Why do we read a review? There are two basic reasons: Either we wish to gauge if the show is worth watching or we wish to seek validation that our opinion matches with the rest of the world. Ek Jhooti Love Story, written by Umera Ahmed and directed by Mehreen Jabbar, released last Friday and people pounced on it like kids pounce on “refreshments” after guests leave in desi households.
When I slept on Thursday, Zee5 hadn’t even released the show. The few hours that passed in blissful slumber were enough for the enthu lot to binge on the entire show and tweet out their verdicts.
“Best best best show!” some squealed.
“Itnaaa boring,’ some declared.
“Do you want my honest opinion?” others felt the need to float out a warning before tweeting their opinion on the much anticipated web series.
It is not possible to not be biased. Embrace your biases and others, because personal likes and dislikes are a reality. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have creatives indulging in various genres. They’d stick to one genre and hope everyone to like it.
This entire preamble doesn’t mean I’m about to ambush the EJLS with my opinion about the web series!
No. It is a plea for viewers to take it easy.
Lately, whenever I watch a Pakistani show and then hop onto social media to find likeminded people, I find myself walking right into warzones. Shades, indirects, and unpopular opinions are used as ammunition to undermine what you dislike and protect what you like.
Similar war-like scenes erupted post EJLS’ release. The web series met with three distinct opinions.
1. There were those who fell in love with the show even before it was released. These were the loyal fans. These days, they are busy suggesting people to go watch Jalan.
Anyone who dares to utter, “It could’ve been fast…”
They come brandishing the #EkJhootiLoveStory hashtag and tagging the likes of Mehreen Jabbar and accusing the opinion holder of liking inane, “far from reality”, masala shows like Jalan.
To them I’d say: I’m sure you’ve disliked, or decided not to watch, a show that others have loved. It’s time you give that same freedom to others. Relax.
2. Then we have the BO-RINGGG chanters. They call themselves the objective viewers.
To them I’d say: If EJLS is boring, I wonder how you manage to complete Pakistani dramas that air on television? And I’m talking about the good ones here like Sabaat and Kashf. Also, if it was THAT boring, how were you invested enough to complete the show?
3. In the end we have the serial cynics: They don’t like Umera Ahmed. Simple. They think her scripts are regressive and she cashes on middle class mentality.
To them I’d say: Yes, some of her scripts – such as Durr e Shehwar, Shehr-e-Zaat, and even Meri Zaat Zara e Benishaan – can be deemed regressive but if you’ve followed Ahmed, you’d notice that her scripts are becoming progressive with each passing project. And even if you feel they aren’t, you cannot deny that the writer knows how to web an enchanting story around realistic scenarios.
If you have an issue with her cashing on “middle class” issues/thinking, then you’re simply being classist.
Rishta culture might be a redundant topic for you, but it is a reality for many!
You can disagree with how she treats the topic, because every human thinks and reacts differently to situations. But if you feel she’s instilling wrong values in impressionable minds, then you might have missed a few nuances.
So, I am here putting out my opinion in the open, because I feel I am a mix of all three mind sets.
Considering it was a web series, I did find the pace to be slow. And I am thankful it was one, because if it were a weekly drama serial, people might have ditched the show after a few episodes and gotten back to it toward the end. Because slow or not, a few minutes in EJLS and you are invested in Nusrat Jahan’s world, which is so uncannily similar to Mrs. Bennet’s from Pride & Prejudice, that you can’t help but smile and look for Lizzy and Darcy.
Fortunately, there’s no arrogant Darcy and strong-headed Lizzy as the lead. Instead we have a caring Sohail and a dreamer Salma. The lead pair is soft, but it certainly isn’t boring.
Lastly, I feel I’m a cynic too, because I found myself frowning up until Shabana didn’t take the decision that she did.
“Oh my God, they’re yet again teaching women to compromise and suppress their feelings to satiate their parents and society’s need to see them happily (or even unhappily) married,” I screamed inwardly. “And why are men giving the best advice while women are projected as shallow gossipers? Why are they showing that abba was right all along and amma was wrong in keeping her children’s’ needs (whatever they might be) on the forefront?”
These questions kept bugging me up until I didn’t witness how each character’s journey unraveled in Ek Jhooti Love Story!
