Some shows only grow from strength to strength and while “Badshah Begum” started off on a high (and may have hit a slow point several weeks ago), the show has only been gaining momentum over the past few weeks. This high-intensity family drama focuses on the Pir family, the family that rules over Peeran Pur, a family which is now embroiled in a battle over leadership. Starring Farhan Saeed, Zara Noor Abbas, Hamza Sohail, Komal Meer, Abul Hassan, Ali Rehman Khan, Uzma Beg, Saman Ansari, Hiba Aziz, Tanya Hussain and Shahzad Nawaz in prominent roles, the story has been written by Saji Gul and directed by Khizer Idrees.
In episode 21, Gulnar (Hiba Aziz) has been sentenced to death and while Jahan Ara (Zara Noor Abbas) chides her for remaining quiet about Murad (Abul Hassan), Gulnar makes her point clear. She will wait for her verdict from God, a verdict in which she expects her wrong-doers, both Murad and Jahan Ara herself, to face the eternal punishment. Gulnar is ready for her death, a death that will reunite her with Tara, the love of her life. Unfortunately, Gulnar is expecting and it’s this declaration that spares Gulnar’s life at the hands of an already-hesitant Shahmir. For Gulnar, this is a fate worse than death, now forced to marry her own rapist and spend her life raising his child. However, fate intervenes – but will Gulnar accept this fate with an open heart? Shahmir (Hamza Sohail) has seemed like a sitting duck up until this point, a young man not too far off from how he is described by Shahzaib (Farhan Saeed)…..weak and a pawn in the game. However, in this episode, Shahmir arrives as a strong leader, a noble man and a man who understands the difference between right and wrong. While the entire family, including his beloved sister, Jahan Ara, scrambles to protect the family name, Shahmir makes an important decision. Marrying Gulnar himself, Shahmir protects the child, giving it a father’s name, and spares Gulnar from living in punishment by being married to Murad. Both Hamza Sohail and Hiba Aziz are simply wonderful in this episode, both giving striking performances – Gulnar every bit a rebel full of angst while Shahmir struggles to right his family’s wrongs.
This wedding strikes up controversy from all corners and it’s here that we witness Shahzaib (Farhan Saeed) and Zulekha’s (Tanya Hussain) interaction. While Shahzaib believes Shahmir will cause his own downfall and is rejoicing, Zulekha can see the generosity and kindness behind Shahmir’s act….and does not mince words relaying this to Shahzaib. What’s admirable about the narrative in “Badshah Begum” is that there isn’t any glorification of characters. When we were first introduced to Shahzaib, he was murdering a man for a “noble cause” – but is murder ever noble? We immediately knew that Shahzaib isn’t a good man, just like the rest of his family. It’s always easy to develop a soft spot for a character played by Farhan Saeed as he has that quality and when his “love story” began with Zulekha, it was difficult to not root for him….but in this episode, we are reminded that Shahzaib is not a good man. He has never been a good man. Wronged by his father? Certainly, but that does not make him “good.” Zulekha is humiliated as Shahzaib pours a pitcher of ice cold water on her head – but this only furthers her drive to keep Shahzaib away from the “gaddi.” Should a man like this rule over others?
The final moment between Kaiser (Yasir Hussain) and Shahmir, along with Pir Shah Alam (Shehzad Nawaz) only goes to show that Yasir Hussain deserves more screen space in this show! Kaiser is an absolutely insane character, but he commands attention each and every time he appears on screen. His role has been reduced to that of an “outsider” up until now, but with Kaiser seemingly intent on protecting Shahmir against Shahzaib (obviously for his own purpose), will we now see more of him in the haveli?
There isn’t a single performance in “Badshah Begum” that isn’t praise-worthy. Hiba Aziz is increble as Gulnar, a victim unafraid to speak. Hamza Sohail has really come into his own with this episode, making his mark as Shahmir with his expressions. Farhan Saeed plays Shahzaib’s complexities with skill, allowing his eyes to speak. Zara Noor Abbas is excellent, easily essaying this character who is part good and part evil, her ego and family tendencies slowly catching up to her. Komal Meer hasn’t had much screen space, but she is playing Roshan Ara in a truly believable way, though Roshi cannot be called likable. The line of praise can continue with each and every actor from Yasir Hussain (give us more!) to Tanya Hussain and, of course, Shahzad Nawaz as Pir Shah Alam. The writing and direction is praise-worthy by Saji Gul and Khizer Idrees. There are some issues with editing, particularly towards the end of this episode where scenes seemed to abruptly move into the next with viewers wondering “What happened?” However, overall, “Badshah Begum” is a genuinely solid piece of entertainment and if it continues on this path, it will be a drama to remember.