Deep within the narrow alleyways of Hyderabad, a neighborhood romance begins to bloom. The second episode of Pehli Si Muhabbat (PSM) takes off from the charged, romantic ending of the preceding one. Now that Aslam (Sheheryar Munawar) and Rakhshi (Maya Ali) have locked eyes, they are drawn towards each other. She makes excuses to come to his home. He tails her college van on his motorbike. There are stolen glances and a lilting musical score added for effect. There are also throwbacks to their childhood where they recalled how they would fight or how he gave her his imli.
It’s all very sweet – except for the parallel story also gaining pace. Aslam’s brother, Akram (HSY), is incensed at Rakshi’s father, Faizullah (Shabbir Jan,) who has gotten married to Nargis (Rabia Butt), a woman with a murky past, and thereby smeared the neighborhood. Akram schemes to have Faizullah ousted from the vicinity but fails to do so when Nargis gives her husband her jewelry, telling him to sell it in order to pay the advance rent for their homes. This makes Akram livid.
You can foretell the direction in which the plot is likely to thicken. Akram’s hate directed towards Faizullah is going to build up in the next few episodes. This, naturally is going to put a spanner in the works of our love story, given that Faizullah is Rakhshi’s father and Akram is Aslam’s brother and is, in fact, a very strict one. A teaser to PSM showed an angry Akram reading a love letter. Obviously, in true villain mode, he is going to profess to take the moral high ground and forbid the romance. And most probably, there will be scenes where the two brothers fight for what they believe in.
It’s predictable, yes, as are all love stories. PHM’s success will lie in telling this story, which is not an unfamiliar one, in an interesting way.
There’s a lot that works for the drama. The talented and also, very good-looking, star-studded cast is a definite perk. You can tell that Sheheryar Munawar is enjoying playing the devil-may-care Romeo and Maya Ali brings in just the right mix of coquettish shyness. Wearing traditional shalwar kameez, with her hair braided, she reminds one of an old-world film heroine: dupatta in place, coy, eyes thickly lined with kohl and mascara, playing up desi glam to the hilt!
Rakhshi! Via Maya Ali, Instagram
HSY, also, is coming into his own in his TV acting debut. He looks quite moralistic, making theological declarations as he goes about creating havoc for his next door neighbor.
Rabia Butt looks beautiful and acts well as does Shabir Jan, of course. Here’s a gripe, though: why is Rabia perpetually destined to play the slightly shady other woman? Can’t directors and producers see her dabbling with any other kind of character?
Why does Rabia Butt play the slightly shady woman so often?
Another advantage that the story has so far is the script and the underlying meanings to the dialogues. For instance, Nargis’ conversation with Faizullah about haram and halal income was interesting and also indicative of the layers that will unfold as the plot thickens. Beyond a love story, PSM will be touching upon moral taboos that exist in our society, under the guise of religion but in truth, far removed from what religion and ethics actually dictate.
I was actually there on set when some segments from the second episode were being filmed. Here’s Aslam, teetering on the edge of a balcony, while he prepares to throw his phone number at Rakhshi!
This BTS, via my phone camera
The obstacle course is getting laid out for Aslam and Rakhshi. But, like I said, it is not an unfamiliar one. PSM’s success will lie in telling the story in a riveting way. I’d love to see the romance building up, more charged scenes and dramatic dialogues. A few surprises here and there will really pep things up.
Everyone loves a good romance – as long as it’s a well-told one.