“Neem” isn’t necessarily a show that’s raking in numbers on YouTube or television, but it is one which is catching the eye of Pakistani drama viewers who want quality. Written by the talented Kashif Anwar and directed by Shehzad Kashmiri, “Neem” stars Mawra Hocane, Ameer Gillani, Syed Jibran and Arsalan Naseer in lead roles. The show follows the journey of several different characters in a story which is bound to intertwine their lives once again in the future.
In episode 10, Karamat (Syed Jibran) has reversed all the decisions his father made to give the land over to its rightful owners – the villagers. Karamat is now once again “ruler,” a man who behaves as a dictator, wielding his power over those he sees as beneath him. Unfortunately for Karamat, he’s on borrowed time, his health deteriorating at a rapid rate. While he appears to be in denial over the severity, as an audience, we can see just how bad of a toll his illness is taking on him. Syed Jibran is excellent in this role, though his screen time has been reduced in the past few episodes. How will Karamat’s storyline move forward with his current condition?
Zymal (Mawra Hocane) and Shazil (Arsalan Naseer) hit a rough spot in their marriage – and that’s an understatement. While Zymal is grappling with the idea that she’ll never be able to have kids, she does not have any emotional support as Shazil is too busy feeling sorry for himself. While it is to be acknowledged that being unable to have your own kids would be a sad moment for anyone, Shazil has made this situation all about himself. He is not only in a constant state of mourning, but also makes accusatory remarks towards Zymal. In episode 10, Zymal arrives back home with a young runaway child, Sikandar. While Zymal’s only intention is to get the child enrolled in school with a safe space to live (in a hostel), Shazil accuses her of using crooked ways to force him to adopt a child. These words are like a knife to Zymal’s heart, realizing her husband is no longer her greatest supporter and her inability to have children has potentially ruined their marriage beyond repair. Can anyone unhear the harsh words said by a loved one? Can those words ever be taken back? Zymal comes up with an interesting solution – one that many may not agree with, but it certainly shows her pure heart. She asks her colleague Maryam to marry Shazil. While Maryam seems like a nice person, will this decision of Zymal’s backfire horribly on her? Arsalan Naseer’s performance stands out this week as Shazil’s once soft demeanor rapidly begins to change.
Ameer Gilani’s performance as Ashhad is excellent in this episode, portraying just the right amount of innocence required. Ashhad barely understands the language and it’s Faisal (Rana Majid Khan) who is helping him navigate life outside of Pakistan. As Ashhad’s mother grows ill, Ashhad’s desperation to get bring his mother over for treatment grows – and he agrees to marry for citizenship. Unfortunately, while Faisal and Camilla had already come to a deal regarding payment, Camilla now believes she should be paid more, realizing the gravity of the situation she has just put herself in. This spells trouble for Ashhad, who has clearly just landed himself in a lot of trouble for this paper marriage. It’s a laugh-out-loud moment though when Ashhad innocently asks with surprise whether he has to actually live with Camilla – and of course, the answer is yes!
There’s a beautiful overall message to “Neem” and that’s of humanity and compassion. Through Zymal – and honestly, even Faisal -, we are constantly seeing how individuals can put themselves out there for the betterment of others. Yes, at times “Neem” can become preachy, but the last few episodes have been pulling the narrative into a compelling, interesting direction. Mawra Hocane is the heart and soul of “Neem,” Zymal being the character we feel the most for, a character who is enduring serious struggles, but continues to serve those around her. “Neem” is a beautiful show worth watching and is only getting better with each episode.