The abba wasn’t always right, and he admits that when Choti goes all emo on her family for not taking her opinion or feelings into account.
The amma was not wrong in wanting the best for her children. She was wrong in going after what the society had deemed best. If she had her daughters’ better interest at heart, she wouldn’t have stopped Shabana from applying for a Fulbright scholarship.
Men spewing pearls of wisdom while women acting like jazbati idiots stood true for most part, but then I justified it by taking into account that EJLS is a story of Nustrat Jahan’s clan – now that clan has three daughters and one son, and all of them are living in an unrealistic bubble until they meet someone who bursts it. In three cases, it is men and in one, it’s a woman called Nosheen who brings Sallu (the brother) on track.
So, naturally it seems like sanity is being prevailed via men.
Contrary to somewhat popular belief, EJLS doesn’t strengthen stereotypes. In fact, it uses the stereotypes as a stepping stone to deconstruct the stereotypical thinking.
Jabbar and Ahmed don’t endorse the toxic rishta culture, which is very much a reality, no matter how boring you think it is.
They give a simple message: Don’t feel pressurised by the standards set by society. Find your own self and own up to it.
Some (and I was one of those until I completed the series) might feel Umera Ahmed has propagated the Durr-e-Shehwar school of thought, but that isn’t the case here.
Shabana, in EJLS, is an example that a woman need not compromise on her wishes to embrace the safety of a rishta that is “ideal” by the standards of the society but not her. A woman has every right to choose not to spend her life with someone, whom her heart doesn’t desire. It is as simple as that.
In fact, Nusrat Jahan is a matriarch. One can argue that she been shown in a negative light. For most part, yes.
She is influenced by the society’s idea of best – Canada ka rishta, government job, and Defence ki pretty larki – but aren’t we all? And that’s wrong.
Shazia, my favourite character from the show, makes us realise that, as she evolves from a person who makes fun of Tanzeel ur Rehman Siddique’s inability to understand English, to a woman who corrects her actions, even if it means accepting that her previous self was a hypocrite.
Initially, I was divided on Shazia’s decision to accept her chacha-zaad bhai. We’ve had enough of that, I thought. And he wasn’t educated enough (or at all) while she was a school teacher. “Will he get it if she jokes about Newton or Murphy?” I thought to myself, but then the other thought in tow was, “you’re being judgmental”.
Which brings us to the most important lesson that EJLS gives: We can judge people to our heart’s content, but we don’t like it when people judge us.
Speaking of lessons, the show is sprinkled with many, and that’s maybe what prevents EJLS from being an all-out entertainer. It seems like Ahmed was given pointers – body-shaming, gora-complex, English-speaking complex, and ‘other side of the bridge’ complex – that she had to develop a script around.
This sometimes leads to repetitive dialogues and scenarios!
For example, I understand Choti AKA Salma’s struggles. I understand, “Meri tou qismat hi kharaab hai” is her taqia qalaam. I say that too a million times in a day and I’m not even a choti. But that doesn’t prevent me from pressing that 10-second forward button every time she or Sohail decide to mope to Mehrama.
The title track is lovely, no doubt, but if I wish to listen to it on repeat, I’ll add it to my SoundCloud playlist. The makers don’t need to imprint it onto my brain.
Since we’ve treaded into dark waters of the things that didn’t work for me in Ek Jhooti Love Story, let me pour my heart out.
How did serial stalkers like Sohail and Salma not realise that they were interacting with fake IDs of Nofil and Nataliya (I love how first alphabets of both the pairs are same)? It’s 2020, and chalo Salma is a noob, but Sohail runs a computer shop!
The talk of “ideals” sounded a bit forced after a while. “Yeh mera ideal nahi hai,” a character would state every ten minutes, and I’d think, “What are you? Twelve?”
I used to have the “ideal talk” with my sisters in my tweens and even then I knew it was all bullshit. The word – ideal – itself is self-explanatory. “Ideals” are not supposed to be “real”. They are “ideals” for a reason, because they are unattainable. And here we have two lecturers and one accountant going on and on about not finding their ideal partners for marriage.
Also, why were the parhay likhay siblings shown misbehaving with their abba in the very first dining table conversation? I feel that was unnecessary and gave out a message that, “larkian (bachay) zyada parh likh jayein tou haath se nikal jaati hain.”
