|Zindagi Gulzar Hai|
Cable television soon relegated Doordarshan to a dusty corner too and along with it went the age of meaningful Indian serials like Udaan and Fauji. A decade of disappointment later, I wrote off daily soaps altogether as mindless tales of convoluted family politics which did not deserve my time. Sadly, even the ones that started out with their heart in the right place (Baalika Vadhu etc.) inadvertently spiralled down the beaten path in search of TRPs. The fast emerging off-beat branch of Hindi cinema seemed to suit my sensibilities better and so I stuck to it. Films like Highway, Queen, Maqbool and Gangs of Wasseypur caught my attention and soon I almost forgot that channels like Star Plus, Zee TV and Colours even existed. Meanwhile, the absurdity of what was being dished out in the name of television dramas in the subcontinent reached new heights with each passing year.
A few weeks back, while exploring the virtual alleys and by-lanes of YouTube, I accidentally stumbled upon a Pakistani drama called ‘Zindagi Gulzaar Hai’. On a sudden nostalgic whim I watched the first episode and was instantly hooked. Within days I devoured the entire 26-episode series and was hungry for more. Upon hunting I unearthed other gems like Durr-e-Shahwar, Behadd-A short film, Kankar etc. What was riveting about these stories was how they drew generously from real life, almost mimicking it perfectly. In contrast, their inane Indian counterparts often fail at feigning to be even powder puffed doppelgängers of commonplace lives. Blending everyday banalities with appropriate doses of drama can result in an extraordinary representation of life as-is and this is exactly what these shows prove. The casualness of dining table banter between a close knit family in Zindagi Gulzaar Hai (ZGH) or the biting awkwardness of a newly-wed bride in Durr-e-Shahwar or the trials and tribulations of a single, working mother in Behadd are not far removed from our own experiences.
The characters are just as relatable because they are not slotted callously in black and white boxes. No one is pure evil like the infamous Kamolika from the show ‘Kasauti Zindagi Ki’ and no one is 100 percent angelic like Tulsi from yet another Ekta Kapoor venture ‘Kyunki Saas...’. Instead, every role is a concoction of good, bad and ugly shades which are conspicuously fanned out in front of the audience. Some of these shades are possibly more pronounced than others but then doesn’t this hold true for real people as well? For instance, Zaroon from ZGH may at first glance look like the most eligible bachelor owing to his Adonis-like looks, substantial grey matter and a deep pocketed family. Unravel him further and you find a troubled man who isn’t easy to live with - thanks to a stubborn male chauvinistic streak. Kashaf (again from ZGH), on the other hand, comes across as a bitter young woman who scorns the affluent. But secretly, she almost envies them and wishes the chasm between her and them was not as wide.
These stories are of people who seem to be battling the same dilemmas as us. Kashaf’s insecurities about her lack-lustre wardrobe and plain Jane looks and her undeterred determination to tip the scales of life in her own favour with the help of her razor-sharp intellect and stellar grades - are all easy to believe emotions. Masooma’s (Behadd) acute sense of responsibility towards her daughter, which frequently borders on obsession especially after her husband’s death, speaks to us in words we understand. Shahwar’s slow and painful metamorphoses from a cosseted, over-indulged, soft hearted damsel into a woman who is worldly-wise, parsimonious and inured is perhaps one that many have gone through themselves. What’s more, these characters even look like us as opposed to the overly made up, caricature-like actors that Balaji Telefilms and the likes have been parading in front of us since time immemorial.
Coupled with dialogues delivered flawlessly in honey sweet Urdu, melodious soundtracks and stunning performances, these dramas are a complete package. From the looks of it, that day isn't too far when these offerings from across the border will pose as serious competition to the queen bee of Indian daily soaps - Ekta Kapoor - and her repertoire of far-fetched, never ending sagas!