“Alif” is, at the very core, a tale of spirituality, a tale of self-discovery and a tale of finding one’s place in the world. Based on the novel “Alif” by Umera Ahmed, the show stars Hamza Ali Abbasi, Sajal Aly, and Ahsan Khan in leading roles, with Manzar Sehbai, Saleem Mairaj, Lubna Aslam, Saife Hassan and Pehlaaj Hassan in important supporting roles. Episode 1 introduced the characters of Momin, a film director at the top of his craft, and Momina, a struggling actress playing side roles to provide for her family. Viewers were also given a peek into Momin’s past with his mother while living in Turkey as a child. The latest episode elaborates emotionally on these characters.
Momina (Sajal Aly) is seen reminiscing about Faisal (Osman Khalid Butt), her boyfriend from college. While the two were committed, Momina ultimately had to break up with him due to her family’s financial burdens, burdens which rested firmly on her shoulders. Brokenhearted over Jahangir’s illness and the loss of her dreams, Momina visits Master Ibrahim (Saife Hassan), a man she considers her mentor and where she spends her time restoring Qurans to give her heart a moment of peace. Momina finds herself breaking down when Master Ibrahim prods her to discuss Jahangir. Master Ibrahim reassures Momina, telling her that everyone belongs to Allah and he cares for his people. She responds “Sab Allah ke hain. Bas Momina Allah ki nahin hai” and bows her head, crying. The silence between the two speaks volumes, Momina helpless in her grief and Master Ibrahim helpless to console her, perplexed by her low moment. Sajal Aly deserves a round of applause for her acting in this scene. Her expressions, her eyes, her voice modulation – everything comes together to paint Momina’s plight in a way that each viewer can feel her emotions. Sajal has always been an actress that can be called “dependable” (to say the least), but with each show, she proves why she’s a treasure of an actress. Her performance as Momina, only two episodes in, shows that she is the perfect choice to play this role. Momina’s pain is furthered as she is pushed aside at work due to being too good at her craft. Leaving lead actresses feeling overshadowed, her scenes are cut and lines are rewritten to relegate her to the background.
Momin (Hamza Ali Abbasi) and Neha (Sadaf Kanwal) are seen at a Mehfil, listening to a qawwali. Momin laughs as Neha describes the atmosphere as “spiritual” and the two leave discussing her ability to be easily influenced. While Momin does not agree with her emotions, he seems smitten by the woman and indulges her, teasing her lovingly about her “enemy,” Sophie, a rival fashion designer that has expressed an interest in working with him. Later, Momin gives an interview to a publication, highlighting his arrogance, self-confidence and believe that item numbers, revealing clothing and women sell a film. However, when prodded about his family, Momin is hesitant to lay out the cards, revealing his lineage as half Turkish and half Pakistani, but stating that his mother was a housewife – hiding the truth from the world. Hamza Ali Abbasi has acted in few plays and films, but despite this, he proves with each role that he is an actor of stature. His performances have substance and he carries his roles with a strength that few actors have – power in his vocals and power in his emoting. Hamza as Momin is shining so far, effectively showing the vulnerability hidden behind the overconfidence that Momin exudes.
Momin is taken back in time when his grandfather, Abdul Aala (Manzar Sehbai), arrived in Turkey as little Momin (Pehlaaj Hassan) and his mother Husn E Jahaan (Kubra Khan) waited for Taaha (Ahsan Khan). Heartbroken to hear that Abdul Aala has not seen Taaha in 6 years, the three of them set out to search for Taaha. Momin overhears Husn E Jahaan and Abdul Aala discuss their differences as both of them tearfully wonder where Taaha could have gone. Cutting to present day, Momin is partying at his home when Abdul Aala arrives from Turkey. Arriving unannounced, Momin has not had time to prepare his apartment to conceal his revealing paintings and pictures, usually replaced by Abdul Aala’s calligraphy in anticipation of his arrival. Abdul Aala seems shocked and disapproving of Momin’s party and décor, but silently goes to his room and does not say anything to Momin.
Manzar Sehbai moves between past and present with a heart-wrenching sincerity, showing the passage of time (and age) in his mannerisms and movements. While the Abdul Aala of the past is strong and supportive, the Abdul Aala of the present is more frail and is in a constant state of repentance. Manzar Sehbai’s performance is beautiful and his role has a lot more to offer as the story proceeds. Kubra Khan is beautiful as a broken, abandoned woman who is unable to wrap her head around the disappearance of her husband. She is doing a great job and will excel once her track as Husn E Jahaan takes off. All in all, while the first episode of Alif was much more action-packed, episode 2 picks up the emotional aspects and presents it through the brilliant performances of its actors. “Alif” is the show Pakistani drama audiences have deserved and have been waiting for over the last two years.