Directed By: Sultana Siddiqui
Written By: Umera Ahmed
Sanam Saeed – Kashaf Murtaza
Fawad Afzal Khan – Zaroon Junaid
Samina Peerzada – Rafia Murtaza
Waseem Abbas – Mohammad Murtaza
Ayesha Omer – Sara Junaid
Mehreen Raheel – Asmara Baseer
Mansha Pasha – Sidra Murtaza
Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui – Osama Hassan
Hina Khwaja Bayat – Gazala Junaid
Shazia Afghan – Nighar
Behroze Sabzwari – Abrar Siddiqui “Sir Abrar”
Javed Shaikh – Junaid
Sana Sarfaraz – Shehnila Murtaza
Muhammad Asad – Hammad Murtaza
Language: Urdu Genre: Romance; Social Drama
Number of Episodes: 26 Run Time: 40 – 45 minutes
After being bombarded with the assertions of various people that this TV series was incredible (the fact that the recommendations came from unexpected quarters was more incredible). I thought I’ll watch an episode till I realised days had passed and I was rabidly watching them in an urge to finish the series. The series really won my heart and for so many reasons.
The skeletal framework of Zindagi Gulzar Hai can be compared to Jane Austen’s famous novel Pride and Prejudice. But it is a story set in Pakistan. So while Mr. Bennet has to manfully swallow the idea of Mr. Collins becoming the owner of Longbourn manor, Mr. Murtaza (Waseem Abbas) can marry again and get a son from his second wife Nighar (Shazia Afghan). Interestingly, having multiple wives is looked down upon in Pakistani society.
Kashaf (Sanam Saeed) and Zaroon (Fawad Afzal Khan) are both very proud and driven individuals also rather prejudiced against each other, largely due to class differences. Kashaf is extraordinarily pessimistic, and questions Allah at every available opportunity; it gets tedious. Her second sister Sidra (Mansha Pasha) on the other hand, much like her mother Rafia (Samina Peerzada), is mature and hopeful and encourages Kashaf to have more faith.
Zaroon unlike Kashaf, believes zindagi gulzar hai (life is a rose garden). After all, as Kashaf puts it, he has been given unstintingly by God. Yet she cannot see his troubles. He feels his masculinity is threatened by the excessive independence and almost aggressive feminism of the women of his society including his own mother Gazala (Hina Khwaja Bayat), his sister Sara (Ayesha Omer) and friend Asmara (Mehreen Raheel).
In a patriarchal and conservative society, where women have either fought for their rights or been reluctantly given them because that is the expected global norm, tend to be aggressive about their freedom. This in turn makes the men more defensive and chauvinistic. But a woman who practises the fine art of compromise in a male dominated world might actually get her way more successfully.
Kashaf’s version of feminism was really an interesting viewpoint because she is a strong woman who knows her mind and is very driven. She also comprehends that the world is loaded in favour of men and believes that one shouldn’t oppose one’s husband in public but neither should the husband callously ignore the wife’s opinion. Also she states that any kind of disagreement is better expressed privately. She is no doormat.
Many characters could fit into the Austen mould but with some difference. Asmara is like Caroline Bingley but isn’t one-dimensional. For that matter none of the secondary characters can entirely be called one-dimensional. Some are stereotypical like the ‘scheming second wife’ Nighar (Shazia Afghan) but again the character is not reduced to a caricature the way they are in Indian soap operas. In fact, each sub-plot has an interesting story arc of its own, that melds beautifully into the larger framework and yet stands out as a strong narrative. As for Kashaf, she is an Elizabeth Bennet with Darcy’s taciturnity and Zaroon is a Darcy with Elizabeth’s vivacity and charm.
In comparison to an Indian soap, it ends with a definite conclusion in 26 episodes and it has no unnecessary melodramatic pauses or the infamous ‘flicking of the head’. Also it is a bit of an eye-opener into Pakistani society. True, India is a little more open-minded but some ideas seemed rather familiar.
Some things that Rafia mentions are according to me, very sagacious and insightful. It may seem like submissive behaviour but if you look closely you will see the spine made of steel and the eyes of resolve in the women.
So it’s a great tribute to women who rise despite constraints and an insight into men, who may seem chauvinistic but are actually just being defensive and may make good husbands if given some faith.