“Pehli Si Muhabbat” goes from strength to strength with its stellar cast and film-like presentation. The show has been written by Faiza Iftikhar, directed by Anjum Shehzad and stars Shehryar Munawar, Maya Ali, Hassan Shehryar Yasin, Uzma Shah, Paras Masroor, Nausheen Shah, Shabbir Jan and Rabia Butt in prominent roles. The introduction of Saleem Mairaj’s character was made early on, but only through glimpses and conversation. With his official entry, the show has now taken a turn – and while it may be better for viewers, it’s a turn for the worst for the two love birds.
In episode 12, Murad (Paras Masroor) continues to show his verbally and emotionally abusive side, driving home the sort of mental torture Zainab (Uzma Hassan) has had to endure for the last several years. The flashbacks of Zainab’s continued abuse at Akram’s (Hassan Shehryar Yasin) hands paint a grim picture of what Zainab went through. Zainab went to meet Sikandar (Saleem Mairaj) to return the gifts he had given her, hoping to make a fresh start in her marriage – however, the meeting was intercepted by Akram, who dragged her home and labeled her as a runaway bride. Zainab revealed her real intentions to her mother (Saba Faisal), who softened when she realized her daughter’s pure intentions. But Akram’s label has stuck with Zainab through her life and her fresh start was anything but.
Much of episode 12 focuses on the concept of “ghairat” (honor) and how men view women as the upholders of that honor. Zainab’s actions were innocent, but were seen as her greatest offense, not only by Akram, but also by Murad, who continues to taunt her and make her life hell years (and two children) later. When Faizullah (Shabbir Jan) and Sikandar’s father confront Akram at his store, the truth comes out and Akram, offended by the attack, makes it known that Rakshi is interested in Aslam and her interest was the reason for the proposal. Faizullah may have married a young girl easily 20 years his junior, but that doesn’t mean his concept of honor has been affected. The idea of his young daughter being involved in a romance with Aslam is a crime in his eyes and this becomes Rakshi’s crime – not only for Faizullah, but also for her future in-laws, who declare that her reputation has been maligned in public. While they have lived through a similar situation, they deviate power over being on the other side of the fence this time and are only too willing to break off the proposal.
Enter Sikandar. While Sikandar has been a thought for most of “Pehli Si Muhabbat,” he is now a living, breathing man. He has refused to marry for years, his love for Zainab – and the trauma he endured over losing her – remaining with him like a fresh wound. However, here, even he has developed an ego and has decided to avenge his own “honor” in a way. Now realizing Aslam (Sheheryar Munawar) and Rakshi are in love, Sikandar is ready to take his own revenge on Akram’s family for what he endured. And, of course, his revenge is through marrying Rakshi. One has to wonder what kind of torture she will endure after marriage? Will her fate mirror that of Zainab’s? Is this a vicious cycle set to repeat?
What started off as a seemingly simple, innocent love story has progressed into a story with many layers. These characters are tortured, almost traumatized by their past experiences and not one character reacts in a predictable manner. While Zainab has been left to endure her misery, helping Aslam in hopes that he has a different fate, Sikandar is out to settle his scores against Akram for that same loss. Uzma Hassan’s performance is wonderful and whether she has many scenes or only a few, she always manages to stand out. If there’s a point here that’s irritating, it’s Rakshi’s inability to admit her affection for Aslam. Aslam has endured a lot on her behalf and Rakshi is unable to state her liking for him to her father. And while it’s realistic, it’s difficult to root for a love story in which the girl won’t stand up for it. Still, Aslam is such a lovable character that one wishes for his happiness. But is this love story destined to be doomed?