“Ishq Jalebi” is the Ramadan play of 2021 that’s winning critical acclaim from all corners. While the other shows are shining as well, there’s something more subtle about the comedy in “Ishq Jalebi,” a show which doesn’t promote itself as a comedy and is, rather, a family drama that touches upon some serious issues – albeit in a light-hearted way. Starring Wahaj Ali, Madiha Imam, Noor Ul Hassan, Hina Bayat, Qavi Khan, Irsa Ghazal, Mehmood Aslam, Kashif Mehmood, Shaista Jabeen and others, the story has been written by Saima Akram Chaudhry and directed by Syed Wahajat Hussain.
There are several great points made episode 20. Of course, first and foremost, with Rafaqat (Mehmood Aslam) and Sadaqat (Kashif Mehmood) both now down with Covid-19, the reality of the illness has entered this family, no longer a distant, mythical monster in a far-away land. And along with this, Sajjo (Irsa Ghazal) and Niggi (Shaista Jabeen) are visibly shaken in their behavior towards their spouses. Fear does interesting things to an individual and both these women are afraid of death, keeping themselves “safe” by leaving their husbands to suffer through their ailments alone. Is this a moment that’s telling about their selfishness? One may answer yes, but the fear surrounding covid is one of uncertainty, as it’s an unpredictable illness. Will you be one of the unfortunate ones who do not make it through? This is the question that lingers in many minds and so, is it right to judge Sajjo and Nikki’s mentality and desire to keep themselves safe? And yet, their children and husbands believe the answer is yes. Both Vicky (Usama Khan) and Esha (Maryam Noor) are seen scolding their mothers for their heartless, negligent behavior as they care for their fathers. Rafaqat and Sadaqat are also seen regretting their past behavior, sacrificing their father’s happiness for the sake of their selfish wives. While it’s easy to see both viewpoints of the characters here, this only highlights the severity of Covid-19. It’s wonderful to see a show taking steps to educate viewers on this pandemic, social distancing measures, safety protocols and even the importance of avoiding large gatherings – as seen with Bela’s engagement.
In recent episodes, Bela (Madiha Imam) is now engaged to Hassan (Salman Faisal), but viewers are well-aware that Bela has always had feelings for Basim (Wahaj Ali). Still, Bela goes through the motions and tries to be a good granddaughter by doing as Bauji (Qavi Khan) says. However, Bela is simply not feeling a connection with Hassan and doesn’t like his aggressive, overly friendly behavior. Is being engaged a license to hold hands and talk late into the night? For some, it may seem that way, but what about when a girl is not mentally prepared to accept this relationship yet? This is what Bela struggles with, particularly when Hassan holds her hand, an action that would leave most engaged girls smiling, but leaves Bela in tears – and later leads to a fight between Bela and Bauji when he does not understand Bela’s issues with Hassan. Ultimately – what is her issue? It’s an issue of discomfort, an issue of lack of understanding and an issue of, well, consent. Bela has told Hassan multiple times and in multiple ways that she’s not comfortable with him getting too friendly just yet. However, in Hassan’s mind, she is his fiancé and, therefore, it’s his right to engage in this behavior. There’s a wonderful scene between Bela and Basim when he grabs a hold of her hand, asking what’s wrong. Bela spells it out for the audience – she doesn’t mind Basim holding her hand, but she didn’t like it when Hassan did.
Noor Ul Hassan and Irsa Ghazal continue to steal the show as Ashiq and Sajjo, Shaista Jabeen’s Nikki only adding to the fun. Wahaj Ali is very talented when it comes to playing this angsty, jilted lover and he’s doing wonders as the spoiled, mildly clueless yet jealous Basim. Add to that his wonderful chemistry with Madiha Imam, who has perfected the role of the-girl-next-door, and you have a hit pair. Basim and Bela are a couple to root for, two characters who have been written so well, it’s almost impossible not to understand them and what they are going through. It must be said that Bauji’s behavior in this episode leaves the viewer uncomfortable, as he’s old-school and not taking Bela’s complaints seriously. Fortunately in coming episodes, Bela’s engagement will break off due to Hassan’s indiscretions. But shouldn’t her word and discomfort be enough in this day and age? One must give a round of applause to both Saima Akram Chaudhry and Syed Wahajat Hussain for the wonderful job they’ve done with both the story and execution of “Ishq Jalebi,” giving the audience a realistic, lovable story that’s relevant with the times we’re living in.