Writing this review is difficult, because it’s hard to separate the novel lover from the drama viewer. Therefore, this review will be a critique of the show, sure. But it will also be a commentary on how Aangan essentially lost the plot. Aangan is a show that had everything going for it from the get-go: A star-studded cast, a stellar production house, a great writer and, most of all, a truly solid piece of literature to guide the show down a unique path. That being said, the team of Aangan did not stay true to the soul of the book and in their efforts to manipulate the story to appeal to fans, the soul of the original story has been crushed. Breaking the finale up into the two major plot points, let’s discuss what went wrong.
The first major plot point of the finale focuses on Jameel and Chammi. This is relegated to one short scene that caters to fans of the Ahad Raza Mir and Sajal Aly pair – and quite honestly, that’s all of Pakistan. The scene begins with Aaliyah (Mawra Hocane) receiving a letter from Chammi, informing her of her marriage to Jameel. We are then taken back to the proposal. Jameel comes to see Chammi, claiming he’s there to see the child, but she’s asleep. Jameel then, in a scene filled with chemistry between the two, proposes to Chammi. A treat for Sajal and Ahad fans, this scene is fanfare and brings a smile to the viewer’s face. It must be said that Sajal Aly’s acting in this scene is incredible. Ahad gets the majority of lines and does a great job as well, but Sajal steals the show with her silence, Chammi battling her misery and joy all at once, attempting to grasp this moment in her life and understand it. It’s a beautifully enacted scene. So what’s the complaint? Let’s get back to that in a moment.
The second major plot point in the final episode focuses on Aaliyah and Safdar (Ahsan Khan). Now aware of Tehmina’s death, Safdar grieves with Aaliyah, discussing his feelings of hurt and regret. He tells Aaliyah that he knew her mother would never accept him and without that acceptance, he and Tehmina could never have been together. Safdar and Aaliyah continue to meet. At this point, Aaliyah has already been informed of Jameel and Chammi’s marriage, so she’s in an interesting frame of mind. She begins seeing Chammi’s naivety and kindness, her injured soul in Safdar. She harbors notions of being the only one to support him, of being his rock. In this moment, Aaliyah finally lets her guard down and imagines herself romantically involved with someone, the idea of Jameel and Chammi’s marriage allowing her to let Jameel go and envision herself with Safdar. This thought not only gives her comfort in companionship, but also allows her to feel closer to her sister. When Safdar proposes to her, she thinks about it for a moment until Farida (Aaliyah’s mother) steps out of the house and spots Safdar. In a rage, blaming Safdar for the ruin of her family, she demands he leave – at this moment, Aaliyah grabs his arm and declares herself different from Tehmina, telling Farida that she is going to marry Safdar. Safdar begins to argue his case to Farida, hoping to convince her of his worth, declaring that he’s no longer the old Safdar. Up until this point, Aaliyah supports him, interjecting in his favor – until Safdar makes a statement that sets off a trigger for Aaliyah. Like Dr. Ahsan (Shehroze Sabzwari), Safdar tells Farida that he owns a home, a car and now lives to earn money. Aaliyah immediately retorts “Is this what we left our home for?” and just as Farida agrees to marry Aaliyah to Safdar, Aaliyah refuses the marriage. Safdar leaves the house and Aaliyah is left to contemplate her decisions, a voice-over informing viewers of Aaliyah’s thoughts. Thoughts that echoed in Chammi’s voice, saying “Maine aap ko haraa diya, Bajiya. Maine aap ko haraa diya” (You lost, Bajiya – and I won). The book closes – the end of Aangan.
Going back, it’s been elaborated upon how Jameel and Chammi’s love story has been stretched due to the Ahad Raza Mir and Sajal Aly pairing – and their scene was absolutely included to cater to their massive fan following. However, does this scene do justice to the actual story Khadija Mastoor was trying to convey? That’s where the scene becomes one to criticize. Unfortunately, the character of Jameel has gone down a slippery slope. By increasing the focus on Jameel and Sajal, Jameel has come out looking like a horrible human being. In the novel, Jameel and Chammi’s love story is a one-sided tale told from Chammi’s point of view. For all the reader knows, Chammi may have misinterpreted the entire thing. Jameel maintains that he never felt anything for her and she misconstrued his friendship. The reader must accept this in order to embrace Jameel’s relationship with Aaliyah. When Jameel and Aaliyah begin their angle, Chammi has already moved on and she fills Aaliyah’s head against Jameel, not because she is still hung up on him, but out of a sort of revenge/payback, almost an attitude of “If I can’t have him, no one can.” Yet, she moves on herself to Manzoor. Later, when Jameel and Chammi get married, it’s presented as something Jameel does as a form of obligation, an act of retribution, a step he takes in order to care for his family despite his love for Aaliyah. This is why, when Aaliyah finds out about Jameel and Chammi, she feels betrayed by Chammi – as though Chammi won a battle. Chammi’s words caused Aaliyah’s mistrust in Jameel and Chammi’s marriage to Jameel strikes Aaliyah as a game played by Chammi. Instead, in the show we are treated to lengthy flirtations and declarations of love, so when Jameel begins ignoring Chammi, it’s flat-out betrayal. Jameel carries on his declarations of love to Aaliyah, but here in the last episode, he declares his love for Chammi. This paints Jameel into a corner as an untrustworthy character – does he love Aaliyah or did he always love Chammi? Which is it? If he always loved Chammi, the essence of Aaliyah’s sacrifice is absolutely lost – and in the show, it absolutely is. Likewise, Chammi is a great character for Sajal to portray on screen and she does an incredible job of it – but the way she has been written towards the end half of the show has weakened the very spirit of Chammi as a character. The strength and the fighter within has been converted to a lovesick puppy, a woman who obsesses over a man who never seemed to care for her. This is a disappointing change.
