Humsafar – The magic is still the same!
I had walked in from a hot, humid day after picking up my son from school when my cousin buzzed me on some messenger application. “Hey! One new drama is in town. Have you checked it out?”
Drama? Cousin has surely lost her mind. And since when does cousin, corporate and swamped with work, care about a drama.
“No, which is it?”
After a lot of interrogation about the cast, I finally decided to give it a try. With bare minimum expectations (As I had totally given up on Pakistani dramas) I began watching the first episode. In a dreary apartment building, a clean, pretty, shalwar-kameez-clad girl was making tea. This was Mahira Khan, aka Khirad, who was the only daughter to Maimoona (Saba Faisal). Then there comes the very impossibly good-looking Asher (Fawad Khan) and Sara (Navin Waqar) hanging out and being chummy in general.
For some magical, unknown reason, I felt drawn to this clichéd but inviting plot. There was enough conflict to get you rooted into the story. There were good looking people (supporting cast included the magnificent Atiqa Odho, the very cute Behroze Sabzwari and the gorgeous Hina Bayaat) for everyone to start talking about it.
The play was directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, who is a veteran screenwriter, director and actor (also played a short role of Khirad’s teacher in the play). The recipe was perfect. But there had been many dramas with perfect recipes that hadn’t had the impact Humsafar did.
What was it about this play that made everyone fall in love with it? According to Farhat Ishtiaq, the phenomenon that became Humsafar was very different.
“Humsafar was my first script for television. So, it will always have a very special place in my heart. 6 years ago, when its first episode aired on 24th September 2011, I didn’t know it was going to become such a big hit. It was like some magic. It’s still unbelievable,” Ishtiaq added.
Humsafar went on to be translated in tens of languages, it aired on multiple networks across the globe. Strong grip over the story and beautiful execution by all the actors took a power of its own and created a storm among the masses. So much so, that even the parodies of Humsafar created stars: Osman Khalid Butt shot to fame through his most hit sketch, “Not Another Humsafar Episode”.
Moreover, Mahira’s pishwas became a style motif, girls would ask tailors to stitch them “Khirad” style pishwaases and her dialogues turned into memes across social media. Fawad and Mahira became the ultimate Pakistani duo, their careers skyrocketed and their pairing became the stuff of legends.
No one, that has been able to create magic of that level, can ever be able to tell you exactly what turned them or their projects into an overnight success. Whether it is chemistry or their hard work or their formula, it seems everything just works at the right place at the right time.
There were some regressive clichés in Humsafar but Khirad’s character was incredibly nuanced. It had streaks of ego and stubbornness which added a contrasting yet appealing layer and conflict to her character. On the other hand, Asher’s character was incredibly flawed but Fawad’s gentle portrayal of Asher made you deeply wish he would just listen to Khirad instead of believing everyone else.
There were many beautiful moments in the play. Where Khirad insists that her ego has been shattered because she has been thrown into a relationship she did not want to be in. Where Asher tells her, she looks beautiful no matter what she wears.
“You were invested, you cried with Khirad, you hated “Mummy” and you felt frustrated with Sara. Humsafar had you hooked. It has been six years since it aired and there still has been no other drama like it.”
Better scripts have been written (Farhat wrote Udaari that also became a massive success and its central character was completely unlike Khirad) and more intense dramas have been made (Durr e Shehwaar, another hit drama serial penned by Umera Ahmed, aired right after Humsafar and Sarmad Khoosat went on to become and direct Manto, a critically acclaimed masterpiece) and its lead actors made their foray into Bollywood (Fawad Khan starred in various films across the border) but none would receive the level of love and madness that Humsafar received – and continues to receive to this day.
It also ushered in a new era of people following characters and stories like the way they used to back in the heyday of Pakistani television screens. It created a new space for viewers, it became a phenomenon. What was it, everyone still asks and wonders.
I believe it is none other than the word Farhat herself used: magic.