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Mein (Finale Review): Fight Or Flight With Wahaj Ali

Mein can either feel like a dress rehearsal or a reflective portrait of villains and side villains

How does one review a drama that clearly lacks texture, personality and a mind of its own? Where character arcs are structured in the language of physical events rather than psychological continuity? Where the end goal of everyone involved in its production is a big fat paycheck? Perhaps the makers simply assumed that hordes of Wahaj Ali fans would simply invent the subtext which isn’t there. As ‘Mein’ concludes (thankfully), let’s look back at the ride which was mostly torturous and occasionally compelling.

The finale of ‘Mein’ was a welcome departure from most finales on television where all characters have a sudden change of heart and their confessional monologues leave us wondering if it ever is that simple. But ‘Mein’ gave us no such catharsis. All three leads (yes there were three no matter what the deceptive marketing told us) ended the shaky bonds holding them together with…….you guessed it, a monologue. Rayaan Jafar went off to a (probably short) stint in jail and Mr Asif is imprisoned in the jail of loneliness. He gets a redeeming scene though that might remind one of ‘Succession’. But the star of the episode remained the OST which gave us all the emotion that Zaid and Mubashira, staring into nothingness, couldn’t. But how did we end up here?

The Rich are Empty, Evil and Cool

‘Mein’ gave us rich people whose moral grayness ranged from pure evil (Asif Khan) to pure stupid (Rayaan Jafar). Somewhere in the middle existed – if fashion reel was a person – Mubashira Jafar (Ayeza Khan deserves better) and – if Sunday afternoon languidness was a person – Zaid Asif (Wahaj Ali cruising through this one). There was morbid curiosity with which we watched them for 32 episodes, waiting for the thrills that never came. Love, in Mein, was merely an emotion trying to find a heartbeat. Whenever Wahaj Ali deployed his ‘eye acting’ to show some (virginal) feelings towards any of his two wives, it felt like he was trying to light fire underwater.

The eponymous ‘mein’ or ego that the story was built on felt more like an excuse for turning real people into screenplay plot points. But the thing that kept us coming back to it was the spectator-hero of ‘Mein’. We looked through Zaid, passively, just as he did, at the morally complicated people around him; his father, Mubashira and Ayra. Just like him, we rolled our exasperated eyes at the messy war of ownership waged for and around him. Wahaj plays Zaid as a man whose demeanor is laced with a kind of laziness that seeps in when a person has grown up rich. He is slow to react, to take action because he is so used to the world waiting for him.

Zaid is a flaky millennial who thinks picking respect over love would compensate for his unfeelingness. He is like a guilty liberal who takes on Ayra as a rehabilitation project. Zaid’s poker face can come across as robotic, his actions brisk, his inactions defeatist, but he is just an entitled man from a generation that is perpetually unconvinced. So the camera has to move faster than Zaid Asif does, trying to inject some intensity in his vacantness in hopes of turning it into mystery.

Mubashira Jaffer’s clothes make more sense than her. Ayeza Khan is riddled with a character which exudes a very dated concept of mental health. Her binary outbursts of ‘mein Mubashira Jaffer hoon’ and ‘mein bohat pagal hoon’ sound too designed. The change in her – if you can call it that– arrives too late and still too quickly. If one’s entire personality could be altered after two pills and one therapy session, the world would become a better place.

Her arc is replaced by mood swings, her moods are dictated by her wardrobe. Sleepy and disturbed? Out comes the Victoria Secret sleepwear. Office ready? We have the adL jacket and pants. Day out? In comes the Mango or DKNY dress. No quantity of Ayra’s measly Agha Noor longshirts could overshadow Mubashira’s clothing and our fascination with it became a smokescreen for our condescending attitude towards Ayra.

Ayra, The Imperfect Victim

Poorly styled and poorly performed (Azekah Daniel could do better), Ayra quickly became the whiner, the moaner, the unreasonable. She could be all these things and still be a victim. We are so used to watching docile and guileless middle-class heroines wronged by society that we felt cheated on with Ayra. Here was one character we could root for in Mein, but her ‘stubbornness’ to get her dues instead of just allowing Zaid to be her welfare officer provoked most viewers.

It was interesting to see viewers make room for Mubashira’s toxic femininity, her rage, her cunningness, affording her the luxury of being defective but their patience ended with Ayra. Just like the system which fetishizes the ethical murkiness of the rich and the glamorous only, viewers could not fathom Ayra’s sense of purpose. She became culpable for wanting more and we, the audiences, became culpable for denying her skewed agency.

Is this reading too much into Mein? Probably. Ayra’s much maligned screen-time, her failed antics, her persistent grumblings come across as a fight for relevance in a story that would otherwise too easily neglect her, and accuse her of ‘interrupting’ the real story of Mubashira and Zaid in all its flashy, globe-trotting grandness. Azekah Daniel seems to be floating over her character but Ayra appears washed out, tired of jostling for narrative space in the drama that has eyes only for its two stars, Wahaj Ali and Ayeza Khan. That Azekah Daniel’s insta bio even says ‘lone wolf’ is the level of meta-ness we live for.

What Is Mein’s Legacy?

It is safe to say the ‘Mein’ has left many Wahaj Ali fans defeated. Zaid’s lack of intent was oppressive and the two female leads were consistently tough to like. These characters deserved at least a smidgen of density in their pain but the makers were intent on cashing in on the stardom of two gorgeous people by putting them together and then draining them out. This will be Mein’s legacy.

Written by Tooba M


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