Zebaish is Hum Tv’s latest offering, replacing “Jo Tou Chahay.” Directed by Iqbal Hussain and produced by Momina Duraid Productions, the show is a family affair for writer Bushra Ansari. Not only does Bushra Ansari star in a lead role herself, but is joined by Asma Abbas, Zara Noor Abbas and Asad Siddiqui. Add Babar Ali, Shabbir Jan, Iqbal Hussain, and Qavi Khan to the mix and this is a star-packed cast, which is why drama fans have been waiting for this show with anticipation. Did it manage to live up to expectations? Let’s discuss.
The first episode always serves as an introductory episode and episode one of Zebaish also focuses on viewers getting to know the (many) characters. But one can’t help but feel that there’s simply too much going on. Writing a summary is proving to be difficult with the overwhelming number of characters. In episode one, the show follows two separate pathways.
First, we see marital issues and hints at old-age divorce with Shahana (Bushra Ansari) and Javed (Shabbir Jan). Javed is unhappy with Shahana’s busy career and feels neglected, while Shahana tries to explain that she works hard so they can afford their lifestyle.
(Read Sophia Qureshi’s review of Dil Ruba here.)
Their son Nadeem, played by Asad Siddiqui, seems to be used to his parents’ squabbling and even asks his father whether he’s happy with Shahana later, though Javed brushes off the question. Parvez (Babar Ali) is introduced as Javed’s best friend and next-door neighbour – but there may be more to unpack here with Parvez and Shahana.
Javed also has an accountant that calls Javed, informing him that he is dying of cancer and asks Javed to help his daughter Natasha continue her studies and get married. This scenario doesn’t appear to be this simple though and there’s a strange indication that Natasha is behind some sort of plan, especially after the accountant’s death when Natasha seems almost pleased.
There’s a particularly troublesome scene where Parvez seen in his office with his boss and a female employee where he is being accused of sexual harassment. It’s made clear from the way this scene plays out that this is a false accusation. Parvez declares, in anger, that just anyone can get up and accuse him of harassment and false accusations can destroy his career. When he resigns, his boss and the female employee are seen giggling happily.
This is in poor taste considering how difficult it is for women to get an ear and be heard in cases of harassment in Pakistan. This angle is being featured more and more in dramas lately (another recent example being TV One’s “Rockstar”) and does not sit well during a time when women are finally speaking up. The female audience expects better from Bushra Ansari.
Coming to the second path, we see religious hypocrisy in the form of Iqbal Hussain’s character, Chote Sarkar. This is a family of Peers and Chote Sarkar has inherited the title of Sarkar only because his brother-in-law, Naseef Uddin, rejected the lifestyle when he married Nadra (Asma Abbas). There are many references to Nadra having once been a dancer, which is why she continues to live her life with shame, humiliated daily by Chote Sarkar.
It’s not clear where exactly Zebaish will be heading with this, but Chote Sarkar seems to be an all-out negative character, so one can safely hope the show will speak out against Peer culture. It’s also rich to see how poor of character Chote Sarkar is in the present and yet insults Nadra regularly for her past.
(You can watch the first episode here.)
Noshi (Zara Noor Abbas) is the beloved daughter of Naseef Uddin and Nadra and the entire family dotes on her, whether it be her parents, her grandfather (Qavi Khan) or her Chachi. Unfortunately, she butts heads with Chote Sarkar often over her “inappropriate” behaviour as he frowns upon her wearing anklets and also studying. Noshi is fearless though, particularly because she has the support of her father. Zara Noor Abbas is playing a more subdued version of Rani from Ehd E Wafa, but it seems to play well into the storyline of Zebaish, so it’s alright.
Meanwhile Chote Sarkar plots with Qasim (Adnan Shah Tipu) to get Noshi and Qasim married. This track is incredibly over the top. Chote Sarkar not only looks like a caricature, but his life seems fixated on Nadra, Noshi and how to control them and continue to gain power.
Adnan Shah Tipu needs to choose better roles. He has become typecast as this lecherous, disgusting man who is always wanting to force himself on a woman. He is a good actor, but roles like this are not only repetitive but also irritating to watch. Of course, his character Qasim is now plotting his third marriage to Noshi while his other two wives cry over their fate.
Like I said, there’s too much happening in Zebaish at present and it’s only been one episode. Usually characters are slowly introduced, but here it’s as though an entire circus has been thrown our way immediately. It’s too early to say whether this worthwhile or not, but it did not leave me, as a viewer, with a particularly positive feeling afterwards. It was interesting enough to watch, but this first episode felt rocky. It will be easier to critique after another episode or two.