Then we have the loyal friends, Nofil and Salma’s friend. These two are exemplary. They are always supporting their respective friends and opening their hearts out and in the end, providing the much-needed gossip. These two are so nice that Sohail and Salma come across as self-centred when interacting with them. Sohail is never truthful to Nofil while Salma brushes off her friend like a fly unless she’s spilling tea about Nataliya.
The makers could’ve focused on building these friendships and given us meaningful conversations, which I so dearly miss in Pakistani shows these days.
Poor Nofil. Till the very end, I expected him to do a complete 180 and morph into his character from Diyar-e-Dil and mess things up; but all he did was look rich and polished, and act as sweet as a rasgulla. Well, apart from when he requests for mineral water and skips Sohail’s career while introducing him to his posh friends.
In short, the two besties deserved better!
Luckily for you, if Salma and Sohail’s virtual love story (with separate people) doesn’t capture your interest, you have four other pairs to invest your emotions in. The much-loved inspector from Churails (Fawad Khan) reappears here as Tanzeel ur Rehman Siddiqui and your heart goes out to his one-sided adoration. Then we have Nosheen and Sallu’s self-sabotaging love story.
Nusrat Jahan and her husband are your typical Pakistani couple, who love to spew “zahreela maada” on each other, but at the end of the day are each other’s biggest support. I’d like to believe, that the makers didn’t glorify a toxic relationship; instead showed a couple who loved each other but liked to spice things up with healthy fights.
Finally, we have Shabana and Professor Poet – the story arc I almost had an issue with – who give the much-needed message that a 4-lac monthly income and fame cannot suddenly help you make a place in someone’s heart. In cases like these, it is important to listen to your heart instead of compromising for a financially and socially secure future.
As Sohail’s mother – who by the way is an ideal mother in law – says, “Rishtay mein ehsaas bara zaroori hai.” And I hope over here she isn’t just talking about being caring, but also respecting each other’s wishes and opinions.
We must give a special mention to Hina Bayat and Srha Asghar for being ideal companions to our Sohail. Asghar and Bilal Abbas have become the “IT” sibling couple if I may add.
This brings us to the important question: Is Ek Jhooti Love Story worth watching?
But EJLS certainly isn’t my comfort show, which I was hoping it to be. I might go back and watch certain scenes like the last dining table conversation between the Nusrat Jahan clan and the last conversation between Salma and Sohail, which was utterly cute.
we wish our writers go back to writing meaningful dialogues for every single scene instead of adding fillers or relying on the OST to convey the message.
Well…I watched couple of episodes of Daam to understand whether our taste, as an audience, has changed or if Ahmed has approached the script differently. It’s a little bit of both. Writing a light dramedy was new for Ahmed and we, the audience, have also become impatient.
Daam, a classic in my eyes, isn’t exactly a fast-paced show. Then what keeps the audience engaged? Even now. It is the dialogues. Even the mundane late-night conversations that Aamina Sheikh and Adeel Hussain’s characters have on the couch keep me hanging onto each and every word.
If Umera Ahmed and Mehreen Jabbar can do that then, they can do it now too!
On a parting note, I’d like to give one special compliment to Umera Ahmed and Bilal Abbas Khan for Ek Jhooti Love Story. No one writes awkward suhaag raat scenes like Ahmed (think Zindagi Gulzar Hai) and no one enacts them as realistically as Khan (think Pyaar Ke Sadqey). Another Khan also comes to mind when we think of awkward suhaag raat, but he’s busy making babies and hosting online quiz shows, so we’ll bank all our hopes on the Khan we currently have on hand and his yet another web series: Abdullah Pur Ka Devdas. As for Umera Ahmed, no pressure, but I have humongous hopes from Dhoop Ki Deewar.
Zee5 continues to please all audiences quite strategically. Churails was for the proverbial “pull ke uss paar” audience and EJLS for the “pull ke iss paar”. They made the Netflix-bingers subscribe to Zee5 first and now they’re roping in the audience, which isn’t necessarily the target audience for an OTT platform. Let’s see if the next Pakistani web series will be an all-out pleaser or will, again, open to varied views.