Zindagi Gulzar Hai – TV Series (2012) #SherylPuthur

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Directed By: Sultana Siddiqui

Written By: Umera Ahmed

Cast:

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.

Galileo – TV Series (2007) #SherylPuthur

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Directed By: Hiroshi Nishitani

Written By: Keigo Higashino; Yasushi Fukuda; Osho Furuya; Otaro Matsumoto

Cast:

Masaharu Fukuyama – Manabu Yukawa

Kou Shibasaki – Kaoru Utsumi

Kazuki Kitamura – Shunpei Kusanagi

Hiroshi Shinagawa –Shiro Yuge

Ikkei Watanabe – Hiromi Kuribayashi

Miki Maya – Sakurako Jonouchi

                               Language: Japanese                                                                   Genre: Mystery-Thriller

Number of Episodes: 10                                                                             Run Time: 58 minutes

 

After reading up on Suspect X, I found that it was actually a movie spin-off of a crime thriller TV series – Galileo. Suddenly, it came as a realisation that the characters I saw take centre stage later, were actually the most important.

So the story revolves around Utusmi (Kou Shibasaki), a rookie cop who is trying to carve a space for herself in a rather patriarchal and chauvinistic police force. She wants to emulate her senior Kusanagi (Kazuki Kitamura), who had created a name for himself by solving tough cases and was now promoted to a higher branch.

The pilot episode is about how Utsumi and her partner Yuge (Hiroshi Shinagawa) are assigned a ‘supernatural’ case – a young man’s head suddenly catches fire. She turns to Kusanagi for help, only to be told that he solved his cases with help from his college friend, a genius physicist from Teito University – Manabu Yukawa (Masaharu Fukuyama).

Enter Yukawa sensei also known as Galileo sensei – who does not believe that there is anything like supernatural and there is and can only be a scientific explanation for everything.

So all the cases start off seeming rather supernatural like a child levitating or a poltergeist rattling houses and so on. Sometimes it is quite obvious who might be the perpetrator but it’s not the suspense so much as how Yukawa sensei scientifically explains it. It’s thus a very Sherlockian story – more about deduction and even Yukawa sensei seems a lot like Sherlock – not very social, highly intelligent and has the strangest skill set (squash, mountain climbing, sculpturing…). Also when he figures out something he randomly starts scribbling out equations with whatever he can find. Utsumi is like Watson – humane. She also believes in the ‘detective’s intuition’ which Yukawa sensei rejects as not very scientific but it does come as very useful. There is however an underlying plotline that seems to talk of the possibility of attraction between them. If the ending song is a narrative then this chemistry is more vocalised then. Interestingly, it is sung by Kou Shibasaki and the music has been composed by Masaharu Fukuyama.

Each episode deals with some interesting supernatural phenomenon which is given a scientific twist – healthy girl dies suddenly – a man murdered in a locked room – a reader of crystal balls called by his soul-mate only to be shot as a stalker – a woman who dies twice – a murdered woman astral projects herself to her sister who is a few kilometres away. The last two episodes are connected and are a brilliant end to an intelligent series. Also I must mention that the episode of the poltergeist is an especial favourite because it is about a house that rattles at night due to an ‘unhappy ghost’.

So just like Yukawa sensei says ‘jitsu ni omoshiroi’ (really interesting) when he is intrigued by something and wants to figure it out. This series is definitely Omoshiroi!