Friday, January 11, 2013

Review of Sarmad Sehbai's TV Art Play "Jal Pari"

Review of  Sarmad Sehbai's TV Art Play  "Jal Pari"

(telecast worldwide on cable channels and via satellite TV in January, 2012)

Playwright: Sarmad Sehbai; Director: Sarmad Khoosat
Lead Female Character (Shaista) played by Neelum Munir;

Title Song : Chandra Maa! 
Lyrics : Sarmad Sehbai; Singer: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan; 
Music Composers: Farrukh Abid and Shoaib Farrukh   
Pakistani Urdu Playwright and Urdu Poet: Sarmad Sehbai

Pakistani Director: Sarmad Khoosat

Talented Pakistani Actress Neelum Munir

Mahjabeen Habib's terrific performance in Geo TV's Art Play "Jal Pari"

Beautiful depiction of the character Chaand by this actor in Geo TV Channel's Art Play "Jal Pari"
The above URL link contains the lyrics of the "Jal Pari" theme song "Chandra Maa!" at my Urdu poetry web site Dareechah.

The Theme Song "Chandra Maa!" from the Art Play "Jal Pari" 
uploaded at my YouTube channel "Goonj"
(the actual music video graphics have not been used because of copyright considerations)

My EMAIL of January 2012 to Jal Pari’s Production Team at Geo Cable TV Pakistan:

I have been a big fan of Sarmad Sehbai's poetry since my University days (Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad, 1979-1981) and have also watched Sarmad Khoosat as he initiated his career by acting in adaptations of Saadat Hasan Manto's short stories. Sarmad Sehbai's "Bachon Kaa Park" and "Fankaar Galee" deserve to be considered classics in the history of Pakistani Art Plays and so it was with great anticipation that my wife and I started viewing Jal Pari ... one memorable scene from this play which has got imprinted in my mind is the one in episode 7 where the character Shaista opens up her heart to her mentor and teacher.

Jal Pari is like a breath of fresh air in the stagnating and stifling atmosphere of Pakistan's popular TV channels. Where most other Pakistani channels have opted to mimic Indian TV channels and go for "masala", violence just for the sake of ratings, loud camera movements and special effects for the sake of special effects, some of the Pakistani TV channels are breaking new ground. In this regard, I can cite plays like "Burns Road Kee Neelofar" by ARY and now a Geo TV channel play called Jal Pari with pride and a great deal of satisfaction.

 Jal Pari is shot entirely on location and fulfills one of the criteria of realism in Art Films and Art TV plays. The subject is gripping: the emotional evolution of a middle class young girl from the inner city of Lahore.  I suspect that this play was originally set in Lahore, based on my reading of some of Sarmad Sehbai’s recently published poems, but had to be filmed in Karachi for ease of production reasons.  Anyway, the lead character Shaista refuses to give up her dreams and aspirations and decides, very bravely, to face the current male dominated conservative Pakistan mainstream society.

The camera movements, the editing, the whole arrangement of shots that make up each scene is done with loving care and here, Sarmad Khoosat and his team of editor and digital post production people deserves a lot of praise and Shaabaashee. The casting is, for once, excellent and all the major characters are being depicted or performed by beautifully natural acting. All the actors, especially especially this new find, Neelum Munir and also Mahjabeen Habib. I was very touched by a couple of scenes in episode 7 where Mahjabeen's character bonds with Shaista's character in some very emotional scenes: Mahjabeen and Neelum's acting in those scenes should win them the Pakistani equivalent of an Oscar award for sure!!

I feel that Adnan Siddiqui has been given a very challenging role and he is trying his best to not look stilted and "frozen" in his expressions. Possibly the plot and the character's profile demand a low key, non-emotive performance and this is helping Neelum's character a lot as Adnan's character is contrasting well with the warm, bubbly quality of Shaista and the whole thing then comes alive and looks very real to the viewer... at least to me.  The scenes with the character Chaand are directed and acted out convincingly and I am also enjoying this character a lot. 

Also, the musical composition for the title song is brilliant and is sung with passion by Rahat Fateh Ali and the lyrics, what can I say, are characteristically Sarmad Sehbai at his best. Chandramaa deserves to stand alone as a powerful song, a gem in the gallery of Urdu Geet and I love hearing it again and again. Congratulations to  Farukh Abid and Shoaib Farukh who composed the music for the song "Chandra Maa!."

I pray that all of Sarmad Sehbai's future endeavors flourish and become popular. I would like to mention here that the famous Latin American novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez (a noble prize winner ) devoted a great deal of his time to writing TV serials for Latin American popular TV channels as he felt that this was the only way to influence the viewing taste of the general public and to bring them closer to the literary world and to one day develop in them a taste for viewing literary classics on the mini screen and in cinema. 

I feel that Sarmad Sehbai is on the right track and it is writers like him who will eventually turn the tide, and bring the general Pakistani viewing public back towards enjoying and demanding to see literary works on TV and on the big screen. I wish to propose that for its next project, the Special Projects team of Geo consider Zahida Hina's "Naa Janoon Raha Naa Pari Rahi" and also an Urdu language version of Fauzia Rafiq's English language novel "Skeena" (released in Punjabi in Pakistan in 2007 by Parveen Malik via Saanjh Publications, Lahore)  currently available as an English language novel on and as an electronic book on the Kindle section of the web site. These two novels are also about a unique womanly perspective on contemporary Pakistani society and are set in modern Pakistan.

It is works like these which are truly modern Pakistani literary classics and will present challenging screenplays. I suggest that veteran TV directors like Yawar Hayat should be considered for these two works. I also suggest that Geo's Special Projects team consider hiring famous Urdu poets Fehmida Riaz and Shabnam Shakil to write lyrics for these two plays. Fauzia Rafiq is an extremely talented and successful Screenplay writer (Aapay Ranjha Hoee in mid 1970's from Lahore PTV studios was her screenplay adaptation of the novel "Poor Folk" by the Russian master Feodor Dostoevsky and her novel "Skeena" is about 80% dialogue anyway so it would be great if Geo hired her (she resides in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada) and Zahida Hina has written screenplays for TV before and would be the obvious choice for a screenplay based on her novel.

Thank you Geo, thank you Iqbal Ansari, thank you Khurram Raza and most of all Sarmad Sehbai, Sarmad Khoosat, Neelam Munir, Adnan Siddiqui and Mahjabeen Habib and the actor playing Chaand for giving your best, the sweat and blood of your creativity to this wonderful creation Jal Pari ! 

Long live Pakistani Art Plays!

A choice selection of Sarmad Sehbai's Urdu poems, Urdu ghazals and Urdu songs can be read at my web site Dareechah :