Enaaya: A Crucible (Literally)

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I’m not going to lie.

Enaaya flew under the radar for me. I had no inkling that Pakistan now has a web series on an international streaming platform. Yes, it’s on Eros Now, which is little more than a fluffed-up, Bollywood consumption mechanism. However, it is something, and there’s always hope in such somethings. Hope, as it is, also has the uncanny ability of shattering into a thousand minuscule pieces. Pieces that are sometimes enough to form a new Milky Way.

I wouldn’t have heard about this show, had I not seen a tweet from Ahmer Naqvi. Twitter is one amazing platform. In 280 characters, you’re at once able to display disappointment, rage, annoyance and heart-break. His displeasure, I guess, fuelled my curiosity. Let’s just say it’s a great, great thing that cats have nine lives. I should have two left after this debacle.

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Ahmer Naqvi’s tweet that prompted me to look up Enaaya.

An Epic Sacrifice of Good Sense

I wasn’t halfway through the third episode and I was convinced of one thing. Finishing this entire show would be a feat that can only be described as a Pyrrhic victory. Going any further, I feel, no, I know, will mean subjecting myself to around four more hours of watching brilliant actors like Mehwish Hayat and Gul-e-Rana flailing about. That too, in a hopeless attempt to stay afloat while being dragged down by this sunken ship of a script.

It does seem like I’m being incredibly melodramatic. However, I am not exaggerating. I couldn’t, even if I tried. Oh you don’t believe me? Well, this is a dialogue from the first episode:

‘They used to talk eyeball to eyeball.’

That line alone makes me believe that Wajahat Rauf is actually Taher Shah’s pseudonym and Enaaya is just the extended cut of ‘Eye to Eye’. It also ensured one other thing. Dialogues, which can breath life into characters and scenes, all their magic has been snuffed out.

All Glam No Impact

One thing to note is, that at the end of three episodes, I wouldn’t be able to name one defining trait of any of the characters. I will commend writer/director Wajahat Rauf though. Never have I beheld such a comprehensive collection of cliches and caricatures in all my 25 years of watching TV.

Each character is about as bland and depressing as biriyani without aloo. The titular Enaaya being the most prominent example. The new girl with big dreams but a tragic backstory that threatens to ruin everything. Her tragic backstory also involves her mother, whose name is apparently Shama (Gul-e-Rana) but it’s never explicitly mentioned. Left by her music producer husband, abruptly, to raise a teenage Enaaya on her own, without any real way to make ends meet.

The Convolutions of Clichés

Then we have Azfar Rehman as Jimmy, because apparently Jamshed is too old fashioned and Jimmy is an appropriate nickname. Plus we also needed the Junaid Jamshed reference, didn’t we? Anyways, Jimmy is the one who discovers Enaaya’s singing and convinces her to join his band.

This was a confusing portrayal of the cliche. For several reasons, most of which align with the recurring issues of this show. Poor dialogues and even poorer delivery, bland acting and a distinct lack of relatability. I also wasn’t sure where Azfar Rehman and Wajahat Rauf wanted to take him. They seemingly tried to create a romantic ideal like Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born but ended up with Saqib Saleem from Race 3.

There are others, but they are about as insignificant as Mr Rauf seems to think character development is. I also feel it’s too much to hope for a day, when the overweight band member isn’t there just to provide mediocre comic relief. Type-casting seems to have finally become a reality in Pakistan, spearheaded by mediocre films and content.

Forcing You To Feel

There was one thing, that annoyed me more than anything else. More than the deplorable acting. More than the horrendous dialogues. Even more than ‘Eyeball to Eyeball’. The background score. Mr Rauf should have credited that as a separate character. It is vehemently present in every scene, playing over the dialogue. Overcompensation in the truest sense. Why not play music to tell the audience how to feel because our writing and actors won’t be able to.

After the first four, I skipped to the final episode, to gauge if watching any further was worth the effort. It’s not however, I discovered something far more disturbing. The plot seemingly devolves from cliched caricatures in uninteresting situations to a convoluted collection of disjointed subplots involving infidelity, drug use and revenge.

Paradise and Damnation, Lost.

Any hopes of this show redeeming itself, if there were any, now seem thoroughly dissipated. Much like my patience. The final episode leaves just enough untied ends to ensure a second season. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed for a show to not be made, ever.

Enaaya is wasteful. Wasteful of the opportunity it was given, as a web series. Wasteful of the talent it gathered and completely squandered. And finally, wasteful of the hope that we as Pakistanis, hold for content produced at the home front. It does achieve one thing though. It gives us a master class in how not to produce a show. The hope now is, the lessons actually take.

Note: By the time I got around to publishing this, Wajahat Rauf has announced his third film, with Mehwish and Azfar in the lead rules. Hope is a candle that now dwindles in the storm.

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