Ahmed Kamran’s Phaans has everything a viewer wants in a play – it has an ensemble cast, a gripping storyline, and keeps them guessing as to what would happen next. With Shahzad Sheikh, Zara Noor Abbas, and Sami Khan leading the cast, and the supporting actors doing their best to take the story forward, Samina Ejaz’s script seems to be in safe hands. There are a few misses here and there but they are minor compared to the many hits the HUM TV play delivers. With every passing episode, each character becomes more suspicious with their actions, and that’s what keeps Phaans interesting.
After Zeba (Zara Noor Abbas) accuses the harmless-looking Sahil (Shahzad Sheikh) of sexually assaulting her, he goes into an epileptic shock, prompting his father (Ali Tahir) to detain her family in the basement. When he does get better in the hospital, his mother (Arjumand Rahim) sets Shakila (Kinza Malik) and her daughters free, instructing them never to return to the house, ever. She also slaps Zeba for accusing her mentally unstable son, sending him to the hospital, and ruining her daughter’s wedding festivities.
On the other hand, Samad (Sami Khan) wants to clear his name and continues to push his ex-fiancée Hajra (Yashma Gill) away, while searching for Zeba and her family. Her fiancée Hashim (Zain Afzal) continues to feel guilty for asking Zeba to leave the party and meet him alone but doesn’t tell anyone, until Zeba confronts him. Her mother submits to her wish and registers an FIR after Sahil after he visited Zeba and asked her to marry him.
The Good – Intelligent Execution Keeps Phaans on Top!
Ahmed Kamran is one of the finest directors around, and his ability to extract the best from established actors is visible here. Both Shahzad Sheikh and Zara Noor Abbas have delivered hits in their careers, but they stand out in Phaans as Sahil and Zeba respectively. Not only do they give their best performance, but people are also able to sympathise with them, despite knowing one of them is lying.
The scene where Zara Noor Abbas’ Zeba tells her mother about her intentions will go directly in the ‘Angry Young Woman’ category, and make you forget her Zebaaish character. Be it the scene where she meets Sahil when he visits her, confronts Hashim about his call and asks her mother where she stands, she is stunning both as a beauty and as a wrong woman.
Shahzad Sheikh’s Sahil on the other hand continues to impress with his performance; when Sami Khan’s Samad approaches him for clarification, he delivers a convincing reply. When he overhears his sister crying in her room, he sheds a tear which is unlike someone who can’t feel emotions. When he visits Zeba’s house, he meets her as if nothing has happened, gaining the audience’s sympathy in the process.
And then there are the other actors who keep the story moving, led by Sami Khan who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He is in excellent form delivering hits after hits on HUM TV, and Phaans isn’t any different. Due to his past choices as an actor, half of the followers want him to be the good guy, and half of them believe Zeba over him. Veteran actors Ali Tahir and Arjumand Rahim share the perfect husband-wife chemistry who are always at loggerheads for his carefree past and her suspicions. Kinza Malik keeps changing changes sides as the victim’s mother but displays command in whatever scene she is in. One must also mention Zain Afzal here who steals the spotlight as the loser who knows that he is guilty, and his actions make him all the more suspicious.
The Bad – And Then There are Things That Just Don’t Add Up!
Hira Khan and Yashma Gill might be good actors, but here they come out as desperate characters for no reason. While Hira Khan’s character wants to have her sister’s fiancé (Zain Afzal, not Brad Pitt) for herself, and is scheming against her, Yashma Gill melodramatic acting makes the audience root for the opposition. Both the actresses could have made their characters seem conflicted than all-out villainous, but they didn’t. They could have learned a thing or two from Zain Afzal whose character wishes to call off the engagement out of guilt but still wants his mother to talk some sense to Zeba. That’s how you do it, ladies!
Then there is Samad’s search for Shakila’s family; he is unable to find her house but neither would anyone else for it seems to be too big for her. For someone who works as a housemaid for a living; such a house would seem so out of reach! Also, no matter how learned her daughter may be, they have to worry about many things before taking on the elite. Secondly, how did Sahil reach the house without telling anyone, considering he can’t even climb the stairs without anyone’s assistance?
Finally, there seems to be no urgency between the two sequences; while the writer may have written two unrelated scenes, an intercut would have made them relatable. However, the editor ‘wastes’ time in establishing sequences and irking viewers who want everything to be over quickly. It’s time we should do away with flashbacks, exterior shots, and static shots because that’s one of the many reasons why we are losing viewers to OTT platforms where things happen as fast as they should.
The Verdict – With Everything Happening Quickly, The Game’s Afoot!
Phaans would have been a Netflix series in a parallel universe, where episodes would have been trimmed for the viewers. However, since the OTT platform favors below-par stuff from across the border, we should favor our very own whodunit. The various questions it poses are – was Zeba even assaulted, if yes then by whom? Where were the men when the incident happened? Why was Samad’s pocket in Zeba’s hand when he claims to be innocent? Was Sahil really tending to his cat or was he outside with Zeba? Why does his mother suspect the father who has a philandering past? Why doesn’t Hashim’s mother ask him about the accusation and his whereabouts? All these questions will be answered in the coming weeks, and the audience will enjoy the unraveling of the mystery, provided it doesn’t go off target.