“Sang E Mah” made its debut on Pakistani television last week, immediately pulling in the audience not only due to its excellent cast, but also due to the success of its predecessor, “Sang E Mar Mar.” Written by Mustafa Afridi and directed by Saife Hassan, “Sang E Mah” is the second in the trilogy by the Saife Hassan-Mustafa Afridi duo, a trilogy which focuses on issues within the Pukhtun (Pathan) community. The show comprises of a talented cast including Atif Aslam, Nauman Ejaz, Sania Saeed, Samiya Mumtaz, Omair Rana, Hania Amir, Zaviyaar Nauman Ejaz, Hassan Noman and others.
In episode 2, the controversy surrounding Sabz Ali continues as the “jirga” gathers to decide his fate. Sabz Ali takes this moment to beg Hikmat (Atif Aslam) to speak in his favor – and he does, essentially stopping a cruel mob, of which his own father Haaji Marjan (Nauman Ejaz) is head of. This entire sequence is spellbinding, poetic and heartbreaking all at once. While Sabz Ali is forgiven for his act of “gagh” due to his claim of being under the influence, he is punished instead for drinking alcohol – a punishment of 120 lashes. This brings the viewer to tears, seeing this cruel and unjust punishment, as Sabz Ali has already apologizes for his act. The cruelty of it all is pointed out by Hikmat and this exchange between Marjan and Hikmat leaves the viewer transfixed. It’s wonderful to see how Atif Aslam is holding his own against a great like Nauman Ejaz, both leaving a strong impact in their roles. This also leaves the audience to wonder whether Marjan is Hikmat’s real father or are the Shakespearean influences also pointing towards Marjan having married Hikmat’s mother?
One thing we are aware of through this episode is that Marjan and Zarsanga (Samiya Mumtaz) potentially got married through “gagh.” At least this is what flashbacks appear to be indicating – but then why is Zarsanga so bitter when the two appear to be happily married? Still, this now sheds more light on Zarghona’s (Sania Saeed) disdain towards Marjan and Zarsanga. In this disdain, she tells Hilmand (Zaviyaar Nauman Ejaz) to bring his parents to propose for Gulmeena (Hania Amir). Is this an attempt to shame the two? That’s not clear, but this is a positive for the lovebirds. The past story of Zarsanga, Zarghona and Marjan continues to be a mystery that we can only use guess-work to piece together at this point. Adding to this is Mastaan’s (Omair Rana) story, a man punishing himself for a crime he committed 20 years ago. As it has been revealed that Mastaan works for Zarghona, one has to wonder how he fits into this puzzle.
There has been an uproar against “Sang E Mah” from the Pukhtun community, exhausted of being presented on-screen as a stereotype time and time again. Adding to it is the fact that there isn’t Pukhtun representation within the lead cast, some even putting on aggravating “Pashto” accents. The complaint is valid, the criticisms are valid and while Mustafa Afridi is a Pukhtun himself and has said that the stories are based on realities he has witnessed, it does not take away the fact that many are disturbed to see Pukhtuns consistently shown as tribal and backwards. It would be nice to see a modern representation of the Pukhtun culture.
Still, all of this can be overlooked from an entertainment point of view. “Sang E Mah” is playing out like a brilliant stage play of sorts, theatrical, mysterious and full of power packed performances. The cinematography and locations are easy on the eyes, adding to the small village narrative. Atif Aslam and Nauman Ejaz leave the greatest impact, along with the actor playing Sabz Ali, as his scenes remain with the viewer long after they end. Atif Aslam and Nauman Ejaz command the screen as equals. It’s also wonderful to see Sania Saeed and Samiya Mumtaz, though the two aren’t given much scope to perform in this episode, though they will later on. Zaviyaar Nauman Ejaz and Hania Amir are sweet and compliment each other. The show is a joy to watch and we can’t wait to see how the story plays out!