“Rang Mahal” is a new soap on Geo TV that airs daily. Written by Shafia Khan, the show has been directed by Zahid Mehmood and stars Ali Ansari, Hamayun Ashraf, Sehar Khan and Arooba Mirza in lead roles. This drama’s theme focuses on status differences in love and how members of high society perceive those who work as house help to be “lower” than them.
In episodes 1-3, we are introduced to Mahapara (Sehar Khan), who lives in the servant quarters of Fazal Ali and his family. Her grandmother, father and (deceased) mother have all been loyal workers for the family. When Mahapara was a baby, Fazal Ali’s daughter and Mahapara’s mother passed away in the same car accident. Fazal Ali’s wife felt it was her duty to raise Mahapara as a member of the family and sees her own daughter in Mahapara. However, Mahapara begins to feel the “reality” of her existence when Rayed (Ali Ansari) returns from America and shows his disdain for the way Mahapara is treated by the family, feeling as though it’s inappropriate and the family should have standards (not mingling with “the help”).
Amongst all this, Sohail’s (Humayun Ashraf) marriage preparations are in full swing. It’s quite endearing to see the sweet, brother-sister relationship between Mahapara and Sohail and Sohail truly looks like a stand-up guy…..that is, until his real face is revealed later in episode two. Sohail already has a wife, a “tawaif” who he brought out of her environment and into a life of decency as his (secret) wife. Now with his upcoming public marriage, he informs her that he’s leaving her. Sohail comes across as pretty ruthless and even abusive towards his wife and has no sympathy for the state he’s leaving her in – he actually seems to be enjoying it, depicting an unstable side. Will this come into play in his second marriage – or even go on to affect Mahapara in some way?
Rayed is an interesting character, a young man who has supposedly studied in America. There are a lot of weird stereotypes that the writer chooses to throw into the dialogues, such as Rayed scoffing at Desi food. The Pakistani American community, even those who have never lived in Pakistan, flock towards biryani and kabaab, so that particular dialogue comes off as ludicrous. Adding to Rayed’s strange characterization is his narrow-mindedness, judgmental attitude towards the household help, specifically Mahapara. Those who live in the US generally have a much more open-minded, educated opinion of house help, but it seems as though Rayed came back as a negative Nancy with class issues while his own family sitting in Pakistan remained open-minded.
All the flaws in Rayan’s character aside, there is an absolutely wonderful moment in an incredibly over-the-top scene where Sohail’s mother-in-law, Khalida (Seema Pasha) degrades Mahapara during the mehndi rassam for being a “naukrani” (servant). After a ridiculous amount of back and forth, Rayed steps in and states that his father has already clarified that Mahapara is not a servant, but even if she were, she would be their servant and not Khalida’s and presses them to move forward with the rassam. Rayed has not shown much intelligence up until now, but the words he states at this point are not just his own, but those of any “sane” individual. That being said, Rayed does make it clear later that it’s his ego speaking, not humanity, as he is irritated by the way his family is treated by Sohail’s in-laws. But Rayed does have principles and says that if the family can accept Mahapara in private, they should accept her in public as well.
Hajra (Arooba Mirza) is a character on a different level of unlikability. The audience isn’t given a chance to even sympathize with her, because she immediately becomes fixated with Mahapara and her being a “naukrani.” Mahapara really has nothing to do with Hajra and Mahapara isn’t hogging Sohail’s attention either, so Hajra’s severe dislike and contempt for Mahapara doesn’t make any sense. This woman and her mother spend Hajra’s entire wedding sulking and fixating on Mahapara, which is baffling.
Overall, “Rang Mahal” is the kind of show that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It has an interesting storyline, which is why the audience will continue coming back for more. However, it also has a heavy “Star Plus” feel (as has become expected with Pakistani soaps) and some very over-the-top behaviors from the characters. Still, one can envision this drama growing in viewership and going on to become a real success.