“Pehli Si Muhabbat” got off to a shaky start with many viewers and critics alike not particularly impressed with the storyline or its presentation. However, over the course of the past 6 episodes, the quality has taken leaps and bounds, the story engrossing and the performances endearing. Directed by Anjum Shehzad, this drama stars Shehryar Munawar, Maya Ali, Hassan Shehryar Yasin, Uzma Shah, Paras Masroor, Nausheen Shah and Shabbir Jan in prominent roles. As of episode 9, viewers saw Aslam visit his Mamoon to break off his engagement to Bushra. Knowing Akram, the aftermath of this action will not be kind.
Episode 7 is a Sheheryar Munawar and Uzma Hassan show through-and-through. These two actors dominate the screen with their acting prowess and bring the audience to tears. In this episode, Akram (Hassan Sheheryar Yasin) and his mother (Saba Faisal) receive word that Aslam (Sheheryar Munawar) has broken off his engagement with Bushra. And so, Akram waits like a lion ready to pounce until the moment that Aslam enters the fold. While Zainab (Uzma Hassan) tries to put out the flames, her presence only reminds the family of her own actions, accusing her of pushing Aslam to repeat her mistakes. Akram beats Aslam black and blue, but this does not make Aslam back down. Rather, he manages to make his point when he tells his mother that she’s scared of Akram’s anger, but not of what Aslam can do if he doesn’t get his way. Sheheryar Munawar’s performance felt like the weakest link when the show started, feeling a little “over the top” at first. However, with each episode, he’s fast becoming a shining star in this drama, Aslam the heart and soul of the proceedings. Sheheryar is incredible in these emotional scenes, driven to anger and frustration at not being seen or heard by his own family only because they refuse to put their ego aside.
There’s a wonderful moment between Aslam and Zainab where Zainab remembers how a young Aslam tended to her wounds after she was beaten for loving another man – and so now, she stands firm with Aslam, not only tending to his wounds, but asking him about his love life as viewers are shown glimpses of Zainab’s own. The innocence in this scene is what’s most poignant about it, Zainab and Aslam being treated like criminals simply for loving a person of their own choice, and Uzma Hassan and Sheheryar Munawar both perform beautifully. It’s after this that Aslam’s mother finally realizes that Akram’s ego is not worth sacrificing Aslam’s happiness and makes the decision to send a proposal for Rakshi. While Akram is adamant against this, his wife (Nausheen Shah) blasts him for remaining so rigid when his family is going through turmoil due to his decisions. Later, there’s another wonderful moment where Aslam enters Akram’s room and hugs him, thanking him for the beating, as his mother never would’ve relented otherwise. Akram’s shock is visible and this is a great moment for Hassan Sheheryar as a performer too, showing the love lurking underneath the hard exterior. Akram finally agrees to sending the proposal, but trouble still lurks for this family.
While viewers felt a sort of softening for Murad (Paras Masroor) in the last episode as he willingly allowed Zainab to go home for a few days, the anger and irritation returns this week as he shows his ugly side. While Zainab and the family prepare to take a proposal for Rakshi, Murad returns to take Zainab and the kids home, giving taunts about Aslam’s character and remarking that he doesn’t want his kids to be exposed to this household environment. Zainab even snidely remarks, after smirking, that it’s nice to see the old Murad again as she felt he was different for a few moments. Paras Masroor is a brilliant performer and portrays how Murad is a nasty, insecure, condescending man and now it’s become crystal clear to viewers what Zainab has had to put up with for over a decade. It’s Zainab’s story that’s the most layered and one has to wonder how this story will be put to rest considering the delicate nature of it.
On the other side, we do see Nargis (Rabia Butt) and Rakshi (Maya Ali) discussing Rakshi and Aslam’s relationship and its fate, as Rakshi’s marriage has been fixed by her father. Still, Nargis encourages Rakshi to stand up for herself and promises to support her as much as she can. Nargis also has her own story of heartbreak and abandonment, of which we see small snippets. Overall, this episode of “Pehli Si Muhabbat” is a winner. There are so many great performers this time around, whether it’s Sheheryar Munawar, Uzma Hassan, Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, Saba Faisal, Paras Masroor or Rabia Butt, everyone is putting their best foot forward. It’s evident that these actors are growing into their characters and getting to know them more with time. Now with Rakshi engaged, it will be interesting to see her father’s reaction next week when he receives the proposal. Considering we are still at episode 10, this will certainly not be a clear-cut path, as there’s so much more of the story to be told.