Zee5 has been working in collaboration with Pakistani artists for a while now, providing their platform for Pakistani drama writers and directors to work on a different scale. “Churails” and “Ek Jhooti Love Story” were launched in 2020, both receiving rave reviews from both Pakistani and Indian audiences. After a lengthy gap, “Dhoop Di Deewar” is the next Pakistani project to be released on Zee 5. Starting June 25, two episodes will release every Friday, allowing audiences to savor the show rather than binge-watch in one go. Written by the much-beloved Umera Ahmed and directed by the talented Haseeb Hassan, “Dhoop Ki Deewar” stars Sajal Aly, Ahad Raza Mir, Samiya Mumtaz, Zaib Rehman, Savera Nadeem, Samina Ahmed, Manzar Sehbai, Annie Zaidi, Aly Khan, Raza Talish, Adnan Jaffar, Paras Masroor and many others in this drama about bridging the gap and recognizing our enemies as human beings.
Before beginning, much has been said about Kashmir before the show’s launch, many stating the show was insensitive to the plight of Kashmiris. Both families are in turmoil as their fathers are martyred in the region, but that’s the end of it, providing little room for controversy.
The first two episodes of “Dhoop Ki Deewar” introduce the audience to Vishal (Ahad Raza Mir) in India, along with his family including his mother (Samiya Mumtaz), grandmother (Zaib Rehman) and two younger siblings. On the other side of the border, we meet Sarah (Sajal Aly) in Pakistan, along with her mother (Savera Nadeem), grandmother (Samina Ahmed), grandfather (Manzar Sehbai) and younger two siblings. Both families are seen “enjoying” a cricket match between India and Pakistan, both sides tense, and Vishal and his family erupting into cheers as India wins while Sarah’s family mourns Pakistan’s loss. Things quickly turn grim as both families are informed, at the same time, of the demise of two colonels – one in India, one in Pakistan. As both families are left mourning, their lives turned upside down in a matter of minutes, the pain experienced on both sides is equally painful. Sarah and Vishal turn to social media in their grief and begin arguing after Sarah spots a video of Vishal. Their fight catches the attention of social media users, goes viral and ultimately lands both families in the limelight, Sarah and Vishal giving their share of interviews on television and bickering back and forth.
The show gets off to a great start as it highlights a mutual appreciation for each other’s art and clothing – while Vishal’s mother is seen admiring Pakistani dramas and clothing in India, Sarah’s grandmother is entertained watching Indian Star Plus serials while Sarah and her friends are inspired by Anushka Sharma’s outfits. And of course, both families are engaged in entertaining banter over the cricket match, each cheering their own team. These are realistic depictions of the Subcontinent, two countries separated by politics, but united in culture and sensibilities.
There’s a lot to unpack in the first two episodes, but the fight that erupts between Vishal and Sarah is immediately relatable. How many of us have indulged in social media wars and online fights? There’s an intelligently written moment when Vishal’s mother, in her grief, brings Vishal down by stating “Facebook aur Instagram pe shor machaane se desh nahin bachta” (making noise on facebook and Instagram doesn’t save the country), putting a stop to his social media fights.
Of course, news channels on both sides are seen trying to take advantage of this tragedy for their own financial gain, something which is seen only too often. And it doesn’t stop at the media, Anurag (Paras Masroor) even trying to cash in on the death of his father-in-law by “selling” interviews while also recruiting his wife (Hira Tareen) to encourage her mother to sell her home and give them the money. Meanwhile, Sarah’s mother finds herself being convinced by her own brother to move in with his family as he has plans to utilize her husband’s military benefits for his own gain. The helplessness of those actually grieving is depicted with sensitivity, their grief making them vulnerable to others. Zaib Rehman’s character reduces the audience to tears as she states “Kaun kehta hai shaheed nahin martay? Koi maa se poochay, woh bataayegi” (who says martyers don’t die? Ask their mothers, they will tell you).
The performances are the highlight, the cast boasting of some of the most talented names in Pakistan. Ahad Raza Mir is a perfect cast as Vishal, a young, spirited, fun-loving young man who is suddenly lurched out of his youth and forced to grow up, being told repeatedly that he now has four lives that rely on him. Ahad Raza Mir is such a talented actor and he proves with each role that he works hard to get under the skin of the character. Whether watching him sing along to “Aadat” on the guitar, bicker with his mother about going out late at night or, later, discuss his future with Anurag after the death of his father, he carries each scene with dedication and conviction. Of course, our leading lady doesn’t disappoint either. Sajal Aly is undoubtedly an actress who goes from strength to strength and Sarah is another feather in her cap. Sarah is a bubbly, cheerful, happy young girl with little else to worry about other than whether Pakistan wins in the cricket match or whether she can find a good tailor to make a knock-off of a Bollywood outfit. But Sarah, like Vishal, is also forced to face a harsh reality and Sajal Aly portrays Sarah’s emotions with sincerity as Sarah grapples not only with the loss of her beloved father, but also the prospect of leaving her home and moving. Both Ahad and Sajal have put their best foot forward and are sure to continue to impress as the episodes continue.
Of course, we cannot discuss performances without giving a round of applause to both Samiya Mumtaz and Savera Nadeem, both actresses portraying their roles as new widows with an intensity that breaks the heart. Zaib Rehman is brilliant, as always, as the stoic mother who loses her composure at the loss of her only son. The immensely talented Samina Ahmed and Manzar Sehbai offer just the right amount of “softness” required for their roles, aging parents struggling after the loss of their child. And, of course, Paras Masroor, who always manages to make an impact, puts all his efforts into making Anurag as manipulative as he can while being a completely realistic character.
The director, Haseeb Hassan, does a great job moving between India and Pakistan, allowing the audience into both Vishal and Sarah’s grief and the way their environments have changed after the death of their fathers. Of course, Umera Ahmed’s writing deserves a round of applause as well, her story being the heart and soul of the drama. Is “Dhoop Ki Deewar” a perfect product? Those rarely exist. There are some over the top moments, the exchanges between Vishal and Sarah on social media coming across as a bit dramatic with each holding the other’s father responsible for their tragedies. But of course, these are negligible and overall, this is a quality project so far. Differences aside, “Dhoop Ki Deewar” emphasizes one major point – we are all human beings. We all smile, we cry, we enjoy experiences…..we die and we grieve. Do individuals benefit from hate and war mongering or is it more important to forgive and appeal to our humanity within? And that being said, is it possible to truly forgive the family “responsible” for the death of a loved one? Is that family really responsible or are politics responsible? These aren’t easy questions to answer nor does “Dhoop Ki Deewar” seek to answer them. But maybe, as the drama continues to unfold, it will manage to bridge the gap between Indians and Pakistanis, allowing us to understand we aren’t as different as we think.