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Mera Naam Yusuf Hai (first look)

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Mera Naam Yusuf Hai episode 1 (first look)

Mera Naam Yusuf Hai is the latest offering from the famous pen of Khalil Ur Rahman Qammar, and A plus TV, a channel which is fast making a name for themselves to rival the top three GEO , ARY and HUM. MNYH’s first episode has all the ingredients for a filmi love story: a chance meeting between two strangers on a train amongst a lot of ‘mohabbat key dushman’ type relatives, a hero with little or no prospects except his music and a heroine caught in the middle of her parents war to marry her off to the nearest uninteresting relative. If this sounds familiar, you are not wrong; superficially at least this story seems to pick up a lot of elements from the writer’s previous works like Pyaray Afzal and Sadqay Tumharey but hopefully as the story unfolds we shall see more than the old wine in new bottles.

Director, Mehreen Jabbar has taken a firm hand with this story, resolutely brushing off all the glitter and pixie dust and grounding it firmly in the day to day realities of normal people. This has given what might have been ‘a run of the mill melodrama’ a fresh, young dynamic we haven’t seen since her project Daam and certainly makes up for the disappointment of Jackson Heights. She is the ideal director to take the edge off the emotionally overcharged predicaments the writer is famous for, while the cool, calm shades of everyday life depicted by Dop Qasim Mureed Ali may bring the beautiful but sometimes extravagant dialogues   back to the level of ordinary mortals. In fact this juxtaposition gives both the script and the situations words even more depth and meaning. This entire episode was a delight to watch, avoiding the usual, closed look of such dramas without sacrificing the intimacy required for such a story. Add to this the rise and fall of an at times wistful, at times powerful OST sung by Imran Abbas and the stage is set for all the twists and turns of fate required of star crossed lovers.

Just like the ancients, the writer knows that names have the power to change destinies, and so Yusuf glances up at the girl he has just heard called Zulekha, making a connection that will change his life forever. As Yusuf, Imran Abbas does not disappoint on any level. Burdened with good looks, charm and intelligence we don’t often want to credit actors like him with actual acting ability too. In MNYH we see the talented actor of Mera Naseeb, Dil e Muzter and Khuda aur Mohabbat again. By downplaying Imran Abbas’s undoubtedly amazing looks and presenting him as a scruffy, lower middleclass, boy next door type, this drama has allowed his performance to take center stage while he lends this simple story some of his undeniable (Film)star presence. Imran Abbas makes for a very enigmatic Yusuf, very unlike Afzal (Khalil Ur Rahman’s recent super hit creation). He is a quiet, sensitive, almost reticent sort who forces his friend to ask lot of questions before he can tease out the details of the meeting with Zulekha.

I have always been a great fan of Khalil Ur Rahman’s female characters; they are always so strong willed and hard headed, so different from the weeping victims we are told constitute Pakistani womanhood in many television dramas. Zulekha’s mother, the fabulous Afia is played to perfection by the no less fabulous Hina Bayat. Afia is so magnificently fearless she refuses to ever visit her sister in law because she lied and tricked Afia into marriage with Zulekha’s dry, domineering, molvie of a father and is not afraid of challenging her husband at any point. With a mother like that how can her daughter be any less fascinating? Zulekha is played with authenticity and charm by Maya Ali. Maya Ali has become the go to actress for many premium projects after her memorable roles in Aunn Zara and Aik Naeey Cinderella. She is a very competent actress who can deliver a great performance with a strong director.My only worry is that she may mangle some of the dialogues as was evident from the promos. Having said that she is pretty and manages to look good with Imran Abbas, not an easy feat as Imran’s strong screen presence usually requires an equal opposite him like Sanam Saeed or Humaima Malik.

The essential charm of this story is its utter simplicity combined with aspiration for something more in life than just the expected. The hope that even when we live lives that are less than ordinary perhaps we too have a chance at something as wonderful and genuine as true love. From the first episode at least, MNYH has raised great expectations as an entertaining and well-crafted serial that is should be on everyone’s watch list. Hopefully it will manage to avoid the two pitfalls of many highly anticipated serials: stretching episodes beyond the story’s limits and a director afraid of doing their job of translating the writer’s work to the screen rather than just filming the story that is written. . Mehreen Jabbar is by reputation a fearless director and I hope that A plus Tv can balance commercial concerns with aesthetic ones making this a product viable in both senses.

Sadaf Haider

This first appeared on the ExpressTribune’s Entertainment Blog

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