“Parizaad” has been a highly awaited drama with a star cast and an interesting story. The show has not managed to avoid controversy though. The story appears to focus on how individuals with dark skin are treated by society and a great discussion point has been the casting of Ahmed Ali Akbar – who is a great actor, but not naturally dark-skinned. The show also stars Ushna Shah, Nauman Ijaz, Urwa Hocane, Saboor Aly, Yumna Zaidi and others in prominent roles. The story has been written by Hashim Nadeem and directed by Shehzad Kashmiri. So how did the first episode fare?
It’s rare that the audience finds themselves invested in characters right from the get-go. As episode 1 opens, the audience is introduced to the newly born Parizaad, the fourth child of his parents. His father (Saleem Mairaj) is a laborer and scoffs at his wife’s choice of name for the child, as the child is very much tan in color, telling her that Parizaad will face scorn for this name for the rest of his life. Parizaad (Ahmed Ali Akbar) grows up and is seen as a shy, studious young man who has a knack for poetry. Shauky, an irresponsible young man in the neighborhood, enlists Parizaad’s help in writing a poem for a girl he’s interested in. We are also introduced to Majid, a kind young man who was once Parizaad’s friend; however the two grew apart after Majid turned to religion. Majid advises Parizaad to stay away from Shauky and his friends, as they are a negative influence. Majid is a likable character right away and it appears he has a larger role to play, potentially being the love interest of Parizaad’s sister.
Parizaad is enlisted to tutor Naheed (Ushna Shah) and the two have immediate chemistry. Naheed is a “good girl,” a girl who does not give notice to the male attention she receives when she leaves the house – that too in burqa. However, her tutoring lessons with Parizaad are a success and the two appear to form a bond. Unfortunately, things go awry when Shauky attempts to meet Naheed by jumping on her roof and, in the chaos of her screaming, drops the poem Parizaad wrote for him. Naheed’s father finds the poem and believes it was written by Parizaad for Naheed – which he isn’t technically wrong. This does, however, open up a world of trouble for Parizaad.
The greatest plus point of “Parizaad” is that the relationships feel real. Whether it’s Parizaad’s loving relationship with his sister or his tense relationship with his brother, nothing comes across as forced. Adnan Shah Tipu and Paras Masroor are great as Parizaad’s brothers, particularly Adnan Shah Tipu who is great as the elder brother with a disdain for education. Parizaad is from a poor background where men are expected to work immediately, education being given little respect. Parizaad may be intelligent and appreciated by those outside the home for his intellect, but his status within his household is not very high.
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Ahmed Ali Akbar has always been a brilliant actor, but it’s wonderful to see him playing an entirely different role here. The skin coloring issue aside, which was absolutely unnecessary, his performance pulls in the viewer right away and makes Parizaad lovable. Ushna Shah also makes a mark. This drama has many popular faces in it and as a viewer who hasn’t read the novel, one has to wonder how these stories will all fit in together. The show is off to an excellent start and episode two can’t come fast enough!