“Neem” is not an easy show to be a fan of, as watching it requires a lot of patience. Drama storytelling as of late has been focused on delivering action-packed episodes with quick-paced narratives, which has reduced interest in the old blueprint for Pakistani dramas which follow a more laid-back, natural pace. This is where “Neem” suffers, not because it isn’t a good show, but because the pace is almost too realistic, the writer and director taking their time to allow the story to unfold.
In episode 20, as Karamat (Syed Jibran) prepares to engage the village folk in a years-long battle, Ashhad (Ameer Gilani) finally returns home. His arrival is met with Karamat’s men installing wires and Ashhad, no longer one to hide in the shadows, begins to fight before realizing it’s pointless. Moving to the camp, the moment we’ve all been waiting for finally arrives with Ashhad and Zymal (Mawra Hocane) coming face to face. Obviously, Zymal has never been aware of Ashhad’s presence, so the reaction is as one would react to a stranger, but for Ashhad, this is an interesting moment.
Ameer Gilani shines throughout this episode, episode 20 truly belonging to him. His disbelief at arriving back home to an entirely different environment, meeting Zymal formally under the most unusual circumstances and meeting his brothers in jail give Ameer the scope to perform – and perform he does. The moment in jail with Amjad is tragic enough, but when Asad (Shamyl Khan) arrives, the waterworks truly begin. Shamyl Khan is such an excellent actor and watching both Ameer and Shamyl perform together as brothers is a treat. Seeing Asad go from a strong, honest, lead to a now a broken man behind bars is a difficult transformation to watch – one that’s even more difficult for Ashhad. He arrives back at the camp with determination to have his brothers released, interrupting Zymal’s conversation with the lawyer – but is let down once again, realizing the fight ahead is a difficult one. Still, his words make an impact with Zymal and she is ready to help his cause. Unfortunately, at the end of the episode, Karamat’s plan to break the loyalties of the villagers is put into action when he arrests Owais after planting weapons. This is yet another setback for the villagers. How will Zymal handle it, considering she is the leader of the case and the women are already slowly turning against her?
Unfortunately, “Neem” suffers in areas other than laid-back pacing. “Neem” has almost been given stepchild treatment from Hum TV, the Ost releasing three months after the show’s premiere. Adding to the humor is the preview promo for each week, always a 15 second clip focused solely on Karamat with the most irrelevant dialogue, almost as if the editors couldn’t be bothered to cut a proper promo. What keeps the audience coming back each week are the performances. This week, “Neem” genuinely belongs to Ameer Gilani as Ashhad has finally made his return to Pakistan. The episode delivers with many run-ins with Zymal and more Ashhad-centric scenes than we’ve had since the beginning of the show. Ameer Gilani is proving to be one of our greatest new talents and he’s such a natural performer, this does not feel like only his second show. Mawra Hocane is excellent, an absolute natural as always, and her reactions to the situations are fitting. Shamyl Khan hasn’t been given a lot of screen time in “Neem,” but he does an exceptional job with whatever he is given and turns it into a stand-out moment. His performance in episode 20 is just that – exceptional. As always, there’s no telling what’s to come in the next episode, as the preview only shows Karamat dialogues anyway. However, if episode 20 is an indicator of what’s to come, “Neem” has finally hit its stride once again!