“Neeli Zinda Hai” is the only horror show on air at present. What’s refreshing about this story is that it manages to lure its viewers into the creepy setting and scary story without relying on jump scares and meaningless spooks. Starring Mohib Mirza, Sonia Mishal, Urwa Hocane, Kinza Malik, Mohammad Ahmed, Jinaan Hussain and others, the story has been written by Adeel Razzaq and directed by Qasim Ali Mureed.
Episode 4 is important, because it introduces two new characters, Dilawar and Nageena (Jinaan Hussain). While Dilawar remains a mostly absent presence at present, Nageena has made her entry into Sumbal and Aman’s home. In the beginning of the episode, we see Sumbal (Sonia Mishal) spooked by a dream, which not only includes her mother-in-law, but also Neeli holding her baby. This dream visibly shakes Sumbal and she’s seen confiding in Aman (Mohib Mirza). The two share a heartfelt discussion, not only about Sumbal’s miscarriage, but also about their desire to mend their relations with Aman’s family.
Nageena makes her appearance, arriving as the new household help. She’s hard-working, efficient and bonds with Sumbal over the story of her own miscarriage – however, is her abusive marriage and miscarriage simply a story? It’s quickly revealed that Nageena has been “planted” in the household, sent by a man named Dilawar who wishes to catch Neeli (Urwa Hocane). There are several spooky moments involving Nageena and Neeli, Neeli following Nageena and clearly having it out for her. Neeli even has little Minaal slap Nageena on her behalf, leaving a welt only Nageena is able to see. The episode ends on a particularly creepy note when Nageena has a full conversation with “Sumbal,” only to see Sumbal walk into the house seconds later, Nageena realizing she had been speaking to Neeli the entire time.
First of all, let’s take a moment – Urwa Hocane, the director, writer, costume department, everyone deserves a round of applause. Neeli could have been written as this dark, stereotypically “horror” character with long black open hair, dark eyes, scary makeup, etc. But instead, Neeli’s “horror” lies within her presence, her striking eyes, her innocently sinister smile and the sheer fact that no one can quite understand what Neeli is about at this point. What does she want? Who is she after? She isn’t simply a spirit waiting to be freed. No, there’s a sinister angle to her, a violent side, a side that may spare Minaal, but does not spare Sumbal or Nageena. Urwa Hocane, Sonia Mishal and Jinaan Hussain all do a wonderful job in this episode.
Meanwhile, we can’t forget Bano (Kinza Maik) with her increasing visits to her “Baba.” What’s great is that Fahim (Mohammad Ahmed) takes a moment to call her out on her behavior, wondering where she is going so often while lying about it. Bano is a complicated, trouble-making character, but often, characters around these individuals are ignorant to their misbehaviors. It’s great that Fahim and his daughter are both aware that Bano is up to no good. But what will come of that? Will either one step in and stop Bano – or will Bano ultimately end up harming not only Sumbal, but her entire family?
“Neeli Zinda Hai” is a welcome change from other shows on air, offering something entirely different to its audiences. Yes, we could all stand to watch a Pakistani horror show without any mention of “Baba’s” doing voodoo magic for a troublemaking Auntie and “Neeli Zinda Hai” does go down this cliched path. Still, the story surrounding Neeli herself is interesting enough for the audience to overlook it. Jinaan Hussain is a good addition to the story, her character adding another dimension to the story. How will the story progress from here? We will have to wait and see, but so far, “Neeli Zinda Hai” continues to be a solid story.