. A life, as Sinf-e-Aahan’s progression reveals, that holds the promise of opportunities of progress, equality and stability for the seven main characters of this series.
Mahjabeen Mastan (Kubra Khan), Rabia Safeer (Sajal Aly), Shaista Khanzada (Yumna Zaidi), Periwesh Jamal (Ramsha Khan), Arzoo Daniels (Syra Yousuf), Nathammy Perrera (Yahali Kalidasa) and Syeda Sidra (Dananeer Mobeen) have all been inducted as female cadets at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). Unlike male cadets, the female cadets are only required to complete a short course after which they will be placed in the relevant departments based on their education.
This leads some, particularly Syeda Sidra, to believe that the girls won’t be put through the rigour of training or punishment which is typically shown in dramas such as Alpha Bravo Charlie. But, little is she aware that the real test of their capabilities begins the moment they deposit their phones and head towards their residence at the institution.
The discipline, the physical exertion and the uniformity of everything is a complete shock to the girls. It results in moments which range from hilarious to emotional. The hawk-like gaze of the training officers and the challenges they throw at the girls, coupled with the fact that the audience has been privy to each girl’s story prior to her arrival at PMA, makes this serial an engorging watch as one witnesses the growth each character undergoes through the course.
The key difference between Sinf-e-Aahan and other such serials is not just gender, but the social and emotional pressures, norms and constructs that each of the girls battle on their journey. There are Rabia and Shaista escaping the pressures of marriage. They are contrasted with Mahjabeen who has come to pursue both adventure and become the next General Nigar. There are Arzoo and Periwesh who have come to gain an equal footing, or perhaps even an upper hand, for themselves as society has frequently discriminates against them on the basis of religion and status. To what extent they are freed from these issues through their newfound status and their exposure to other people at PMA will be exciting to watch.
With Pakistan’s top actors playing the lead roles, it is hard to pick one or even two of the best female performers or characters in this serial. Major Samia, the platoon commander, is played by the actual officer and brings authentic authority to the role. Yumna Zaidi as Shaista Khanzada and Dananeer Mobeen as Syeda Sidra are notable for the comic relief.
Similarly, picking a supporting actor is also difficult simply because of the sheer magnitude of the cast. Each girl has been given a family network that is visible on-screen, with a few exceptions this includes more than just parents. There are complex sub-plots, overlapping characters, and a number of flashbacks which introduce the audience to several supporting actors and nuances that flow into the main narrative. Out of the multitude of these characters, Junaid Jamshed Niazi wins hearts as Kamil, Shaista’s fiancé, by taking her to Gujranwala from Peshawar for the physical assessment at the Inter Services Selection Board and enlightening her father about her ambitions.
There is also the sensitive Major Usama, played by Sheheryar Munawar, who through his bedtime storytelling to his daughter advances the narrative that Sinf-e-Aahan is subtly seeking to transform, that marriage should be progress not a full stop.
Sinf-e-Aahan gives women, or rather girls, a chance on the Pakistani screen. A chance to be normal, humorous, natural, glamorous, purposeful and idyllic too. It finally gets to the core of the fact that not all women are scheming, jilted lovers and that they have real issues too. It is not just inspiring, but revealing of prejudices, barriers and impediments to success that girls face on many levels.
This serial is an entire package appropriate for multi-generational viewing. The production is impeccable, barring some slow sequences and the occasional emphasis on idealism. But, it all makes sense in the larger picture.
The soundtrack by Asim Azhar and Zeb Bangash is impactful, modern and empowering. It encapsulates the story line and enhances it as the background score. The use of multilingual lyrics furthers the diversity that the drama aims to capture, and it also becomes the inner voice of the girl’s whom it seeks to represent. Little wonder then that it has generated a number of positive reaction videos on YouTube from Turkey and India. On the whole, if there is one drama that I won’t mind sharing with my daughter when she is older, it would be this one.