Chaudhry & Sons cannot be compared to any other drama I’ve watched recently. It evades the serious genre, but then again, it’s not all too comedic. The characters amuse and touch hearts, yet, are seriously flawed at times; the dialogues, crisp, light, and at times, heavy; the performances – finely contoured like Billu & dada, blatantly contrived like Pari & Dadi, or subtle like Paro and her dad – Chaudhry & Sons seemed to coerce me into watching if only to know when Shakir would finally dye his hair, would Dr. Salma eventually get together with Dildar Chaudhry, and Tashi with Paro? Will Tooba find a middle ground? Will dada forgive Pari and … will the drama be able to sustain all these stories right up to the end, keeping our attention in a multiverse of … distractions?
Eid films came and went, I watched two, but Chaudhry & Sons stayed with me. Perhaps because I have developed this new-found appreciation for Punjabi humor. (I credit Ishq Jalebi for that one)! When Shakir says that dada’s mood remote control is in his hands, when Billu attempts to be in the flow, when Parisa speaks in the third person, when Dadi calls Billu boy and giggles in her late-night digest reading moments, when Shabbo experiences kitchen nightmares and Nimmo continues to go strong, the story hands out even more laugh moments from Tashi (mamoo) and Bunty hiding his snacks in the storeroom.
The Chaudhry family infiltrated our living room in Ramazan, and we were left wondering why we had to say goodbye to our paratha-filled sehris and illaichi chai evenings.
How did it fare on the watchability scale then? Let’s get to it!
It would be fair to say that Imran Ashraf managed to get in the flow of things, peace out, and keep the pace right to the end. From breaking into spontaneous rap and rocking his colorful jackets (could we have your stylist please), he slipped into Billu mode from day 1 and it was a pleasure to see him carry the drama on his shoulders, literally, throughout the 30 odd episodes!
Ayeza Khan as Pari received some flak for her tightly-ribboned hairdo and perpetual dialogue in the third person. For some reason, it failed to irk me. I saw her as a hugely contrived character, and just like her dadi, who hatched incredible plans to unite her granddaughter with her estranged family, I made peace with them both. Dadi aka Irsa Ghazal made me smile with her principal-like perspective on life, I don’t think anyone could have done it better, and Ayeza Khan made me sit back and just take a chill pill. This girl was playing a role and somehow, I was okay knowing this character existed purely on screen. That’s the thing about Ramazan dramas, you learn to take the lame with the serious messaging that filters through (will come to that in a moment) and you enjoy the events unfolding onscreen.
How else would you explain Shahrukh on a Pyari Pari repeat and Tashi mamoo’s futile attempts at tying the knot, Sabir aka Saqib Sumeer’s obsession with his animal patients and Shabbo’s ability to strive on and prep breakfast every morning!
Where Yasir Nawaz made us laugh at Tashi’s misfortune, Tooba aka Zoya Nasir made us smile at her coming to terms with her one-sided love story. Dr. Salma’s aka Shagufta Ejaz’s significance in dada aka Sohail Ahmed’s life was both heartening and cause for some well-directed humour.
What I mean to say is, that despite having a cast that might have seemed too voluminous (by the strength of sheer numbers) to manage, director Wajahat Hussain and writer Saima Akram Chaudhry did a fabulous job at giving individual characters substantial screen time, a developing story, as well as sending out bite-sized messages packaged in humour – well done there team Chaudhrys for some on-point casting and performances!
The Messages & There Were Many
Marrying in old age. Our society has been an age-old victim of Ageism. We believe that people need to give up on life and love even though they are living breathing specimens on earth. We believe that love doesn’t happen twice. We believe that marriage into a completely diverse community will end in disaster and contaminate our lineage. We believe that our youth must pay back their elders for their love and care by giving them a lifetime of obedience and compromise on personal dreams and wishes. We believe that traditional professions are respectable and anyone who decides to become eg. A vet is not really taking on a real career. We believe …
Chaudhry & Sons tackled each of these issues like moves on a chessboard. The play was strong, the opponent steeped in suffocating tradition and so-called familial values, and the competition reached epic levels at times.
When Tashi attempts to elope with Paro, when Shabbo threatens to break up from the family, when Billu is faced with a decision – to choose dada or Pari – we were at a crossroads every time. The drama aimed to deconstruct cobwebbed ideologies and show us a way out in the voice of the very enlightened Dr. Salma and yes, a bit of Dadi as well!
