When Alif Allah Aur Insaan first began to air promos, I was fairly excited about it – lavish sets, a great star cast, a nice OST, it had everything going for it. I watched episode 1. It looked interesting enough, though highly over the top in the case of the “hijras.” I watched episode 2 – again, still interesting, but very over the top. Likewise with episode 3. I was interested, but not hooked. I was enjoying the show, but it hadn’t reeled me in just yet.
Then something happened that distracted me and I stopped watching the show. Cut to a few days ago. I picked it up again and started it all over again from episode 1. This time? I loved it. The appreciation I didn’t have for it initially has been replaced by nothing but appreciation. This show has been catapulted to number one on my list of dramas. It is, by far, the best show on television right now. The star cast, the production values, the acting, the storyline – it’s all nothing short of (Bollywood) movie quality. The pace with which the story moves is gripping, exciting and eventful. I have watched all twelve episodes so far and I have yet to be bored for even one episode. There aren’t any “filler episodes” (as of yet). Each episode carries the story forward in a way that keeps the viewer wanting more.
The story focuses on six characters, which are all connected in a chain.
First, we follow Shamu (Imran Ashraf), a transgender who falls in “love” (sort of) with Rani, a beggar, one day when she saves him from a group of men insulting and bullying him. Rani teaches him to defend himself, consider himself an “insaan” (human) and earn respect from others instead of dancing and singing (something she considers haraam practice and beneath her). Shamu takes her words to heart and follows her teachings to create a life for himself, despite being shunned by Rani herself. He finds success, but is success worth it when you are unable to help the one you love?
We follow Rani’s story. Rani, played by Ushna Shah, is a beggar girl who dreams of something bigger, something better for her life. She sees Nigar Begum (Sana Fakhar) in the streets often and is told of how wealthy she is (as well as beautiful and talented). She runs away from home to ask Nigar Begam for a job, which Nigar gives her. But Nigar’s life and the lives of those touched by her and her profession is not what it seems. For behind the glitz, glamour, beauty and wealth is a life that treats women as animals rather than “insaan” (humans).
We follow Nigar Begum, played by Sana Nawaz, a “tawaif” who has fallen in love with Shahzeb (Mekaal Zulfiqar). Shahzeb came to her “kotha” with his friends against his will and while performing, Nigar falls in love with Shahzeb’s decency and dignity. When she expresses her love for Shahzeb, he rejects her outright, saying he respects women and does not agree with what she is doing. Heartbroken, Nigar Begum becomes bitter and angry with life, taking it out on those who work with and for her. When Nigar meets Nawazish Ali (Farhan Ali Agha), she feels her dreams of becoming a “movie heroine” are finally coming true. She begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel….but will Rani’s presence shatter those dreams?
We follow Shahzeb, played by Mekaal Zulfiqaar, a landlord who falls in love with Nazleen (Kubra Khan) after meeting her at a wedding. Instantly enamored, he sends a marriage proposal, which her family readily accepts. Almost immediately after being engaged, Shahzeb senses that Nazleen does not care about him. He is hurt and finds himself often upset at how Nazleen treats him with complete disregard. He confides in the local Maulvi Baba (Qavi Khan), someone he deeply respects, about his feelings. Maulvi Baba tells him to leave things in the hands of God, because God tests “insaan” with what they most desire.
We follow Nazleen, played by Kubra Khan, the daughter of a wealthy landlord who is spoiled, stubborn and lacking in compassion. One day at a wedding, Nazleen insults a group of trandgenders dancing, including Shamu. Shamu, hurt, declares that Nazleen will never have a home of her own. Nazleen wants to pursue her studies, but is instead persuaded by her parents to get engaged to Shahzeb – a great guy and catch – and then leave for the city to complete her education. She resents Shahzeb and does not care for his feelings, love or affection, making no bones to hide it. In the city at school, she develops a crush on and realizes that she cares for Basit (Shahzad Sheikh), the son of one of her fathers’ workers. Nazleen’s father entrusts Basit to look out for Nazleen, but will Basit succumb to Nazleen’s affections and break the trust of her father and, in turn, many societal norms and traditions?
And lastly, we follow the story of Basit, played by Shahzad Sheikh, someone who has always understood his place in his fathers’ world – the place of the “servant class,” something he has no desire to break. He cares for his family and does not wish to straddle any line that could bring trouble for them. When Nazleen, the daughter of his father’s boss, comes to the city to study, he is entrusted to take care of her. But when Nazleen begins to make advances towards him, he finds himself stuck between love and family loyalty. Which will he choose?
The acting from this ensemble cast, whether it’s the main 6 actors or even the supporting cast, is incredible. Everyone is playing their role so well, but I have to give special mention to Imran Ashraf, who is going from strength to strength in his acting career and it’s so refreshing to see him in a role where he’s truly shining.
The intensity with which this drama is written is commendable. The story has yet to lose steam, which many dramas do by episode 10 onwards, rather it has so much scope for growth and the story is only getting stronger.
It’s so fascinating to see such a simple concept played out so eloquently on screen. We are all human beings. Whether you are from a poor social strata or a rich lifestyle, we all have our happiness, pain, family and all desire to be treated well and with respect. Regardless of where a person comes from, that struggle can always exist, whether it’s outward or inward.
This drama is beautiful, entertaining, exciting and compelling. I highly recommend everyone to jump on this bandwagon – it’s a great one to be on. Whether that holds true after 2-4 episodes, who knows? Dramas always have the tendency to screw things up. But for now, this show is quality.
Written by Sophia Qureshi