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Bhai – An Overview

After I kept hearing how interesting Bhai is, I decided to give the drama a second chance. I say second chance, because I watched a bit of the first episode when it aired but after the bird scene and seeing both Saboor Ali and Maha Warsi in one drama (yes I am not a big fan of either), I lost interest. But my curiosity was aroused when I kept hearing how it is definitely worth a watch and seeing as I have always liked Noman Ijaz, I watched the 10 episodes online and my verdict? It is worth a watch – so far, at least.

Directed and produced by Shoaib Khan and written by Afifa Mahmood, Bhai airs on A Plus every Saturday and Sunday night. Bhai is the story of Ashraf (Noman Ijaz) who is the eldest son of Manzoor Ahmed (Salman Shahid) and Shakeela (Seemi Raheel). Ashraf is the ‘councillor’ of the mohalla and thrives on everyone fearing him, including his siblings. His brother Hammad (Affan Waheed) is his total opposite and is educated and does not approve of Ashraf’s ways. The three sisters Khadija (Zoya Malik), Rabab and Saira (Saboor Ali) are constantly being yelled at, bullied and even beaten up on occasion by Ashraf. I know that Ashraf is the eldest child but he seemed to look much older than the rest of the siblings and flashbacks in the later episodes did not seem to suggest there was much of an age difference between Ashraf and Hammad but looking at Noman Ijaz and Affan Waheed I would beg to differ.

Khadija has been nikkofied to her phuppo’s son Sufiyan (Imran Bukhari) and they are shown to be interested in each other. Ashraf ends up getting his sister divorced by bullying Sufiyan as well, who egged on by Ashraf and in a fit of anger divorces Khadija. So that saw the end of Sufiyan and his low slung jeans.

Enter the professor who has just moved into the mohalla and Ashraf instantly falls in love with the professor’s daughter Ifra (Maha Warsi). Even though Ashraf is absolutely horrid but the way he sets out to woo Ifra and his dialogues were hilarious. What was even more hilarious was how Ashraf was acting on the advice dished out by his cousin Jawad (Adnan Shah Tipu) who was giving him tips as if he were the mohalla’s Casanova! The dil wala locket, the phool wali shirts, blue shades all did not have any effect on Ifra who only rebuked Ashraf’s advances who in turn is even more charmed by her and declares she is ‘auraton ki Ashraf’!

Hammad and Ifra meet at the university and fall in love. Hammad is aware of his brother’s interest in Ifra and knows that he has sent a proposal which has been turned down. Ashraf asks his parents to go speak to Ifra’s parents for his rishta and with Ifra issuing Hammad an ultimatum that he send his parents with the rishta or she is leaving the town for good, Hammad speaks to his parents. Long story short, Manzoor and Shakeela go to Ifra’s house to ask for her hand in marriage to Ashraf but end up returning home after having Ifra’s baat pakki to Hammad instead. As expected and feared, all hell breaks loose and Ashraf causes a total uproar. His goons beat up Hammad and we are given an insight into Ashraf’s childhood through flashbacks.

Apparently Ashraf blames his family for his uncouth ways and for making him the way he is. When he was younger he did not do well at school and would get beaten up by his father and watch resentfully how Hammad was a goody two shoes and showered more love and affection because he would study hard. I think we are meant to sympathize with Ashraf here because yes, all those beatings were out of order but to say resentment for his younger brother is what turned him into a total animal who lashes out and controls his sisters to the point of suffocation was a bit much I thought. I know childhood experiences scar you for life and have a huge impact on the kind of person you grow up to be but I will not get into all of that because that delves deep into touchy topics such as parenting and psychology and every other person has a different opinion which is fine and seeing that that is not the purpose of my review – I will stop here.

Saira is allowed (reluctantly) to enrol in a university and there she meets Waqar Younis ka bhai, I mean, Ebad (Rohail Pirzada). Saira is shaken after witnessing an unpleasant incident at university so Ebad insists on dropping Saira home. Jawad sees them and Ebad is beaten up by Ashraf. Ebad belongs to an affluent family and his mamoo is an SP who has Ashraf thrown into jail. Taking advantage of Ashraf being locked up, Ifra and Hammad’s families make quick plans to have their nikkah take place. The way Hammad and his sisters shop and laugh without the grumpy shadow of Ashraf lurking around seemed so natural and real. Even Manzoor seemed to be swept up in the light mood with his ‘duja vya’ comment.

The episode ends with Ashraf being released from jail (after Saira asks Ebad to drop charges) and showing up at the nikkah. I did wonder at Ifra’s parent’s sensibility in agreeing to marriage with Hammad after knowing very well what Ashraf is like and how crazily in ‘love’ he is. But Hammad’s plan to move away and take Ifra with him seemed to pacify them. I still think though that the more sensible thing would have been for the professor to go along with his plans of moving away with his wife and daughter but then that would have nipped the story in the bud and we would have been ‘deprived’ of witnessing Ashraf’s uproar.

I am new to this whole review writing and normally do not have much to comment on about the script but I could not help thinking while watching the drama at how hilarious Ashraf’s dialogues were. The story would have probably been quite average if it were not for the cast and by that I mean, primarily Noman Ijaz. He is superb as Bhai – I know we hate him but his Dabbang fascination, his expressions, his dialogues, his discomfort in his angrezi clothes, referring to Hammad’s car as being sat in a ‘sabundani’, referring to his siblings as chee chee, choosni, laddu, all made me laugh. I could not understand what is going on with Salman Shahid though. I was unable to decipher what he was saying quite a few times and I am not referring to the Punjabi because I understood that just fine – his speech was just quite unclear at times and it made me think he was overdoing his bit . I used to quite like Affan Waheed’s acting but he keeps being cast as the sensitive, soft spoken guy so he does not have much to offer here. Maybe if he focused less on his makeup? Ashraf had such issues with his sister’s ‘laal buliyan’ – I guess the same rule does not apply to the men in the family!

Maha Warsi and Saboor Ali were bearable – and that in itself speaks highly of the director. Seemi Raheel has played such roles before and I thought she portrayed well the emotions of a mother who feels for all her children whether they are right or wrong. I felt so bad for the child who played young Ashraf though. In his few moments of fame, all the poor child got was beaten up endlessly!

I liked the little things that made the execution of the drama different. The credits at the end in urdu, the switch between scenes, the OST that does not give away every aspect of the story. I did however find the layout of Ashraf’s house a bit odd, especially his room in its ‘hey it’s a baby boy’ color scheme.

There! I have tried to cover as much as I could in the overview. The preview for the next episode showed Ashraf roughing up Hammad and later his mother crying and saying she does not know where Ashraf has gone. Will he leave his parent’s house or stay around and cause further havoc? How are you all liking Bhai so far? Please do share your thoughts!

Kunwal Javid

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