There are some shows that are difficult to review, because there are more positives than negatives. “Ek Jhooti Love Story” is one such show. Streaming on the Zee5 platform, this show sees the return of the Umera Ahmed-Mehreen Jabbar writer-director duo, who have created masterpieces like “Doraha,” “Daam” and “Malaal” in the past. Starring Bilal Abbas Khan, Madiha Imam, Mohammad Ahmed, Beo Raana Zafar, Hina Khawaja Bayat, Mariam Saleem, Kiran Haq, Srha Asghar, Fawad Khan, Furqan Qureshi, Kinza Razzak and others, “Ek Jhooti Love Story” boasts of a strong cast, increasing expectations. But does “Ek Jhooti Love Story” meet the mark?
Salma (Madiha Imam) and Sohail (Bilal Abbas Khan) are two individuals from middle-class backgrounds that live in the same neighborhood. While Sohail is friends with the well-to-do Nofil, Salma is friendly with Natalia (Kinza Razzak), who lives a lavish lifestyle. Fed up of their “small” lives plagued with financial issues and trouble finding proposals, the two venture online, creating fake profiles of their friends and begin communicating with each other under false pretenses. While they believe it’s all in fun, living out a fantasy, they do not realize when the line between fantasy and reality blurs and their feelings become real. Life takes an unusual turn when the two are unexpectedly brought together and they struggle to come to terms with their new reality.
What unfolds over the course of 18 episodes is a tale full of love and heartbreak, interlaced with strong messages on many important topics. Whether it’s the way women come with an “expiry date” for marriage or are judged by certain standards, or how classicism comes into play regardless of background, this is a show that carries out meaningful dialogue in an enjoyable way. While there are many different characters, all with their own problems, these different tracks come together to create a wonderfully woven, heartfelt story.
Umera Ahmed’s writing and Mehreen Jabbar’s direction reminds us, as Pakistani drama viewers, what it was that dragged us into the Pakistani drama world to begin with and why we continue watching – to stumble across beautiful shows like this. In one scene, Shabana aptly states that there’s more to life than what is depicted in dramas with two girls fighting over one guy or two guys fighting over one girl – and despite loving dramas, one finds themselves nodding along with the comment. The greatest beauty of this show lies in its realism. While watching, the viewer can connect to these characters as real people with real life issues. The story is not full of thrills or action-packed, rather it’s a simple story about simple people – and this is the show’s strength.
“Ek Jhooti Love Story” has complex, layered characters with character traits that bring these individuals to life. The characters are flawed, sometimes frustratingly so. For example, Salma may be the heroine of the show, but she has many moments where she could be termed as rude, so caught up in her own insecurities and thoughts that she comes across as unlikable. Likewise, as the show goes on, we recognize that Sohail is a great guy through his interactions with his sister and mother and then, later, with Salma. But Sohail also has his own share of insecurities and life disappointments, which do figure into his personality and make him rough around the edges. Each role in this show has layers and the relationships between the characters are endearing. It’s beautiful to see Sohail’s relationship with his mother (Hina Khawaja Bayat) and sister (Srha Asghar), while the sibling relationship between Salma, Salahuddin (Furqan Qureshi), Shabana (Kiran Haq) and Shazia (Mariam Saleem) is sweet in a realistic way.
The greatest drawback of this show is simply that it’s on Zee5, a streaming platform, which means it’s not as easily accessible to the general public – or even those outside the subcontinent. There are also a few glaring faults that stand out, the most prominent being the exchange between Salma and Sohail being Facebook-centric during a time when Facebook is practically irrelevant for the young generation. Instagram, snapchat or twitter would have been more based in reality. It’s interesting to watch Sohail and Salma get caught up in their own lies, because that’s human nature – but it’s also frustrating to see their delusions, especially considering they are posing as others and never really form a meaningful connection with the object of their affection even online. The exchange between Salma and Sohail (“Natalia and Nofl”) comes across as very basic and yet, dragged out considering there is little talk of substance actually happening – certainly not enough to jump to “I love you” status.
This cast is the perfect example of how an ensemble cast comes together to create a lively canvas. The entire team of “Ek Jhooti Love Story” pitches in to create lovable characters. Bilal Abbas Khan and Madiha Imam are the clear leads of the show, as Salma and Sohail, and they have proved to be the perfect choices for their respective roles. Bilal Abbas Khan manages to play Sohail with the perfect balance demanded of his character – a gruff exterior while soft on the inside. With his last role having been “Pyar Ke Sadqay,” it’s wonderful to see Bilal playing a different role yet again and he leaves a strong impression as the sometimes aggravating, but overall lovable Sohail. Madiha Imam has just the right amount of innocence to play Salma, a.k.a. “Choti.” Choti is sweet, innocent and naïve, but also harbors moments of resentment and low self-esteem. Madiha Imam is perfect casting here, not only fitting the mold of a college girl turned newlywed, but also enacting the role convincingly. Mohammad Ahmed, Fawad Khan, Beo Raana Zafar, Hina Khawaja Bayat and really, the entire cast does a great job with portraying their characters. Furqan Qureshi is great as the class-conscious, uncommitting Salahuddin. Mariam Saleem is a natural as Shazia, an outspoken girl who struggles with society’s perception of her while Kiran Haq leaves an impression as the studious Shabana who has gone past her “prime.” Each actor deserves to be praised for their individual roles.
The Final Verdict
“Ek Jhooti Love Story” is refreshing in its small-town presentation, telling stories that affect middle class society and manages to leave an impact on the viewer, passing along many social messages through what is, essentially, a love story (but is much more than that). This love story is ideal for those who have grown past the fairy tale phase and recognize the importance of genuine understanding and trust – and how that can grow into true love. “Ek Jhooti Love Story” is about “real” people and, honestly, feels like a return to the dramas of the past where human emotion and connection were at the heart of the story. Personally, this would be classified as a “must watch” and I cannot wait to (hopefully) see much more from both Umera Ahmed and Mehreen Jabbar, because these ladies have been sorely missed! If you haven’t watched “Ek Jhooti Love Story” yet, there’s no time like the present.