“Chalawa” is the latest offering of horror-inspired dramas that Pakistani drama viewers have been offered over the years. Generally these stories focus on black magic – however, this time around, it’s directly about the supernatural, specifically Jinns. Starring Naveen Waqar, Samina Ahmed, Naveed Raza, Ali Ansari and Noor Khan, “Chalawa” has been written by Shahid Nizami and directed by Najaf Bilgrami. So far, the story has been engaging and has left the viewer wondering what will unfold next. However, this week, things take a turn for the….weird.
Savera (Noor Khan) and Saraansh (Ali Ansari) continue to be drawn to each other as Savera gets closer to her birthday – when she’ll be given these powers. Here’s where the story begins to get “loopy” in this episode. Saraansh tells Savera that on her birthday, she will be given 20 “sipahi” (soldiers) who will be there at her beck and call and after this, he continues to discuss an invisible “jung.” Savera and Saraansh get into it with Hamdani (Adnan Jaffar) at college as they engage in a battle of…..outstretched hands. If this isn’t ridiculous enough, Saraansh is seen discussing with Savera in the previous scene how powerful he is now with her at his side, but Hamdani manages to knock him out with just one push of his – that’s right – outstretched hand. It’s not supposed to be funny, but it is.
The third wheel makes an appearance when Sarosh, Savera’s cousin, once again begs Savera to marry him. He refers to her as his childhood companion and someone who has always shared her secrets with him – except that we, as viewers, have never seen any such thing. Savera has always been dismissive and aloof towards Sarosh. After being rejected by Savera once again, Sarosh leaves the house and is met by an invisible being. This new “chalawa” enters his body and Sarosh heads home. Is Hamdani now going to infiltrate Savera’s family by targeting her cousin?
If there’s a positive here, it’s interesting to see Savera now struggling with her concept of right and wrong, ethical and unethical. She’s beginning to realize that her best friend Saraansh may not be out to harm her, but he’s actively harming Harib by taking over his body. This is a different change to not only see Savera struggling with her emotions, but also to see Saraansh feeling jealous of Savera caring for Harib.
“Chalawa” started off as a very strong concept, something entirely different from other shows on television, delving into the world of supernatural. The story pulled in viewers by playing on our fears, fears of the unknown, fears connected to our childhood stories and religious/cultural upbringing. But the story has taken off on a very odd tangent, one where it’s slowly becoming more comical than eerie. It also must be said that during the initial bulk of episodes that were gripping, Naveen Waqar and Samina Ahmed were the frontline performers, taking center stage. Both these ladies are strong actresses and have been playing their roles convincingly. However, now with Noor Khan receiving the most screen time with her semi-sleepy expression, it’s becoming difficult to maintain interest. Ali Ansari is doing well with his “double role” as Harib and Sarnaash, looking every bit the role, but with the story taking such a loopy turn, is it a waste of talent? Overall, at this point, “Chalawa” is a show that tethers between recovering its storyline back on track or falling over the edge towards a story that is difficult to digest. Let’s see where the writer, director and actors take us.