“Family is the basic social unit of all societies,” says Actor Faysal Qureshi, adding: “But, in my opinion, it has more importance in Pakistani society than in any other. Our culture, religion, history, and emotional make-up gives family exceptional value in our society. Family is the source of happiness and sadness, peace and turmoil, harmony and discord, knowledge and ignorance, and success and failure in our lives. There are times in our lives when we hate our family and there are times when we love it more than life itself. We go through phases where we want to be miles away from family and there are times when we cannot survive without it. The importance of family in Pakistani society, in all its contradictory beauty and ugliness, has always fascinated me. The subject has always held great attention and interest for me. Over time, I have come to believe that family forms the emotional, intellectual, social, sexual, spiritual, and psychological foundation of our lives and directly impacts our success – or failure – in the areas. The strength of our society is in direct proportion to that of the family. Baba Jani examines the institution of family with intelligence, sensitivity and compassion. I believe that Pakistani viewers will relate to the story, characters and theme of Baba Jani on three levels – one, emotional, two, intellectual, and three, psychological – and find the serial entertaining, engaging and enlightening.” The lead actor and co-producer of GEO Television’s new serial, Qureshi couldn’t have been more right about the reaction of television viewers to ‘Baba Jani’. The serial opened to rave reviews on 8 September with the first episode registering more than one million views on YouTube, in less than three days. “The success of the serial does not surprise me,” claims Qureshi. “Pakistanis have always loved family dramas and will never grow tired of them as long as we continue to reinvent the genre. That is what Baba Jani does. Stories of long-suffering wives no longer interest viewers. Abused daughters-in-law are not the only victims and callous in-laws not the only villains in our society. Every family has its own heroes and villains, monsters and victims, and supporters and rivals. Baba Jani takes a fresh look at the family drama and presents a new and original story with novel characters. Viewers have warmed up to the unlikely protagonists and antagonists of Baba Jani. They are enjoying the newness and novelty of the serial.” Baba Jani tells the story of a young man named Asfand (Faysal Qureshi), who takes over the responsibility of raising his sisters, Najiba (Saba Hamid), Naila (Jinan Hussain) and Nabila (Adla Khan), after the death of their parents. Variously selfish, possessive and greedy, the sisters exploit Asfand’s sense of responsibility and honour, enjoy his undivided love and loyalty, and manipulate him for their own financial and emotional benefit.“Pakistanis have always loved family dramas and will never grow tired of them as long as we continue to reinvent the genre. That is what Baba Jani does”They are threatened by the love that Asfand has for his cousin and fiancé Mehwish (Faryal Mehmood) and, through a series of machinations and maneuverings, have his engagement annulled. Dejected and sad, Asfand marries Sadia (Sawera Nadeem), an aging widow with a beautiful daughter, Nimrah (Madiha Imam), of marriageable age. Nimrah finds it exceedingly difficult to accept the young Asfand as her stepfather and deal with the dramatic changes her mother’s marriage brings about in her, heretofore, sedate life. As Najiba and Naila continue to play games and wreak havoc in the lives of others, and Asfand struggles to be a dutiful husband, stepfather, and brother, simultaneously, the relationship between Nimrah and Asfand becomes the central focus of the story. “I am having a great time playing the role Asfand in Baba Jani,” says Qureshi. “The character is very different than others that I have played in the past. Asfand is naïve, mild-mannered and acquiescent. He is aware of the nature of his sisters but does not feel compelled to stand up to them. His sense of responsibility towards his sisters is warped, corrosive and exaggerated. Ingrained very deeply in his psyche, it is his greatest strength and biggest weakness, both a curse and a blessing.” Faiza Iftekhar’s ambitious story is inhabited by a very large number of characters. “The cast of Baba Jani is huge,” admits Qureshi. “Each one of the characters, however, is vital to the story of the serial. Faiza has written highly complex characters with a lot of depth, intricacy and nuance. I love the fact that there are no one-dimensional, clichéd characters in the serial. It is impossible to pigeonhole the characters of Baba Jani into the stereotypes often seen in television dramas. They are real and human. Their actions are not always predictable. They will surprise, startle, and elicit a wide range of emotions from viewers. Baba Jani will be remembered for the strength of its characters.” Qureshi believes that four factors differentiate ‘Baba Jani’ from other television serials on air currently. “Baba Jani tells a very interesting story. It has been directed with great skill by Ali Faizan. It features truly stellar performances. And, most importantly, it is nothing like what has been shown on Pakistani television in the past,” he says. “As the co-producer of the serial, I am proud of Baba Jani. People have loved the two episodes that have aired thus far and, as an insider, I will tell you that the serial only gets better with subsequent episodes. A lot of interesting character and story arcs, unexpected twists and turns, and interesting character developments are yet to come. I believe that this will be one of the most important plays of my career and am very grateful for being a part of Baba Jani.” Ally Adnan lives in Dallas and writes about culture, history and the arts. He tweets @allyadnan and can be reached at email@example.comPublished in Daily Times, September 19th 2018.