I finished up watching The Crown (so good!) and all of a sudden there were new recommended for me shows on Netflix. Usually, Netflix turns over new content at the beginning of the month, but this time, it was mid-month. My jaw dropped.
The Pakistani soaps Humsafar (Soulmates) and Zindagi Gulzar Hai (Life is a Rose Garden) are now streaming in glorious HD with subs on Netflix! Netflix gave me an early holiday gift! To say I was excited would be an understatement.
I was literally jumping up and down in my family room.
Why was I so excited? I fell, and fell hard for Pakistani actor Fawad Khan when he debuted in the Bollywood/Disney film Khoobsurat with Sonam Kapoor in 2014.
At that time, I wanted to see more of his work, and there was nothing else on film, but he had done two soaps in Pakistan that were sensations in both that country and India. ErosNow.com put all the episodes of Humsafar to stream on their site with subs and I was totally hooked.
These soaps are not like American soaps that are open ended. These productions are just one season or about 25 episodes long. They have a complete story arc.
Humsafar also stars Pakistani actress Mahira Khan who will debut in the Bollywood film Raees opposite Shahrukh Khan next month. (Bonus! There’s another Mahira Khan soap on Netflix, Saqday Tumharay).
In Humsafar, Mahira is the poor cousin of Fawad. Her mother is dying of cancer and asks Fawad’s father to arrange their marriage so she knows her daughter will be taken care of. It’s rich boy/poor girl with a love triangle and a scheming mother-in-law. To me, it was absolutely fascinating to get a glimpse of life in Pakistan and Fawad is amazing.
Zindagi Gulzar Hai is even better but was much more of a challenge to find with subtitles, and there were a few episodes I never could find with subs, but I watched anyway because I was hooked right from the first episode. I am thrilled to be able to watch this with subs, and in high def since I was scrounging on Youtube and Pakistani sites to find the episodes in questionable quality. Again, we have the poor girl (Sanam Saeed as Khasaf) and the rich boy (Fawad Khan as Zaroon) dynamic but both characters are flawed and complex. It’s also hate-to-love which is just about my favorite romance trope.
Zaroon and Khasaf meet in college, and Zaroon is frosted that this arrogant girl bests him in the class rankings. Khasaf thinks Zaroon is a shallow playboy, and Zaroon thinks Khasaf is a too traditional stick in the mud. It’s just delicious to see their feelings change over time. Your heart aches for Khasaf who has so many struggles in her life, but she’s also so prickly a character. I loved what a spitfire she is. Pakistani actor Javed Sheikh, who was SRK’s father in Om Shanti Om, plays Fawad Khan’s father.
The proposal scene (which I can’t find with subs) is just the ultimate. Khasaf can’t believe the guy who hated her through college now wants to marry her, but is convinced he’s changed when he catches hot chai in his hands when it’s about to spill on her.
But it doesn’t just end there — there’s more to the story as they adjust to each other in their marriage and have to accommodate for Khasaf’s career in the civil service. The reason Khasaf scoffs at marriage and men is because of her complex relationship with her father who married a second wife to get a son, and abandoned his first wife and daughters. I just loved getting to see these actors portray complex characters who grow and change over time. Highly, highly recommend both soaps. I’m going to enjoy watching those episodes I couldn’t find previously with subs, and trying Mahira’s other soap. I love how Netflix is getting content from all over the world!
Check out this post on BrownGirl to get a sense of what a sensation both Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai were in Pakistan and India when they first aired.
Another new addition to the Netflix line up is the excellent Israeli film Sand Storm. It was the winner at Sundance for World Cinema last January. It’s set in the Bedouin community in Israel. Sand Storm is a family drama where the father in the family marries a second wife, and his headstrong daughter has a secret affair with a boy from another tribe she’s met at college. Such a great film! The Q and A was fascinating with the Israeli director Elite Dexer. She said that most audiences see the film as an intense drama, but when she showed it to the Bedouin community where she was allowed to film it, they laughed and viewed it as a comedy, especially the put upon husband dealing with two strong willed wives.
Check out AccessBollywood for an up to date list of Indian content on Netflix and Amazon Prime.