The first episode of the play aired Sunday night to a distracted audience, thanks to two political jalsas, but Umair and Meesha caught everyone’s eye.
Mor Mahal, a Sarmad Khoosat play written by Sarmad Sehbai and produced by Baber Javed, brings period drama to television as it presents a fantastical dream world that is engaging, entertaining and ultimately a thing of mystery. The first episode of the play, which aired this weekend on GEO TV and PTV simultaneously, may have been affected in terms of viewership because of the two political jalsas being covered live at the same time, but those who watched it would agree that it was all about the lead pair Nawab Asif Jehan and his first wife Farrukh Zaad, essayed by Umair Jaswal and Meesha Shafi, respectively.
In the first episode we are introduced to the ruler of the fictional state of Jahaan Abad, Nawab Asif Jehan, who is returning home after four months, completing an important task. The news of his return is welcomed with excitement and an eagerness to make his homecoming as festive as possible. Badshah Begum, the Nawab’s powerful mother (played by Hina Bayat) is introduced, as are the many pawns that reside in the mahal. From the kaneezes and eunuchs to the Nawab’s wives, everyone gets busy to impress him except for his third wife, Meherbano. She is introduced as the youngest wife, married the same day as he leaves on his mission, and in love with another man. Her aim is to escape before the Nawab returns and consummates the marriage. The impending Shab e Uroosi is the highlight of Episode One.
And Farrukh Zaad, also known as Wazir Begum for being the Nawab’s favourite wife, cannot tolerate the idea of him being with the new bride. We see Nawab Asif Jehan and Farrukh Zaad at their very best, whether it is in emoting rage and jealousy – Meesha Shafi is a natural – or whether it is carrying regal expressions that come very naturally to Umair Jaswal. Badshah Begum dislikes Farrukh Zaad (for reasons unknown) and forbids him to visit her chambers. Farrukh Zaad, in a desperate act for attention, takes radical measures to ensure the Nawab comes to her first. It’s all very intense and this suspense is where Episode One ends.
Jaswal and Shafi are undoubtedly the heart and soul of the first episode; their magnificent appearance as well as their strong performance leave a lasting impression. This is Jaswal’s television debut as an actor and what he brings to the play is commendable. Even though it’s too early to pass judgment, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he fits the role of Nawab Asif Jehan like a glove. And Shafi has “an odd, quiet fierceness that makes her perfect for the role of Farrukh Zaad,” as Sarmad Sultan Khoosat puts it. We’d have to agree wholeheartedly!