Pakistani television over the last decade has evolved into a space where gradually, polarizing narratives are becoming few and far in between. The age of cognization and intelligent storytelling seems to be a lost art – with only a few creative minds remaining who are trying to retain and preserve it. One such excellent example of a deviously cerebral show in the recent past has become, Badshah Begum, which has concluded leaving audiences wanting for more.
Starring an ensemble cast featuring celebrated names such as Zara Noor Abbas, Farhan Saeed, Ali Rehman Khan, Yasir Hussain, Abul Hassan, Komal Meer, Hamza Sohail, Shahzad Nawaz, and Saman Ansari, amongst others, the HUM TV series produced by Rafay Rashdi and Momina Durain explored a kaleidoscope of narratives that brought the underbelly of feudal life to the urbane screens of the metropolitan crowds.
But there was so much more that we, here at Diva, believe made the show a stellar attempt at changing Pakistani media industry’s stagnancy.
An Array of Themes
Unlike much of the hackneyed television narratives seen in the recent past, Badshah Begum does away with staying in one box. It brings forth themes that have rarely made it to the small screen – and with this much impact. Sibling rivalry for example escapes the monotony of saas-bahu shows and instead, brings us to the rugged lands of Peeran Pur, where two sides of the family face each other in grave situations.
On the other hand, it goes beyond just making this a male-driven attempt at looking at the issue of inheritance and dynastic politics. Instead, it brings forward a character like Jahan Ara, which Zara Noor Abbas does pure justice to as she goes on to change the concept of how feudal systems work and are constructed. It truly brings forward the concept of a powerful woman who is willing to sacrifice herself to save what she holds dear to her.
Adding on to this, one cannot help but appreciate the themes of education and awareness that the show builds up through its 30-something episodic run. There’s a valid question of illiteracy, dearth of modernity, and the need to break traditional moulds that take centrality within Badshah Begum. What we loved even further was how it wasn’t a banal viewpoint of it all, however, we do see too much change being a catch-22 as it does leave many at dire straits.
The Thickening Plot
Going beyond the concept of making this a caricature of rural lives and feudal families, Badshah Begum intricately weaves the plot into one, where Pir Shah Alam’s divided family become the pawns of chess in a game that is even larger than what they make of it. The way the lives of Shahzeb, Murad, Jahan Ara, Roshan Ara and Shamim coalesce into a larger, messier situation, paves way for how the hierarchies of feudalism will make each of them a victim of its design.
The story, which for thirty-one episodes pitted blood with blood, also brought forward themes of deviousness, where characters like Pir Qaiser, played remarkably by Yasir Hussain, proved to be as vicious as they come. His menace and manipulation bring death to the family, but like in real-life stories, it all becomes clockwork in the larger plot of fighting for the throne.
Towards the conclusion and in the last episode too, the turmoil remains evident and in a shocking turn of events, when most of the series’ protagonists find themselves killed, it leaves the audience gasping for air. No one would have expected Jahan Ara to lose, but the way she finds herself in a situation where she was to ultimately sacrifice herself, proved that the storytelling of the show went beyond just predictability. The very fact that in the end, Pir Shahzeb finds himself on the throne to be the new Pir makes for a poignant closure.
It also left us, much like the audience, questioning if it was even a chance for things to change. Could there be anyone who would usher in a new era or would the system continue to be the way it has always been?
To give credit where it’s due, it wouldn’t be wrong to call Badshah Begum a catalyst for many of the future successes the actors in the show will receive. The show has proven to give a renewal of many of the ensemble cast’s careers as it has given them a chance to prove their acting prowess. The show did not require the actors to remain in the stereotypical boxes usually they fit into on our television screen, and instead directed them into newer spaces where their bravura acting skillsets could shine through.
Be it Zara Noor Abbas, Ali Rehman Khan, Yasir Hussain, Farhan Saeed or many other pivotal names in the series, every individual stood out with their stellar performances. If there was a show that showcased how good their repertoire is, it had to be Badshah Begum.
One of the biggest strengths of Badshah Begum remained its strong execution of production values. The production design and the cinematography rarely leave anything to be desired. Most of the sets do away with the usual domestic set-ups of households, and instead bring the audience to the dusty lands of the rural sprawl.
There’s honesty in the way it has been shot and throughout each sequence, it’s visible. So much so, that from the fight scenes to scenes with thousands of extras, all have been done with utmost perfection! It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this probably will pave the way for Pakistani television to compete with its international counterparts – on TV and OTT platforms.
Towards Strong Direction & Writing
Providing the series with its rightful ethos of darkness, obscurity and palpable moments, director Khizer Idress has done Badshah Begum complete justice. His approach towards a more cinematic feel to the show and making it an intelligent narrative comes through in each scene. It leaves the audience understanding that the show goes beyond the hackneyed viewpoints usually available for the audience, and offers them newer spaces to explore – something which is the true need of the hour.
Similarly, the writer of the show, the much-celebrated Saji Gul has gone beyond expectations as well. The writing feels fresh and nuanced in a way which probably was last seen during the golden era of PTV. Each character has been fleshed out perfectly, and it does provide proper spaces for each role to develop – something which is no short of a feat on its own.
The Right Production Team
Teaming up to create a close to perfect dark political thriller for television audiences, the duo of Rafay Rashdi and Momina Duraid truly proved to be a godsend. Not only did the two bring some much-needed newer storytelling to the small screen, but also took a gamble with making it at a time when formulaic television has become the modus operandi. It proves that when two minds think alike, good gritty narratives can be created!
With Badshah Begum ending, one would hope that such a series could find a bigger space on our television screen yet again, and would pave the way for more such intellectual narratives to be what the audiences enjoy more than the stereotypical.
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