Horror shows on Pakistani television are not a common sight, especially on prime time. The reason is simple that it is quite difficult to grab eyeballs of the masses with fickle jump scares and drama without much mystery, hence most of the shows (Chalawa and Belapur ki Dayan) take the most-travelled route i.e. involving tropes like kaala jaado and peer faqeer. But now ARY Digital has come up with a new dose of horror, suspense and spookiness with Qasim Ali Mureed’s directorial Neeli Zinda Hai and the first two episodes seem quite promising.
The opening titles of the drama set the mysterious tone right as the sequence seem to be heavily inspired by The Haunting of Bly Manor, and though I found the English drama series quite boring, there is one big similarity between the two: a haunted house. The story revolves around a married couple Amaan and Sumbul (Mohib Mirza & Sonia Mishal) and their mute daughter Minal (Tehreem). Sumbul has recently gone through stillbirth while Amaan was in Australia. The couple is not on good terms as they are in a long distance relationship for past six years. Even Minal is not close to her father; however, one big factor in this alienation is Amaan’s mother Mehrbano (Kinza Malik) who hates her daughter-in-law and granddaughter. She is obsessive about his son and doesn’t want him to reconnect with his family.
Amaan has come to his senses after losing his second child and in order to set everything straight, he decides to move into another house with his wife and daughter. Naturally, his mother accuses Sumbul for taking his son away and tells her she won’t let them stay happy. Writer Adeel Razzaq has carefully created a world where we can see the strong personalities of all the characters from the first episode; it is evident that Mehrbano is the kind of mother who will go to any length to keep his son near her, while Sumbul is a timid soul who is lost in her sadness.
As Amaan moves to his newly-bought house, which looks haunted at the very first glance, there are several mysteries that are keeping us on the edge of our seats. It is a huge house with a piano (who leaves that around?) which is empty for quite some time, yet it is fully furnished, squeaky clean and even has trimmed garden and fresh flowers. The estate agent who sold the house has closed shop and also disappeared, while the electrician who came to fix the fuse also vanished into thin air. Sumbul has doubts but she is trying to keep the superstitious thoughts to herself as Amaan has already left his home for her.
However, I like the interesting take of the writer here as Minal is the first one who has come under the influence of a supernatural force and being a mute child, she won’t be able to explain the unnatural phenomena.
Neeli Zinda Hai is going to be an interesting show as it has built up on intriguing plots in the first two episodes. Perhaps, we won’t get clarity on who is Neeli for a few weeks, but the burning question is if Urwa Hocane is playing the role or not? We saw her dressed as a bride in the photo but is she now a spirit haunting the house? Also, Jinaan Hussain has an interesting character as well and we wonder how that will unfold.
So far, we’ve seen flickering lights, broken glasses, doors opening and shutting, and paintings, pictures, a doll and Minal appearing and disappearing out of nowhere. All of this has been executed efficiently by the director as the eerie house and mysterious happenings seem convincing. But what excites me the most is how Mehrbano’s attempt to get rid of Sumbul through black magic will clash with her personal encounter with the paranormal. Let’s hope that this drama gives us some chills and goose bumps, and doesn’t go down the route done to death in this particular genre.
Produced by Humayun Saeed and Shahzad Nasib under Six Sigma Plus Production, Neeli Zinda Hai airs every Thursday at 8pm on ARY Digital.