Bashar Momin , an overview
Khair aur shar ko milaya jai toh basher takhleeq hota hai ,insaan bayak waqt khair bhi hai aur shar bhi -Zanjabeel Asim Shah
Last week marked the ending of what was billed as the most expensive serial on Pakistani television; Bashar Momin. Anyone watching Bashar Momin could not have failed to see the influence of Turkish dramas but like most feats of reverse engineering it produced mixed results. Directed by the well Syed Ali Raza Usama This A&B productions Magnum opus was one among a crop of more male oriented dramas released this year. It is interesting to note that the tidal wave of Turkish dramas has subsided to a trickle, an afterthought, where once they threatened the entire Pakistani entertainment industry. Meanwhile our own indigenous, original dramas go on to popular and critical acclaim in India’s giant entertainment market.
Billed as a take on Beauty and the Beast the story describes how “ beauty” ,in this case the innocent Rudaba (Ushna Shah ), is manipulated out of her impending marriage to Bulund (Sami Khan) and forced to marry political don and money laundering criminal: Bashar (Faysal Qureshi).This is a story of transformation and redemption through unconditional love. The fabulous script by Zanjabeel Shah has been Bashar Momin’s strong point, well plotted, well-defined characters and some truly great dialogues it has kept this serial’s head above water even when the director was playing around with special effects.
“ aurat do kisam ki Mohabbat karti hai: aik hoti hai aurton wali Mohabbat khudgarz, leyyn deyn wali…… aur aik Mohabbat hoti hai jo Maa kay pyar ki tarha hoti hai selfless … bura hai bhalla hai mera hai” says Rudaba to a snapping press corp , hungry for information on her recently indicted husband
“abb Mujhay koi nahi Haraaa sakta” declares Bashar from his safe house as he watches her on the television screen.
This dialogue above all else explains Rudaba’s feelings for Bashar and the concept at the core of this drama. She accepts him completely into her heart, for better or worse and whether he deserves it or not. This, unconditional love is a rare painfully bought gift which finally heals Bashar’s much damaged psyche. Hurt and broken by his faithless mother’s childhood abandonment, followed by his father’s suicide, Bashar is a man low enough to trick his own wife into an abortion simply because he cannot find it in himself to trust anyone. His transformation begins when even after all the pain he has caused his wife she refuses to stop loving him.
Innocent women suffering is a staple of Pakistani dramas, but a lot of women in particular were turned off by the amount of mental torture Rudaba is put through by her suspicious, disturbed husband. There were definite echoes of the novel fifty shades of grey which seemed at odds with the spirit of the main narrative. While anyone who has read beauty and the beast knows that beauty is impressed with her captor’s kindness rather than his attempts to cower her into obedience. Pakistani audiences have gotten used to heroines like Khirad (Humsafar), Kashaf (Zindagi Gulzar hai) and even Zara (AunnZara) who have expectations of their men, be it father or husband. Quite simply they want respect. Although some have labelled Rudaba’s character regressive her true worth lies in her ability to love and forgive unconditionally. This is indeed a very rare but powerful ability even if it seems as if it comes at the price of a complete loss of agency. Life and human beings are never simply good or bad, but a complicated mix of both .A man maybe a victim of his past or a survivor and this was Bashar’s journey.
Bashar Momin may well be one of versatile actor Faysal Qureshi’s most difficult roles, apart from some over acting in the beginning; he managed to make this transformation incredibly moving and memorable giving a formidable performance. Ushna Shah has great screen presence and an ability to create the most amazing chemistry with all her co-stars. Despite her inability to bring out the more nuanced layers of her character at some points she is still one of the main reasons this serial was so intriguing.
Bolstered by good performances from Sami Khan and Yasirr Mazhar this drama should have been iconic. However, the lavish sets and designer clothes barely made an impact through the theatrical smoke and shadows style the director chose to shoot this serial in. Perhaps Bashar Momin’s biggest achievement is that it still managed to regain at least some of its momentum even after Geo was banned and this serial took a an almost three month hiatus.
Overall despite some exceptionally good episodes and portrayals, Bashar Momin did not realise the absolute potential of its script. There were amazing scenes and dialogues but the execution was inconsistent at best. A lot of people tell me television is a writer’s medium but we see scripts ruined every other day by bad execution. At the same time no director can save an awful script. The best projects are always the ones where director and writer understand each other and try to stay on the same page.
( This post was first published in @Dawn.com)