The greatest complaint with “Neem” over the last several weeks has been its lack of focus on the main characters and its slow pace. From the start, audiences have been waiting to see solid character development for both Zymal and Ashhad, both individually and independently, but the pacing and writing has failed to take these characters down the desired path. At present, however, the show has been delivering some solid episodes post Ashhad’s return to Pakistan. But with the show nearing its end, is it too late? Starring Mawra Hocane, Ameer Gilani, Syed Jibran, Manzar Sehbai, Arsalan Naseer, Rana Majid Khan and others, the story has been written by Kashif Anwar and directed by Shahzad Kashmiri.
There appears to be a lot of confusion regarding whether or not this is the second last episode. A week ago, the preview showed that there were only two episodes remaining – however, no such claim has been made since. This makes it difficult to rate “Neem” at present, because it depends on the progress of the storyline. If this is the second last episode, it took far too long to give Zymal and Ashhad main character energy. The two main characters, who were promised to the audience to have a love story, have barely shared any scenes together. They have hilariously been relegated to the background with Karamat not only getting the majority of screentime, but also featuring prominently in every single preview for the show – something which has become a running joke for viewers. If the episode is assessed on the basis of being a second last episode, it’s still a solid episode – but not nearly enough happens to wind up the story successfully in the finale. However, if this is not, in fact, the second last episode and we still have a few episodes to go, then yes, this is an episode to rave about.
Discussing character progression and movement in the story, episode 21 is excellent. While Zymal (Mawra Hocane) has been helping the villagers, leaving the comfort of her own home in solidarity, Karamat’s (Syed Jibran) plan has been working effectively, planting a mole to sow seeds of unrest amongst the villagers, turning them against Zymal. However, Ashhad (Ameer Gilani), regardless of his heartbreak, will not hear a bad word against Zymal and does not waste a moment in standing up for her, ensuring the village folk understand how much she is sacrificing for them. The scenes between Ashhad and Zymal are well-written, natural and not forced. While Zymal may not be a stranger to Ashhad, he is a stranger to her and he hasn’t ever actually spoken to her. Their conversations are fitting with that in mind, flowing with a natural discomfort. Watching our lead characters finally connect on a personal level is a joy for the audience and both Mawra Hocane and Ameer Gilani perform exceptionally well.
If episode 20 belonged to Ameer Gilani, episode 21 belongs to Mawra Hocane. Zymal left Shazil’s (Arsalan Naseer) home with the hidden intention of never returning, recognizing that her marriage was dead. She spent the early days back in Kashmir mourning the death of that relationship – and yet, it’s never easy to let go. When Shazil finally arrives to take Zymal back home, he’s apologetic. He realizes that he messed up, he was selfish and he did not meet his wife’s needs. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late and even his apologies seem half-baked. Is this the fault of the character, the writing or the performance? Arsalan Naseer is a great YouTuber and he was a favorite in “Chupke Chupke,” but since then, he has yet to pick up a role in which he’s comfortable in. As Shazil, he feels disconnected – and it doesn’t help that Shazil is a thoroughly unlikable man. Zymal always deserved better – and so does Maryam (Maryam Nafees), who is now expecting a child. Zymal’s heartbreak is palpable, letting go of a marriage she has emotionally cut of from, but still grieving not only the loss of a relationship, but also seeing how Shazil and Maryam have moved on in their lives….knowing having a child is simply not in her future. Mawra Hocane, take a bow.
Of course, Syed Jibran is brilliantly sinister, but it’s getting exhausting watching Karamat win week after week. We’re ready to see his destruction, especially now that Ashhad is his target. Shamyl Khan is excellent as Asad, but again, we’d love to see some positivity for Ashhad and his brothers now. Again, this all boils down to whether October 29 is the last episode of “Neem” or not. If it is, the show has wasted far too much time dragging and too little time on important story arcs for it to wind up well within 36 minutes. However, if the show still has a few episodes to go, “Neem” has finally peaked and is headed down the right path.