The story in Zindagi Gulzar Hai is progressing at snail’s pace – I think everyone following it wants ‘the wedding’ to happen – however there are moments in every episode that make the speed acceptable. One can allow concessions in pace because the performances are great and the messages that lie between the lines are important and relevant to women in Pakistan today. In this episode that message points at social disparity and the importance of post, position and class when building relationships (Murtaza is inching his way into Rafia’s life because his daughters are all well-settled and successful) and in proposing new relationships. It’s Zaroon’s mother who brings out the status difference between both households and deems marriage between her son and Kashaf “impossible”. She says this with the perfect blow dry – not a hair out of place – a well-maintained manicure and an adequately expensive strand of pearls and emeralds to match her silk sari.
That said, one was a bit taken aback when the Defense-Nazimabad stereotype came to life on television.
“She lives in Nazimabad?” Zaroon’s sister Sara asks her mother in disbelief when they are discussing the ultimate social inequality between Zaroon and Kashaf. Oops…that could not have gone down well with a lot of people but did get the point across. The Defense-Nazimabad comparison is as typical as the Defense-Ichchra (Lahore) comparison, the EMT-UMT (English-Urdu Medium Types) comparison or the Burger-Bun Kabab difference. It is crude, rude and elitist but the fact is that it gets the point across when highlighting a social difference in a story. And the play’s responsibility should be in being effective not in sugar-coating issues or cushioning blows to the ego. After all, series like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl thrived on the ‘superiority’ of Manhattan’s elite. Poor little Lonely Boy Dan Humphrey had to fight several seasons to shake off his Brooklyn complex and be accepted by them.
Back to Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Ghazala’s shock needs to be put down to an egotistic and elitist woman’s mindset. She is shocked at how seriously her son is taking his proposal with Kashaf, who lives in Nazimabad and is a school-teacher’s daughter. His sister is bewildered but she’s more open to the idea; she’s apparently learnt something from her mistakes that ended her marriage. His father, of course, is more accommodating. After initial displeasure he starts playing the silent mediator and quips that Zaroon is so intimidated by this girl (Kashaf) that he will undoubtedly make an ideal husband.
Besides riling up a stereotype this episode focused on the beauty of sibling love. Not only does Sidra come to Kashaf’s rescue by stepping in to help Zaroon get through to her but Sara, who was always abrasive with her brother, emerges as a sensitive and warm sister.
And then there were moments to be enjoyed with a smile: the fact that a queer triangle has emerged in which Kashaf feels Osama and Zaroon are tricking her and Zaroon feels Kashaf and Osama are plotting against him. Add to that Zaroon’s fidgety unrest at his unprecedented failure in impressing a girl; he’s sheepish and awkward when calling her. And like a teenager with a crush on the school’s coolest girl, he’s obsessed with the idea of winning her approval. The background music plays up these scenes, which are very well developed and directed. It would be unfair not to praise Sanam Saeed and Fawad Khan especially for their natural acting, which effortlessly carried one sequence into the other. She has inadvertently rocked his boat, upset his apple cart and now what we want to see him do is rock her world…how’s that for clichés?
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