Aaliyah, a character who should have been headlining the show and been front and center, has been consistently neglected regarding powerful lines and scenes. The fearless feminist that she is, a progressive character in a time when women were seen as pawns and burdens, Aaliyah should have been the character of the show – instead, she tends to play 2nd fiddle in a show centered around her. However, in the final episode, we see Mawra step up to the plate to depict Aaliyah’s emotions in a more transparent way. Unfortunately, at this point, it’s already too late.
The second part of the story, in regards to the novel, is not as far-fetched as the Jameel-Chammi love story. However, one major factor changes the overall “feel” of the Safdar-Aaliyah relationship. In the novel, Safdar finds out about Tehmina’s death through others shortly after her suicide. He is not ignorant – and this is why he does not come back. This bit of information is important to the story for many reasons, one being that Safdar loved Tehmina and was not fickle in that love. But most importantly, in relation to this specific episode, this information is important as it instantly would have removed the “creepy” factor to Safdar. In the novel, Safdar has had years to dwell on Tehmina’s death. He has mourned her and held her close to his heart even in her death. In the show, however, Safdar is ignorant about Tehmina’s death and discovers this information only days before he decides to propose to Aaliyah, Tehmina’s sister. This change further emphasizes the importance of small details. While a man who Aaliyah grew up thinking of as a brother proposing would still be uncomfortable, this change in Safdar’s knowledge changes the entire character of Safdar. Aaliyah’s rejection of Safdar still happens, but Safdar doesn’t seem like a negative character in the book. Now having said that, Ahsan Khan still works with the material he has been given and gives a commendable performance. With the only double role in the show, Ahsan Khan still manages the least amount of screen time – yet is memorable in both roles. If only he had been allowed to play the role of Safdar a bit differently, it would’ve made for a more endearing performance as well.
Coming back to Aaliyah’s rejection of Safdar, this is actually the only complaint I have with Aaliyah’s writing and performance in this episode. That switch from “let’s get married” to “Get out of my house” goes off so quickly, viewers are taken aback by what transpires. While Aaliyah’s reaction is rash and happens in the moment, the way this scene is shot makes it difficult to understand Aaliyah. This is my only complaint with Mawra’s Aaliyah in this episode though, performance-wise. In fact, despite the severe issues with Aaliyah’s character and the way she’s been etched out on the show, this final episode finally gave Mawra Hocane a chance to truly shine as an actress. This episode belongs to Aaliyah and viewers see Aaliyah go through a number of emotions within this one episode, which is made possible by Mawra’s great performance. If only the creatives had bestowed Mawra with such material consistently, the show would have been stronger.
Looking at the show overall and weighing the best performances, that title would go to Omair Rana, who does a fabulous job as Mazhar, and Mustafa Afridi as Azhar. Quite honestly, the entire “older generation” cast members perform their roles with sheer brilliance – everyone from Uzma Beg, Abid Ali, Zeb Rehman, Sonya Hussain, Ahsan Khan, Hassan Noman, these actors are all flawless in their roles. Likewise, the younger generation actors like Mawra Hocane, Hira Mani, Ahsan Khan (again), Ahad Raza Mir and, last but not least, Sajal Ali, all do full justice to their roles and what they’ve been given to work with. Arguing against the story is one thing, but each and every actor in Aangan has done their part with sincerity. Almost every actor in Aangan could be touted as giving their career-best performance in this show.
With that said, Aangan has been a visual treat, a show that could be called poetry in motion, bringing art to life on television. Aangan has given viewers access to great performances, beautiful sets, powerful dialogues, layered characters and even one of the best original soundtracks in recent years. The show has not been a negative ride, rather it’s been one that propelled excitement and made the audience look forward to Thursday evenings. One only wishes Mustafa Afridi had stayed true to the concept of the novel and the underlying message it tried to convey. By altering small details, the essence of the story was altered, leaving the audience confused and unsatisfied.