After the first episode of “Neem” itself, expectations had been set. Viewers were prepared to watch the epic journey of Ashhad and Zymal, two individuals destined for one another – but also destined for different paths in life, paths which would eventually reconnect. The stage had been set for an epic love story with an epic villain, Karamat (Syed Jibran)…..only, the epic love story only began in the final 3 episodes. “Neem” is an excellent story with excellent actors, but somehow, something has consistently been lacking in execution, particularly in the middle bulk of episodes – and the weakness lies on the lack of focus on the show’s lead characters. Starring Mawra Hocane, Ameer Gilani, Syed Jibran, Arsalan Naseer, Manzar Sehbai, Rana Majid Khan and others in prominent roles, the story has been written by Kashif Anwar and directed by Shahzad Kashmiri.
In the finale, Ashhad (Ameer Gilani) and Zymal’s (Mawra Hocane) friendship continues to grow and Ashhad finally asks about Zymal’s divorce. Zymal, the honest individual she is, tells Ashhad the truth about not being able to conceive – and Ashhad’s reaction is exactly what we hoped it would be. Shocked, Ashhad states this is not a reason for divorce and is dismayed that she was not supported. Their relationship grows with every step from Ashhad’s protective nature towards Zymal, particularly when Karamat refuses to take no for an answer, and their joint anger towards Karamat’s crimes. Ashhad proves to be a solid presence in Zymal’s life, even as startling truths unravel.
Karamat’s world comes crashing down when Amjad reveals the truth to Ashhad about this accident – which leads to Zymal putting two and two together and connecting Karamat to Baba Jaan’s death. With charges of the murder of 4 people stacked against him, Karamat winds up in a pitiful state in jail, almost making us feel sorry for him. This is the power of Syed Jibran’s performance, which is incredible. It’s tragic that Karamat’s story was not better executed, because Karamat truly should’ve been a memorable character, particularly because Syed Jibran’s performance has been so good.
In the end, Ashhad confesses his love for Zymal in an absolutely beautiful moment, confessing that his life’s story has always just been about her. It’s the simplicity of the confession along with the weight of his words and the performances of Ameer Gilani and Mawra Hocane which make this moment so magical. Watching Zymal finally find a supportive partner while Ashhad finally gets the love of his life has us grinning from ear to ear.
There are gaps in the story, unfortunately. Does Asad just sit in jail forever? Do Amjad and Ashhad just accept this? What happens to Amjad and Asad’s wife? What was the point of Jamil and the entire angle with the pre-recorded video when that arc never played out in any fruitful way? It’s these small problems with the writing and execution that have held “Neem” back from being an epic masterpiece. At the end of the day, the way Ashhad and Zymal’s love story played out and the lines they shared in these locations which have brought their story full circle are really quite beautiful and poetic. It’s this love story which has been the heart and soul of “Neem” – and it’s this love story which deserved so much more than the attention it was given – which was minimal. Now with “Neem” at its end, can someone sign Mawra Hocane and Ameer Gilani in a beautiful love story worthy of their crackling chemistry? “Neem” will certainly be missed for its high points, but it also feels as though “Neem” has been a missed opportunity to be something truly excellent.