By Maliha Rehman
In Badzaat, 7th Sky Entertainment’s newest drama to air on GEO Entertainment, Imran Ashraf is an angry young man.
And boy, is he angry. Wali is haunted by the identity of his mother, a dancer who gave precedence to her own desires rather than to the responsibility of raising her son. Wali’s father’s family paid off his mother and took over his care and while his foster mother was kind and loving, it didn’t stop Wali from being labelled a ‘Badzaat’.
It’s made him very, very angry. He frowns and broods. He screams and threatens people. He plays with guns and rarely smiles. His decorates his room with statuettes of roaring lions, bulls, reindeers. When he watches TV, he opts for documentaries where animals are on the hunt, ripping out at each other. He’s perpetually stressed out and often when he comes on screen, the background score goes thump thump thump in a sinister tune – just in case some unassuming member of the audience hadn’t realized yet how menacing Wali could be.
He is angry, complicated, profoundly hurt. He’s also very misunderstood because deep under that hard exterior lurks a man who has been taunted all through his life. This has been established in the drama’s first two episodes that have aired this week.
But Wali does smile slightly when he encounters Anabia, ‘Bia’, played by Urwa Hocane. Bia is a guest at Wali’s house, invited to attend a cousin’s wedding, and she’s impulsive, guileless and petrified of Wali. The first time she is seen on screen, she is on the train with her mother, en route to Karachi, her red dupatta fluttering out from the window. Later, she gets up and peers out from the train’s exit, her dupatta fluttering all the more. There’s a lilting music that accompanies all this. Very Bollywood.
There’s a lot more that’s very filmy about Badzaat in its initial two episodes. There are dialogues, ‘Buss Maa Buss,’ rasps Wali when his uncle taunts him about his birth-mother. There’s Wali’s foster-mother, spilling out maternal love with a constant emotional commentary. There’s our heroine, trembling as she serves a cup of tea to Wali and him, shaking his head and smiling to himself. ‘Pagal,’ he mumbles, amused.
There’s even the title track: ‘Pata hai keh na razamand ho, Mujhe tum abhi bhi pasand ho’. Spurned lovers all across the audience are going to feel drawn towards this one. They’ll hum it and blare it out from their car stereos every time their hearts get broken.
More nuances to the story have been established. Wali’s step-sister, daughter to his birth-mother – played by Zoya Nasir – wants to be a model and he has allowed her to pursue her dreams as long as she doesn’t get inclined towards ‘behayee’. This means that she shouldn’t be wearing revealing clothes – and of course, we can sense the many righteous people in the audience nodding their heads in unison. They may also have lauded Wali when he instructed the guard at his sister’s home to not let her go out. Errant, vulgar women need to be imprisoned in their homes, certainly, they’ll say. Lock ‘em all up.
Wali’s cousin Daniyal, played by Ali Abbas, is also prominent in the story. At this initial point, he’s the classic blue-eyed boy, in love with another cousin, well-mannered and cheerful. He takes the girls shopping, goes out with them for ice-cream, dances in the all-women dholki and plays badminton at night with the cousins. This guy truly doesn’t seem to have any friends of his own considering how he’s always hanging out with his female cousins. He’s also too good to be true – and based on a teaser from the drama, he’s going to be showing his true colors very soon. That’s a relief. A malevolent, scheming villain is so much more interesting than a nauseatingly sweet, dependable cousin.
The cousins don’t like Wali. Bia doesn’t like Wali. The uncle and aunt don’t like Wali. The step-sister doesn’t like Wali and his birth mother seems to be tolerating him only because he supports her financially.
Only Wali’s foster mother loves him unconditionally, advising him to be kinder, better-mannered, less angry. For now, it’s likely that Wali will get angrier before he calms down somewhere down the line. He also seems to be well on his way to falling in love with Bia.
It’s a classic filmy romantic story and as it progresses, this could possibly spiral Badzaat to top the ratings chart. However, it remains to be seen whether the story will move intelligently or simply rely on typical tropes like a hero who is constantly angry and a uni-dimensional pure-hearted heroine. Will Wali resort to constantly screaming and shooting his gun about? We’ve seen one such hero recently in another top-rated drama.
Will the drama applaud Wali for dictating the life of his step-sister or make him see sense? Will the fount of maternal love continue to overflow, with Wali’s mother stroking his hair and making loving declarations in every episode? Or will she also have other duties to perform in the overall storyline? The pronouncements of ‘Wali meri jaan’ may just get a bit too much of they go on and on, despite Wali’s obnoxious behavior.
Based on its initial run, this drama may just be the sort that’s filmy to the core, with music, angst and romance, without delving too deep towards nuanced storytelling. Or, it could be filmy but still have deeper dimensions to it – the sort that brings in the ratings but also starts off conversations.
The first two episodes have set the story rolling and hinted at some interesting complications. Urwa looks lovely as the innocent Bia and Ali Abbas acts well, smiling constantly as he spreads good cheer around him. It is also refreshing to see Saba Faisal in a different avatar, the glamorous dancer of yore rather than the usual evil mother in law or the well-meaning mother. Imran Ashraf has tried to move into a new direction and is suitably menacing as Wali. The role, however, is complicated and it remains to be seen whether Imran will be a favorite hero yet again or become meme material as he brandishes his gun about.
All the ingredients are there, churning about together as the story unfolds. The result could out to be a spicy, addictive mix – or it could be bland, forgettable, the sort of plot that is entirely predictable.
Badzaat is off to an interesting start but the verdict isn’t out yet.
What do you think?