photographs by hassan hashmiTwo years after delivering a truly spectacular performance in television serial ‘Udaari,’ Ahsan Khan is back with a bang, as Safdar, in Hum Television’s new serial ‘Aangan’. The handsome young actor stole the show in the serial’s first episode, which aired on Thursday, December 20, 2018. Deeply felt, intelligently crafted and emotionally charged, Ahsan Khan’s nuanced portrayal of the sensitive, young hero is sure to go down as one of the most effective performances of all time, in the history of Pakistani television.“Acting is very important to me,” says Khan. “I always give all that I have as an actor but worked particularly hard in ‘Aangan.’ Audience reaction to the first episode has been overwhelmingly positive. It seems that my hard work has been rewarded and my prayers answered. I am very happy with the feedback I have received thus far and hope that people will continue to like ‘Aangan’.” The serial is based on Khadija Mastoor’s celebrated novel, ‘Aangan,’ from 1962. “I had read the book a long time ago,” says Ahsan, “In my opinion, it is one of the finest pieces of Urdu literature. I am glad that Hum Television decided to adapt for television. It is a rich story about partition that needed to be told on television. The story of ‘Aangan’ is set in the first half of the twentieth century and deals with the effects of partition on the lives of the people, but it is not a historical drama. ‘Aangan’ uses a major political event – the partition of India and Pakistan – as a backdrop to a poignant story about the lives of people caught in the midst of great political upheaval. The serial, like the novel, is a documentation of the emotional, political, cultural, social, and moral sensibilities of a time long past.”“As a nation, we have matured and no longer subscribe to the traditional notions of masculinity. Men can be weak at times, they can cry, and they can choose to run away from problems”The first episode of ‘Aangan’ focused on the story Subhan (Ahsan Khan) and Salma (Sonya Hussyn), two characters that are mentioned in the novel but do not figure prominently in the story. The serial judiciously expands the story of their romance – and what a wonderful story it is, thanks to remarkable chemistry between Ahsan and Sonya – and gives ‘Aangan’ a back story that explains the psychological make-up, personality and behavior of their son, Safdar (also played by Ahsan Khan) in a very effective manner. Safdar’s character, which will appear after a few episodes of ‘Aangan,’ is not that of a typical television hero. The son of a young lady who elopes with a domestic worker, Safdar grows up as an orphan in his Uncle’s home, where he deals with unfairness, love and ambition, at times with strength but mostly with resignation. The young man chooses to escape the gloom of his Uncle’s home by going to study at the Aligarh Muslim University, instead of fighting for his rights and claiming his beloved. “It is true that Safdar is not a very strong person while living in his Uncle’s home,” admits Ahsan. “I like his vulnerability, acquiescence and helplessness and was happy to play someone who is not the typical alpha male who fights for and always wins his rights. As a nation, we have matured and no longer subscribe to the traditional notions of masculinity. Men can be weak at times, they can cry, and they can choose to run away from problems. I understand why Safdar needed the refuge that Aligarh offered and try to make his eventual growth into a man of strength real in the serial. I think the character of Safdar is going to be very popular with viewers.” The first episode of the serial featured Abid Ali, Zaib Rehman, Omair Rana, Madiha Rizvi, Uzma Baig, Sonya Hussyn and, of course, Ahsan Khan. Sajal Ali, Hira Mani and Ahad Raza Mir will join the cast in subsequent episodes but Ahsan Khan – the hero and star of the first episode – is likely to dominate the spotlight throughout the serial, given reports from the sets of ‘Aangan,’ comments from fellow cast members, and his well-established histrionic credentials. Ahsan, however, seems disinterested in standing out in ‘Aangan.’ “The serial is a mosaic of very rich characters, wherein no one person is more important than the other,” he says. “Each character contributes to the beauty of the entire mosaic and no one stands out on his own. I think that ‘Aangan’ is bigger – much bigger, to be honest – than the sum of its parts. None of the actors have tried to use their star power, or even their acting abilities, to stand out and compete with each other, or with the serial. And that camaraderie and commitment to the serial, as a whole, gives ‘Aangan’ its beauty.”Most, if not all the actors, and not just Ahsan Khan, were at the top of their game in the first episode of ‘Aangan.’ Abid Ali and Omair Rana’s performances, in particular, were truly brilliant. “I think all the actors of Aangan have acted very well in the serial,’ contends Ahsan Khan. “Their performances, however, cannot and should not be evaluated individually; the proper way to appreciate them is the look at their contribution to the wonderful story of ‘Aangan.’ Just as a single piece that shines more than the others in a mosaic ruins the entire work, an overtly individualistic performance in a serial like Aangan would have hurt the beauty of the serial and stood out for the wrong reasons. Thankfully, that did not happen.” The first episode of ‘Aangan’ lived up to the tremendous hype created by the marketing mavens at Hum Television but, according to Ahsan, the best is yet to come. “Viewers are going to become attached to the characters of ‘Aangan,’” he believes. “They will see their own feelings, emotions and memories on display in the serial and make it the biggest hit of the year, if not the decade. Mark my words, Aangan will prove to be a television serial for the ages!”Ally Adnan lives in Dallas and writes about culture, history and the arts. He tweets @allyadnan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Published in Daily Times, December 21st2018.