ISLAMABAD: Television in Pakistan is perhaps the most dominant medium of art. However, it’s unfortunate that only a handful of producers willingly experiment with its content and narratives. Originality and innovation is rather lost in the rat race for ratings and it’s a struggle hunting for something extraordinary to watch these days.
Nevertheless, this year has witnessed a number of intriguing storylines, from the Qandeel Baloch biopic Baaghi to Alif Allah Aur Insaan, both of which challenged societal norms and shed light on not one but several topics taboo in the country, such as prostitution and the transgender community.
This time, acclaimed director Mohammad Ehtishamuddin has now returned with yet another unconventional tale, inspired by Khadija Mastoor’s novel Aangan. The period piece is showcases an intense romance and takes us back to the 1920s, with a plot spanning the lives of two generations, comprised of Ahsan Khan, Sonya Hussyn, Mawra Hocane, Ahad Raza Mir and Sajal Aly . Omair Rana, Abid Ali, Zaib Rehman and Uzma Hassan will also be joining in as supporting characters.
The Express Tribune got Aangan’s lead pair – Ahsan and Sonya – to spill some beans on the show, which went on floors in Wazirabad just last week. Ahsan is undoubtedly very fond of Ehtisham, having worked with him in a special Independence Day telefilm before and of course, the game-changer Udaari.
“Ehtisham is a great director and above that, he’s a great person who knows how to deal with his actors. I have always been very comfortable with him and I trust his vision,” said the actor. “You see, it’s not all about ratings. He and I did a serial together called Preet Na Kariyo Koi and it wasn’t a huge success but we enjoyed making it. I feel one needs to satisfy the actor in you and feel good about what you’re doing. Working with Ehtisham does that for me.”
Sonya, who has been riding high on the great response to her latest serial Aisi Hai Tanhai, claimed the theme of Aangan resonated within her. “I’ve wanted to do a period play for the longest of time! My family’s originally from Lucknow, and considering Aangan is a pre-partition story, I felt at home,” she revealed. “I think in some bizarre way, I relate to the world that Aangan is set in; I absolutely love the wardrobe, the dialogues and the whole feel of the play that Ehtisham has captured perfectly. I’ve never extensively worked with him before, but he’s truly one of our finest directors.”
Speaking of historical serials, Ahsan earlier was famously part of a pre-partition saga titled Dastaan, alongside Fawad Khan and Saba Qamar. When asked why this specific genre is often omitted from the commercial television landscape, Ahsan opined that budgetary constraints in Pakistan and a lack of interest were to be blamed. Aangan, however, is expected to change that and more, thereby setting new benchmarks for local television.
“There’s always a certain depth and beauty in period plays, but production houses hardly make them anymore because it requires a lot of time and effort to recreate an era. They’re more expensive and it’s relatively tougher for the director and the production team. There’s also no guarantee of how well they’d do either,” shared the Meray Qatil Meray Dildar star. “Mustafa had been working on Aangan for more than a year. It was undoubtedly one of the best novels of its time and now it’s been written by a new writer. I feel such plays are memorable and acquire a cult-classic status if produced well. And one can certainly trust Ehtisham with that.”
Though Aangan’s cast is a mix of some of the best actors in the business, insecurities brewing behind-the-scenes in an ensemble play are only natural. However, Sonya plans to let her work do the talking. “Aangan’s been written really well. When I first went through the script, I realised that my character was perhaps the most prominent and I felt I had enough room to explore its dynamics and intensity. You know, she has a lot of shades to her,” the budding actor disclosed. “When you’re offered a certain role, it’s either innocent or dark. But this one has a lot of variation to it. In fact, it’s very human and real. After I did Nazo, I became very selective about accepting roles and this project was exactly the kind of departure and freshness I was looking for.”
Sonya was also all-praises for her co-stars. “I’m very fond of all the actors in the serial. I’ve worked with Mawra and Ahsan before and always have a ball with them. Sajal is a powerhouse of talent and Ahad, I feel, is a great new addition to the industry. You can expect some pretty brilliant performances.”
Ahsan agreed. “I never knew who was in the cast when I was offered the play and I didn’t try finding out either. I was more concerned with characterisation, the script, the story and the production. It’s nice when you have greats like Zaib Rehman and Abid Ali around you,” he said. “And then, we also have such a promising young cast! I feel Sonya’s been doing great work lately and her character in Aangan is also something to watch out for. Mawra and Sajal are also very talented. I feel everyone fits their characters well and we’ve all gelled in. But casting is never my priority.”
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