So much for hopes of creating fire – this is more like trying to strike two wet sticks together to get a spark going.
Permit me to race along the developments over the last two episodes: they would have to be Jamshed’s ping ponging from shared digs to Mamu’s house, to the basement and out into the cold and back into warmer digs closer to his object of perplexed interest Michelle. Salma’s clash with her Tai ji cum mother in law as well as revelation of her status as step mom and a hint of some violence in her past. Also poor Rizwan’s friend zoning all over again.
Unfortunately, all of this is reading very predictable. Everything is playing out schematically as opposed to seamlessly. We can tell that Salma and Bhatti sahib will encounter each other on a ‘break’ and that their family situations ( hello teenage step daughters!) and families that bleed them dry will bind them together, that Jamshed will cross paths with load bearing Michelle and that Kathy will turn all shades of blue and purple, and those kids will be out of control.
All the Americans- the goras at any rate- are given one shade to play which disappointing since these kinds of marriages exist and they are more complicated that this is making them out to be – not just with conversations on halal sausages (for that go here) or dishing out the word terrorist with a side of orange juice.
There are hints of a lot of ideas but hinting at is not a substitution for exploration. While there is value in revealing layers of the characters but this is like watching paint peel off the wall.
The fault is not, as they say, in our stars because the acting is (mostly) on point. It’s in the writing and direction. If channels are demanding a certain set of episodes that is the framework in which you have to produce a show but that is no excuse nor should it be. Jackson Heights has a great premise, and a gold mine of stories and Vasay’s one-liners are enjoyable and we all appreciate Mehreen Jabbar’s subtle signature but a sharper telling of the tale would help.
Jamshed is dealing with his own tarnished image of the US of A. Given that and the need to project an ‘all is well’ attitude it’s no wonder he’s posturing with his friend (who by the by is quite the cutie himself) and fails to grasp the gravity of Asma’s (who also btw is very very good) situation.
Mamu and his staged run ins with Salma are getting old and stale as a day old bagel. Well at least he met up with Emaan and is being a purveyor of all things sweet and Emaan is taking advantage of that. Though to be fair if someone bought me donuts who am I to refuse even if I know that it’s only the middle of the donut that is fat free.
Salma’s Tai Ji reflects the age old prejudices and her phrasing – gora ki bacchi hai kya khoodti phire, nacchne wali – reflects her notions of the big, bad West. Other assorted threatening characters have been introduced and are possibly smoking something pretty strong if they think beauticians – even ones as hard working as Salma- are rolling in stacks of cash.
The only person I truly felt bad for was poor Rizwan. Though I must say this was a missed opportunity to get some insight into Michelle’s character by having her explain her reaction. Instead Rizwan, good guy that he is, takes the onus on himself. Also his dejection was really blah in its portrayal. What happened to using visuals to tell the story instead of just relying on dialogue? Pity really because Adnan Jaffer can deliver.
So while am yawning my way into a coma (ok maybe I should not have eaten those doughnuts) I am still watching because am really truly hoping that this mix produces something fantastic, or at the very least thought provoking.
MM(aka A musing Muslim)