“Pagal Khana” is a show which has a focus on mental health, taking the audience through their triggers and weaknesses…..and despite having a great cast, the show isn’t necessarily striking a chord. Starring Sami Khan, Saba Qamar, Syed Jibran, Omair Rana, Mashal Khan, Faiza Gillani, Huma Nawab, Jan Rambo, Babar Ali, Tipu Shah, Sahiba, Nadia Hussain and more, the story has been written and directed by Iqbal Hussain. “Pagal Khana” tells the story of eleven patients suffering from poor mental health, individuals from backgrounds of wealth who have been placed in this home of sorts by their families. The doctors have unique practicing methods and the staff operates in an equally bizarre way, but consistently promise the families of the patients that they will be home soon.
There’s something appealing about “Pagal Khana” as a show – and yet, there hasn’t been any substantial content within the show either. Let’s tackle the positives first. Saba Qamar and Sami Khan’s chemistry is the greatest “pick me up” for this show, which up until that point, had essentially lacked a storyline. Now with the backstories coming in, the show is beginning to take off (somewhat). Sami Khan’s Salman is a man obsessed with himself, a man who puts himself first and yet, Saba Qamar’s Noor winds up being the first woman to actually capture his attention – but does she capture his attention for the right reasons? Noor is a woman with a tendency to fixate on individuals. After her father’s death, a father who she admittedly was “obsessed” with, Noor lost her passion to live for a while…..and then encountered Salman. Salman became the next man to step into her father’s role, the role of an obsession. Noor has a need to find a man she can admire and look up to and Salman happily steps into that role despite seeing all the warning signs within Noor. Up until now, it’s not clear what happened with Noor and Salman, but whatever it is – it appears that Salman and Noor’s mother seem to be on the same page that it was Noor’s fault. Saba Qamar and Sami Khan’s chemistry has always been excellent and it’s not any different this time around. They are both stellar performers who look great together.
Omair Rana is, so far, a great comedic highlight for the show. A man with schizophrenia, he is constantly chasing ghosts in his head (specifically Saba Faisal’s) and Omair Rana himself seems to be having a great time enacting this role, making him one of the most enjoyable parts of “Pagal Khana.” Likewise for Mashal Khan’s Tina, a bipolar patient who is an artist, self-admiring and also consistently trying to end her life in a spectacular way. These performances are just excellent and these characters keep up glued to our screens.
Now let’s discuss the negatives, the first being that the storyline is too slow. The interwoven comedy between the staff and the patients is not as amusing as the team must think it, specifically the scenes with Adnan Shah Tipu, Jan Rambo and company. These simply come across as space fillers. The next weak point is Momal Sheikh’s performance. To believe her as a psychiatrist simply does not come naturally, because her performance is not natural. Third, the pacing has been poorly etched – and this is different from the storyline being slow. This is directly related to the stories being revealed in flashback only for an interruption to take place in the present and the flashback laying on the backburner until a later time. This makes the story feel disjointed and, in reality, no one has time to come and listen to one individuals story through multiple sittings.
Honestly speaking, “Pagal Khana” is working only due to Sami Khan, Saba Qamar, Omair Rana and Mashal Khan’s performances, which are enjoyable. The Saba Qamar and Sami Khan story is interesting (though it’s taking too long to reveal itself) and their chemistry is another reason to watch. However, if the story itself does not pick up soon and turn into a coherent narrative with likable characters who we understand – or at least sympathize with -, the show many not be worth watching for much longer.