hat do you think about when you think of Pakistan TV Dramas? Whatever you might think, I am sure the words like hijra and homosexuals do not feature in that stream of thoughts. Imagine Abid Ali, and Mehmood Aslam - PTV legends both - dressed in saaris and laced with dupattas. Let me emphasize that the dress code is not changed to pull cheap jokes at much misunderstood segments of the population. That is what is so remarkable about the much talked about, watched and loved series Moorat. It had a successfull run on ARY end of last year and later got a rave following in the UK. Exclusively among Pakistani communities that is. My friend Akhtar's 60 odd years old mother and 50 odd years old aunt got together every week to discuss and watch the unfolding dramas in the lives of the Karim household. Older son is your regular bully type big brother and the younger one, Babar, has rather colorful and alternative tastes in life - and dupattas. Its bootleg video copies are available at almost every Pakistani video store in New York/New Jersey and as far afield as Beaumont, Texas. The ones who don't have it, have supplies lower than the demand.
It is hardly your Queer As Folk dressed in Shalwar Kameez. The setting is your run of the mill Pakistan. Regular mohalla with unpaved streets. Small time shopkeepers. Peeping neighbors. And yes, the hijras, khusras, gautams or Moorats. As realistically Pakistani as you're gonna get. Here you won't find the air-conditioning, fancy cars and clothes picked at Banana Republic. For that you'll have to watch the rest of the soap operas that are aired on Indian and Pakistani channels alike.
Growing up Babar's life is a hell of sorts. His love for dolls, bangels and dupattas does not go down well with the socially acceptable norms. The machinery is set in full motion to change him. He is naturally drawn to Reshma, the neighborhood hijra whose coterie of friends' gaydar bleeps immediately when they witness young Babar. Much intrigue and evictions follow until Babar one day bends the gendered pronouns and emerges as Babra. There unfolds a life asserting itself. Swinging its hips, singing praises and dancing with joy. When his mother cries that she has lost him he retorts, "arre tera to ek beta bichda hai. Mera to saara khandaan bichad geya" (You have only lost a son. I have lost an entire family).
Reshma's house is the refuge where Babra finds love amongst others like herself. Shola, Bijli and Chamki. The story moves between different families, all connected, in one way or the other, by Babra's rebellion. There are marriages and divorces. Deaths and births. A largely well-developed plot and story line keeps one intrigued to the end. Not a small task considering the play spans 26 episodes and two and a quarter generations.
There are many tears in the play. As a friend commented, it was almost like Rohinton Mistry's "A Fine Balance". Melodrama! I have heard others cry. It works, I say. Don't jump with too much joy. After all it is a TV series and it is admittedly a new topic for the writer, the director and the rest of the team. Moorat, in other words, is not without its problems. But as bad a reviewer as I might be, I would not give the story away.
Abid Ali needs no praise for his brilliant portrayal of Reshma. We would not have expected any less from him. The legend lives up to his name. Kashif as Babra does a brilliant job. Deeba makes a very filmi appearance on the small screen. Munawar Saeed does a good job as the father. Maria Waasti as Babar's wife is impressive.
Forgive the team some of their presumptions and limits they have to work within and you have Pakistani television drama at its best.