Jurm offers suspense, a layered story, a new style of storytelling

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By Maliha Rehman

A murder. Chases down narrow alleys. And an ensemble of layered characters, all with possible ulterior motives. Jurm, produced by Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi, directed by Mehreen Jabbar and airing on Geo Entertainment, has all the ingredients of a classic murder mystery.

Murder mysteries, though, can be difficult to harness. The suspense can get built, a series of mysterious scenes could flit through the TV screen, characters could go about making obtuse declarations and yet, a single loophole could make the story fall flat.

Two episodes in, this four part series hasn’t fallen flat at all yet. In fact, the story is well-knit and told in a very interesting way. Wahaj Ali is Daniyal and Dur-e-Fishan Saleem his wife, Ayla. They are on the verge of having a romantic cup of tea at a deserted roadside café when gunmen enter their car. They make the car wind through dark alleys before first dragging the driver out and later, also making Daniyal leave the car. An unconscious Daniyal wakes up on the road the next morning to discover that the men have left with his wife. It is later discovered that his wife has passed away and the police embark on an investigation to find the murderer.

The story quickly moves on to Daniyal’s home. His father Majeed Zaman, played by Mohammad Ehteshamuddin, is a well-reputed billionaire. His mother Shahana, enacted by Atiqa Odho, moves about the house dizzily, shaking solace in meditation. Tazeen Hussain plays Nasima, Ayla’s mother, who is in a state of shock and melancholy over her daughter’s disappearance and probable death. Tooba Siddiqui is Samina, Majeed Zaman’s capable personal secretary and joining the ensemble are a slew of actors playing policemen and journalists keen on finding out more about the high profile murder.

The script, written by fledgling writer Yasir Shah, is a mature one. The story keeps yo-yoing between the past and the present. There are flashbacks of how Daniyal and Ayla got married and the obstacles that came their way. The present shows a house in mourning, a police force intent – remarkably efficiently! – on finding the murderer and a social media blogger avidly trying to play investigator.

Characters go off on tangents and say things that could be laden with meaning or be entirely meaningless. Did Daniyal’s parents resent Ayla for making their son want to live independently after marriage? Did Daniyal deliberately hire a driver who was inclined towards crime? And what is the point to the bespectacled, ever- efficient Samina – could she have a motive also?

Needless to say, Jurm is a completely different kind of story to emerge on to Pakistan’s TV-scape. It’s so good to see Mehreen Jabbar back in the realm of TV, doing things her way rather than following routine gimmickry. A large part of Jurm’s charm, I feel, lies in her ingenious camera-work which tilts at off-beat angles and resists delving towards the bright Technicolor common to TV dramas. Instead, Jurm’s narrative swerves into muted beiges in scenes from the past, gaining color in the present. The actors, all seasoned veterans, all very good-looking, have been allowed to look a bit gritty, a bit more real. They certainly look good when the scenes require it – for instance, initially, when the lead pair is having a romantic night out – but this is thankfully not the kind of drama where the cast will be looking like they are off to a party even when they are in mourning!

It’s a new kind of storytelling and producers Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi, well-known for hauling in ratings with their very commercially viable long dramas, know this. Perhaps the typical drama-watching public is fixated for now with long drawn-out stories but bit by bit, short series, dabbling with unique genres, helmed by directors like Mehreen Jabbar who are committed to doing things differently, could extend the TV audience’s palette. Jurm is definitely out of the box and it maintains a fast pace, keeping one rooted.

The performances of the cast, of course, help. It is undeniable that Wahaj Ali, currently TV’s most loved hero, as the main lead has helped build hype for Jurm. Having said this, even prior to his current wave of super stardom, Wahaj’s acting prowess has been exemplary. Jurm is a far cry from the polished, suave hero he is currently playing on TV. Here, he is the distressed husband with possible insidious inclinations, his hair messed up, clothes rumpled, a bandage plastered across half his forehead. He acts very well – you almost almost forget that he’s also currently the famous Murtasim of Tere Bin!

Dur-e-Fishan Saleem is, similarly, a natural. She’s the young girl in love, through and through, trying to tackle marriage and her tricky in-laws. You end up gravitating towards her – Dur-e-Fishan Saleem does tend to make her characters very likeable. It’s one of her biggest strengths as an actor.

The rest of the cast is also a powerful one and they all fit very well together, like the pieces of a puzzle that will eventually come together to pinpoint the perpetrator of the ‘jurm’ (crime) that has been committed.

After two more episodes, the pieces will come together and we’ll know who is to blame. Provided that the story keeps up the pace, a few more mysterious circumstances get thrown in and there are no loopholes, Jurm promises to continue being quite riveting.

And who knows, perhaps two years down the line, we’ll look back and remember that it was around this time that a new form of storytelling, short series dabbling with unique topics, started getting prevalent on TV.

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Jurm offers suspense, a layered story, a new style of storytelling