By Maliha Rehman
A boy, two girls, scenic locales, a wedding scene, a mazaar, a scene in a little alley where one of the girls is fending off harassers, romance and tears … these little glimpses knit together the first few teasers into HUM Network’s upcoming drama Ishq e Laa.
The drama pits two of Pakistan’s finest actresses together, Sajal Aly and Yumna Zaidi, and features musician Azaan Sami Khan in his debut acting role. It is evident that Sajal’s character, Shanaya, and Azaan’s character, Azlan, are in love. She appears to be a journalist treading risky territory while he seems to be a corporate high-flier, or perhaps a political one. Yumna, meanwhile, is evidently from a poor background and struggling to survive. She seems to be part of the domestic help in Azaan’s home and also training to be a doctor. One scene that particularly catches attention shows her in an alley with men making passes at her and she turns around and begins hitting at them.
Interesting. But also, mysterious. How do the protagonists’ lives intersect into a love triangle? What prompts Azaan to whirl at a mazaar?
Azaan Sami Khan, new to acting, appears to be fitting in just right. He has also sung and composed the drama’s OST and one of the songs, a melodious romantic ballad, has just been released. From starting off his career by following father Adnan Sami Khan’s musical footsteps to now, taking on his mother’s career path by opting to act, the singing-acting juggernaut may just work out for Azaan. He sings soulfully and has proven his mettle by composing a number of hit soundtracks – for the movies Superstar and Parey Hut Love, for instance – and if he acts just as well, his particular blend of talent could become Azaan’s trump card.
But what’s the story of Ishq e Laa? The teasers – since they’re meant to only ‘tease’ – don’t give away too much except for little hints. I pose this question to Azaan – he finds my very direct nosiness quite funny.
“I can’t reveal much,” says Azaan, “but what I can say is that the story is extremely relevant given the current socio-political state of Pakistan. When the Noor Mukadam incident happened we were shooting on set and suddenly, I felt an increased responsibility as an actor to make sure that the story (of Ishq e Laa) got told well.”
The drama is an MD Productions project and the visuals are beautiful. Azaan reveals that in terms of storytelling, producer Momina Duraid has dabbled with very different subject matter and is pushing boundaries. “In many ways, I felt that it wasn’t really a debutante’s serial. I even asked the producers why they were considering casting me in it,” reveals Azaan. “I suppose that they either wanted a very established veteran or a completely fresh face for the role.”
Ever since the drama’s cast was revealed some months ago, one particular question has been posed constantly to Azaan: was it overwhelming to be cast opposite two powerhouses like Sajal and Yumna? I ask him the same.
Of course it was, comes Azaan’s quintessential response. “On the very first day of the shoot, I went up to both Sajal and Yumna and told them that the fact that they had agreed to work with me placed a huge responsibility on me. I had to make sure that I performed well so that no one could turn around and criticize them for acting alongside a debutante. I requested them that if at any point they feel that I am not acting well, they should tell me so that I could try again.”
“They were very gracious and they did help me when I fumbled or forgot my lines. At my own end, I tried my best. From my perspective, acting in this drama was like going to the best university of acting that I could possibly go to, with MD Productions at the helm and two of the best actresses in the country acting opposite me.”
Do his parents like the initial sneak peeks? “They’re very critical,” Azaan reveals. “My mother told me that making teasers and trailers is easy and the real test will be when the episodes start airing and people comment on how I am acting.”
This, of course, rings true. Azaan has always been snidely described by others in the fraternity as a ‘blue-eyed boy helped along by his parents’. In a past interview, the singer and soon-to-be-actor, had spoken to me about how it was true that he had managed to get his foot into the Pakistani entertainment industry relatively easily, that he hadn’t had to knock on closed doors or be confronted by the nefarious casting couch. At the same time, he had described how, even though he was a newcomer, his work would always be held in comparison to the achievements of his very talented father and mother.
“I need to make sure that I come up to people’s expectations,” Azaan had said. “But it’s a small price to pay…”
But while having well-connected parents may have opened doorways for Azaan, it is his own talent that has ensured that many of his songs have been hits. And now, it remains to be seen if his acting will be accepted by audiences.
Ishq e Laa does appear to be a dream project for a new actor. The teasers are promising. The title song is soulful. So far, so good.