Saba Qamar, Bilal Abbas Khan lead all-star cast in new Pakistani web shows

Raza Talish and Anoushay Abbasi in a still from ABDULLAHPUR KA DEVDAS-1595406640722
Raza Talish and Anoushay Abbasi in Abdullahpur Ka Devdas
Image Credit: Zee5

Almost four years since it shut down its broadcasts, India’s satellite TV channel, Zindagi, which famously re-introduced Pakistani shows across the border in India, is back.

Zindagi has been repackaged and revamped for ZEE Entertainment Enterprises’s digital streaming platform, Zee5.

An announcement by the CEO of Zee Global spoke of reviving Pakistani content, which was widely hailed by people across the country, especially those from the entertainment arena.

What is perhaps most heartening is the fact that for Zindagi’s digital version will include five original shows from Pakistan. They will be released every month, one at a time. The first of these, titled ‘Churails’ (Witch), which will release on July 23.

Yasra Rizvi and Fawwad Khan in a still from CHURAILS-1595406634269
Yasra Rizvi and Fawwad Khan in Churails
Image Credit: Zee5

The show comes from the house of the UK-based Pakistani filmmaker Asim Abbasi whose last feature, ‘Cake’ (2018), had a post-theatrical release on Netflix, opening to great critical appreciation.

‘Churails’ is a social drama that makes a strong comment on women empowerment, led by Sarwat Gilani, Yasra Rizvi, Meherbano, and Nimra Bucha. Fashion model and actor Eman Suleman also plays a brief but important character in the series. Joining the bevvy of talented ladies is noted actor Fawwad Khan (not to confuse with the ‘Khoobsurat’ star).

In August, the subscribers will be able to stream ‘Aik Jhooti Love Story’, a limited web series by acclaimed filmmaker and drama director Mehreen Jabbar, best known for ‘Doraha’, ‘Daam’, ‘Malaal’ and the Nandita-Das starrer, ‘Ramchand Pakistani’ (2007) which was one of the few Pakistani films to be released in cinemas in India.

Bilal Abbas Khan on the set of AIK JHOOTI LOVE STORY-1595406646421
Bilal Abbas Khan in ‘Aik Jhoothi Love Story’
Image Credit: Zee5

‘Aik Jhooti…’ is said to be lighter fare and features Madiha Imam (known to Indian audiences for her starring role in the Manisha Koirala-led Bollywood movie of 2017, ‘Dear Maya’), Bilal Abbas Khan, Kiran Haq and Furqan Qureshi, alongside Syed Muhammad Ahmed and Beo Rana Zafar. The two elderly actors earlier made an adorable onscreen couple and stole several scenes in Abbasi’s ‘Cake’.

The series is penned by celebrated playwright and novelist Umera Ahmed (credits include ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’, ‘Daam’, ‘Doraha’, and indie film, ‘5 Rupya’, with Shabana Azmi). ‘Aik Jhooti…’ marks Ahmed’s fourth collaboration with Jabbar. No wonder the expectations are sky-high.

‘Aik Jhooti…’ will be followed by ‘Dhoop Ki Deewaar’, an emotional tale of a Pakistani soldier and his Indian counterpart on the other side of the border and how their lives interrelate on basic human levels. The Pakistani soldier is portrayed by Ahad Raza Mir, while Sajal Aly plays his love interest. They are supported by Samiya Mumtaz and Bol-famed Manzar Sehbai and Zaib Rehman. Raza Talish also makes a special appearance.

Sajjal Aly in a still from DHOOP KI DEEWAR-1595406638672
Sajjal Aly in ‘Dhoop ki Deewar’
Image Credit: Zee5

‘Dhoop Ki Deewaar’ is also an Umera Ahmed script. It is directed by Haseeb Hasan, who has previously helmed a successful film, ‘Parwaz Hai Junoon’, with Pakistan Air Force as its backdrop.

Aside from this, Ahmed worked as a consultant on the script of ‘Abdullahpur Ka Devdas’, a romantic drama, directed by Anjum Shahzad which is expected to release on Zee5 later this year. It boasts an ensemble cast that includes Bilal Abbas Khan, Sarah Khan, Raza Talish, Kinza Razzaq, Nauman Ejaz, Sawera Nadeem and Anoushay Abbasi.

Bilal Abbas Khan and Raza Talish in a still from ABDULLAHPUR KA DEVDAS-1595406648658
A still from Abdullahpur Ka Devdas
Image Credit: Zee5

‘Mann Jogi’, the fifth series in Zee5 Originals’s current lineup, is a mature love story set in interior Lahore. It is powered by such acting stalwarts as Saba Qamar, Nauman Ijaz and Uzma Hassan. Agha Mustafa’s character provides an interesting spin on the plot.

Nauman Ijaz and Saba Qamar on the set of MANN JOGI-1595406642799
Nauman Ijaz and Sabar Qamar in Mann Jogi
Image Credit: Zee5

‘Mann Jogi’ is written by Saji Gul and directed by Kashif Nisar who scooped all the awards for his Hum TV play, ‘Dar Si Jaati Hai Sila’, last year.

All these shows will be available for streaming in the UAE.

Zindagi is the brainchild of Mumbai-based Shailja Kejriwal, the Chief Content Officer, Special Projects, at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL). Admittedly a huge fan of Pakistan TV dramas, Kejriwal also led the Zeal for Unity film festival, in which she brought together three filmmakers from India and Pakistan each.

The festival wasn’t allowed to take place as relations between the two neighbouring countries had turned sour. However, the movies made by the filmmakers are available for streaming on Zee5. These include Mehreen Jabbar’s ‘Lala Begum’ (2015), featuring Marina Khan, Sonya Rehman and Humayun Saeed; Meenu-Farjad’s Naseeruddin Shah-starrer ‘Jeewan Haathi’; and Siraj ul Haq’s ‘Moomal Rano’, starring Saba Qamar and Ahsan Khan. Zindagi on Zee5 is expected to not just revive Pakistani content but also help to create its own niche in international markets. In the words of Umera Ahmed: “For the first time, we are going to be competing with Indian content on the same platform, on an open-merit basis. This is indeed heartening!”

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