It was heartening to see Dr. Salma explain to dada that Billu was trying to give him (dada) a way out. To escape his misery, his obstinacy, and his stubborn denial of his children’s wishes and dreams by making him choose.
It was heartening to see Tashi finally tying the knot with Paro, and Shabbo welcoming an educated woman in the Chaudhry household. It was a relief to see Billu tear up those divorce papers because he knew Pari didn’t really have her heart in it. Despite carrying old-fashioned values inside him, Billu showed he had the ability to embrace the new, in fact, he was a perfect amalgamation of the new and old, just like Pari, who sought hard to appease dada without causing a direct conflict. These two characters and all the others won our hearts many times!
Finally, perhaps the drama sought to champion a very well needed cause, that of forging a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren – this is a long-forgotten practice and both sides must make an effort to stay connected. Grandparents must not be treated as a relic of the past, an antique, a monument to be kept in the home as long as their life cycle lasts. If I sound clinical that is because that is exactly what we have made of this relationship often. In the same way, grandchildren can be the greatest source of joy for aging grandparents and if we can’t reap this major benefit of a joint family system, then we have lost on all fronts.
Not just grandparents but neighbours also have a claim to our lives, companionship, and generosity when they need it. Saima Akram Chaudhry has helped revive memories of many who used to fall back on their mohalla as their primary go-to support system. Let’s hope the drama inspires many to attempt to bring back the goodness from the olden days, perhaps start by sending over some mithai or a cake next Eid or just ringing the bell and going over for a cup of chai? Try and get to know the people who inhabit a world beyond the 4 walls of your home, just next door, you’d be surprised at the relationships you’re missing out on!
What Could Have Been Handled Better?
There’s always room for improvement. And though we were handed out some thought-provoking messages in a society that is finely balanced between the old and new (just like the narrative), I had my reservations.
For starters, the script itself, though it made us laugh, incorporated the very heavy element of shunning a daughter and never looking back to discover her whereabouts. This plot for me, is a bit too overbearing for a comic script, which is why I named it a dramedy. Furthermore, when the family discovered Sabbo was no more, the brothers, namely Shakir, Sabir and then Tashi, were more moved by the revelation than dada himself. Elders in the family cannot be shown to disengage with their loved ones with such disturbing finality & deep emotion, albeit they do it over their ego, it left a bad taste in my mouth.
To add to the misery, playing a prank on the family about Billu’s near-fatal accident was totally unjustified, in my humble opinion. To knowingly fool a grandparent and a mother into thinking their son might die, even if it is in confidence with the doctor (in fact, I would be surprised if any doctor would allow such foul play) was an unwelcome plot twist in the least. One we could have done without. Though Billu continued to make us smile with his hospital shenanigans, the drama run time reached ‘drag’ levels. In fact, the entire story could have been wrapped up in 30 or 32 episodes.
Finally, showing Billu upset a thelay wala and make a run for it was accounted for as he paid for it with consequences, but stealing exam papers was not something to be taken lightly. A story bordering on comedy gives us the license to get away with quite a bit, however, some plot twists can be left well alone, or tweaked to prevent wrong signaling in a society that needs positive role models, which incidentally, both Pari and Billu showed us right to the end as well!
That said, every great show can go from super to superlative, and the critique mentioned above was meant in no way, to take away from some extraordinary laugh moments blissfully thrown our way! Chaudhry & Sons was, undoubtedly, a refreshing blend of the old and new, with direction that stepped out of the box. Remember how Dildar Chaudhry’s world stopped when Dr. Salma appeared onscreen? That’s precisely how viewers slipped into dreamy mode when a Chaudhry & Sons episode aired every evening to give company to their post-Ramazan chai session with a hint of illaichi. Were you one of them?
Chaudhry & Sons was a project of Har Pal Geo, produced by Asad Qureshi and Abdullah Kadwani under the banner of 7th Sky Entertainment and like last year’s Ramazan dramas, provided many light, smiling moments for the entire family! The ensemble cast included, among others, Shagufta Ejaz, Noor ul Hassan, Sohail Ahmed, Hammad Shoaib, Zoya Nasir, Irsa Ghazal. Madiha Rizvi, Sami Khan, Yasir Nawaz, Asma Abbas, Beenish Chohan, Saqib Sumeer, Raeed Mohammad Alam, Usman Peerzada.