While “Neeli Zinda Hai” has a horror factor which immediately makes it stand out from other shows, it also has a story that appears to have substance. It is not only visually appealing with the use of colors (heavily emphasis on blue) and slick production design, but the premise of the show has been intriguing from the first episode onwards. Starring Mohib Mirza, Sonia Mishal, Urwa Hocane, Mohammad Ahmed, Kinza Malik and others, this drama has been directed by Qasim Ali Mureed and written by Adeel Razaq. While the show has been building up the horror quotient slowly, it is in full-force in episode 3!
Episode 3 opens with a haunting scene where Sumbal (Sonia Mishal) wakes up to find her daughter, Minaal, out of bed late into the night. When she searches for her, she finds Minaal playing Ludo alone with only her doll present. Sumbal has been having doubts about this house from the moment she set foot on the premises, but one look at Minaal in this moment and she is certain something is wrong. The child actor playing Minaal does an excellent job as Minaal, shooting Sumbal looks that would strike terror into any mother’s heart, genuinely looking “possessed.” When Sumbal reaches for Minaal, she runs out of the room, locking herself into another one and a chair is pushed in front of Sumbal by an invisible force. Aman (Mohib Mirza) enters, trying to calm Sumbal by explaining that Minaal is sleeping upstairs in her room, his patience wearing thin at Sumbal’s antics. This scene is wonderfully shot, even making the audience question Sumbal’s sanity for a few moments. Is this all in Sumbal’s head? But of course, the doubts don’t last for long as we are treated to glimpses of Neeli shortly after.
While Aman and Sumbal make up after their argument the night before, Aman trying to calm Sumbal’s nerves and reassure her that all is well, the happy mood is short-lived. Minaal incurs Sumbal’s anger when she applies makeup before going out and as Sumbal scolds her, we see our first “real” glimpse of Neeli (Urwa Hocane), a bride all dressed in red, creeping over the side of the door, watching the mother-daughter duo. It’s not clear what Neeli’s intentions are, but one thing is certain – Neeli is not a friend to Sumbal. After witnessing Sumbal and Minaal arguing, Neeli slaps Sumbal across the face, knocking her unconscious. In this moment of unconsciousness, Sumbal appears to have a very frightening dream with her mother-in-law (Kinza Malik) attempting to murder her.
Of course, this is another track with Sumbal’s in-laws. While her father in law (Mohammad Ahmed) and sister-in-law appear to be very kind, genuine people, her mother-in-law is a nightmare of a woman, visiting “holy men” in an attempt to rid Aman of the “magic” his wife has done on him. The behavior of this woman is illogical, but believably so due to the way Kinza Malik, generally soft-spoken and refraining from taking her performance to an over-the-top level, is playing her. While Aman attempts to reason with her, she is adamantly against Sumbal and refuses to visit their new home.
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While the black magic angle with Kinza Malik isn’t a particularly unique or exciting one and tends to take the story in a different direction entirely, the track with Neeli is engrossing. There are so many questions – is Neeli a “good” spirit? She has, after all, attacked the electrician and slapped Sumbal. What are Neeli’s intentions? Why is she loitering around and what is her backstory (with Osama Tahir)? These are all things that will be revealed with time, but so far, the story is playing out in a very interesting way. The performances by all from Sonia Mishal to Mohib Mirza and Kinza Malik are all great, including the little girl who is playing Minaal. Hopefully “Neeli Zinda Hai” manages to stay on-track and doesn’t lose the plot down the line, as so far, it’s doing a great job with fast-paced storytelling and a seemingly tight plot.