By Maliha Rehman
Palatial mansions, sprawling fields, young love and a slew of villains frowning, brandishing guns, killing people and breaking legs. Badshah Begum is off to a powerful start.
Jointly produced by Rafay Rashdi and MD Productions and directed by Khizer Idress, the drama, airing on the HUM TV Network, seems to be very different based on this initial glimpse. Writer Saji Gul certainly hasn’t written a typical saas-bahu narrayive and perhaps this is why Rafay Rashdi had to wait for some time before a channel finally decided to put their faith in the script. The story is traversing new territory and this may just turn out to be its USP, drawing the audience’s attention and establishing that distinctive storylines can make their mark – something that Hum Network’s Parizaad also recently highlighted.
Now that Badshah Begum has finally come to life, the first episode hints at a dynastic struggle for gaining control of a gaddi presiding over a fictitious territory called Peeran Pur, passed on from one generation of a powerful pir family to the next.
The motley crew of characters who will be forming the crux of the story were introduced in this first episode. There’s the ruling Badshah Begum, an unsmiling, severe matriarch who doesn’t mind breaking legs when someone displeases her. Her son, Pir Shahzeb is obsessed with the gaddi and also smitten by a girl in the region and wants to marry her. Like his mother, he is capable of cold-heartedly pronouncing the death sentence of a villager who makes the mistake of encroaching on his territory. There’s also Khizer, sneering, cruel, yet another contender for the gaddi in question.
In the city, another branch of the family ricochets between university life, parties and a glorious mansion where they all live together. Jahanara is the sensible older sister. Roshanara is the younger one, bitter towards her older sister, erroneously getting high at a party and obsessed with her friend Bakhtiar. Bakhtiar, in turn, is keen on Jahanara. A love triangle is brewing, very evidently and it is likely to cause angst and heartbreak in the episodes to come.
It is also clear that the Shahzeb and Khizer are going to be fighting it out over the gaddi. Shahzeb’s tumultuous relationship with Badshah Begum is going to be another twist, with her not allowing him to marry the girl of his choice.
Holding the plot together is an ensemble cast that so far, seems to be in its element. Particularly shining in the first episode were actors Zara Noor Abbas, Farhan Saeed, Yasir Hussain and Saman Ansari. Zara holds her own as the reasonable, no-nonsense Jahanara, Farhan Saeed is very believable as the impassive, easily angered Shahzeb and Yasir Hussain simply takes over the screen with his entry, a gun on his shoulder, his eyes smudged with kohl, smiling cruelly. Saman Ansari is suitably intimidating as the steely-eyed Badshah Begum intent on having her way.
Ali Rehman Khan is the classic green-eyed hero smitten with the leading lady and Komal Meer fits the role of the careless, volatile younger sister. Shahzad Nawaz makes a first appearance as the patriarch who confesses to being cruel because it is required of a man in his position. Some of this cruelty will, of course, surface as the story proceeds.
A first episode cannot give an accurate indication of whether a drama will be interesting or desultory. But it does have the power to rivet the audience – and make them want to tune in next week. The grandiose scale of the sets, the film-like dramatization and of course, a promising cast, all work in Badshah Begum’s favor. It is also very clearly a story that is challenging gender stereotypes – we know that Jahanara will eventually come to power and at this point, the ruling Badshah Begum is a force to reckon with.
The constant mention of the gaddi, however, is confusing. How are all these people related? What power does the pir’s gaddi hold over the region? People unfamiliar with the dynastic workings of pir families are likely to get a bit perplexed.
The confusion is likely to dissipate as the story unfolds. So far, so good.