‘Ishqiya’ and the unfortunate case of flashbacks

I often wondered while watching ‘Ishqiya’ – ARY Digital’s multistarrer drama which wrapped up last night – if the drama’s makers could sit through entire episodes of the drama. Did the cast – Feroze Khan, Gohar Rasheed, Hania Aamir and Ramsha Khan – ever sit at home and watch the episodes at prime time? Or did they, like me, prefer to watch it on YouTube, pressing the forward button multiple times? There was so much to forward through, after all, given that at least half (if not more) of the drama consisted of flashbacks and more flashbacks.

One of the main reasons why so many of us have watched this drama, flashbacks and all, is because of some very good performances by its lead cast. The other reason is that we’ve all been stuck at home, thanks to the coronavirus. Twiddling our thumbs with nothing to do during those long dreary evenings, we tuned in on this much-hyped, star-studded drama – and realized that it was just another cookie-cutter story where the boy seeks revenge from the love of his love when she abandons him but going after her sister. Our TV dramas do have a penchant for borderline incestuous, uncomfortable stories.

Now given that this storyline, discomfiting though it is, is standard fare for our TV drama industry, ‘Ishqiya’s directors could have at least tried their hands at some crisp editing and strong character developments. Instead, the drama was treated in the most dreary manner. Feroze Khan as the spurned lover could have been depicted as a psychotic man hell-bent on revenge. He could have been scary. Instead, even at his worst, his derangement was diminished because he spent so much time flashing back to the past before swaggering in and saying a few dialogues. Then, usually, there would be another flashback.

 

Feroze Khan as ‘Ishqiya’s brooding anti-hero – so much talent, often wasted because of repetitive flashbacks

There’s more. Gohar Rashed, one of today’s finest young actors, was always made to cry.

Ramsha Khan was probably given a memo where she was not allowed to alter her facial expression from this one below.

This is how Gohar Rasheed and Ramsha Khan looked … throughout the drama. 

Hania Aamir’s character was gregarious and provided plenty of light moments. But then, the flippant scenes got so numerous that one couldn’t be told apart from the other.Feroze Khan always performs very well as the angry, slightly deranged, emotional lover. He does need to consciously move towards other roles now.

And in the midst of all this, the flashbacks came. Again. And again. And again. The crying heroine thought back to the many other times that she had cried. The bereft husband recalled all the many times in the past that he had been hurt. These people spent a lot of time just thinking about the past.

On YouTube, it was all right. You could press forward. But how did people watch this show on prime time television?

Feroze Khan and Hania Aamir made such a cute couple – what a waste of some great chemistry!

What I did like about ‘Ishqiya’ though was the acting, particularly Gohar Rasheed who is in a league of his own. Even stuck with a script when all he could do was cry and be a perpetual self-righteous do-gooder, he stood out.

Oh, and I liked the music that used to play every time Feroze became villainous and decided to be mean to his ex.

The fact remains, though: how can a mainstream drama with a popular cast get away with being this repetitive? Why can’t the quality of our storytelling improve. Our audiences deserve better. So do our actors.

Should mainstream dramas on popular channels continue with such unabashed flashbacks and long, droning monologues, I am quite sure that in a year or two the drama industry will spiral into decline. Perhaps, inevitably, web-series will become all the rage, replacing TV dramas as popular choices. Considering that TV dramas have long been Pakistani entertainment’s pride, that would be sad.

Can channels take a stand before this happens? Can actors start putting their feet down when they sense that a script is problematic? Can TV directors refuse to prolong an episodic drama just in order to gain ratings?

 

 

 

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‘Ishqiya’ and the unfortunate case of flashbacks