By Nazmin Akthar (Lawyer and Co-Chair of Muslim Women's Network UK)
Ghum Hai Kisikey Pyaar Meiin (GHKKPM), produced by Cockcrow Entertainment and Shaika Films, is an Indian television drama that is not only making constant waves on the small screen but is also prone to creating a regular storm on social media. Less than three weeks after the show's fans took to twitter to trend #BoycottGHKKPM (which was a campaign against the regressive and abusive storylines being portrayed, as opposed to an actual call to boycott the show itself), there was once again a show related trend taking up all the attention last week with the tagline ‘Neil Bhatt on Fire’ and yet again today with the words ‘SaiRat Recreates Bollywood’. Unlike last month, the reasons are now all very positive.
The show stars Indian television's charismatic on-screen couple Neil Bhatt and Ayesha Singh who play the iconic characters of ‘Virat’ and ‘Sai’ respectively (shown love through their shipper name, #SaiRat). The story follows their journey and growth as individuals (personally and professionally) and as husband and wife. As of late, the audience has been witnessing Virat's failed attempts to express his love for Sai. At the same time, they have been watching how an otherwise bright and intuitive Sai is unable to acknowledge her own feelings for her husband let alone understand what little he is able to disclose about the state of his heart. The couple brought together by circumstances but always supposed to be endgame, are in love with one another but neither knows about the other’s feelings. It is a beautiful yet frustrating plot that makes the audience want to both hug the couple - and bang their heads together. Just as the audience was about to stock up on a year’s supply of paracetamol to cope, the most unexpected event of all happened: A dance.
Whilst dances in Indian television dramas are not uncommon, this was different. It was not for a function or celebration and was quite frankly, domestic. Although the plot justification came in the form of Sai preparing to do a dance with a college friend and Virat wanting to prove to his wife he too can dance, the performance itself expressed so much more. The combination of the lyrics from the iconic song ‘Muqabala’, the energetic steps and Neil Bhatt’s perfect expressions, said what Virat has been unable to share. It was a clear message; Virat and Sai may be taking their time, but they will get there. Put the paracetamol down.
Neil was able to convey messages that go beyond GHKKPM: the importance of dance and music as forms of art and expression, which are just as important as acting.
Through his incredible acting and dancing talents, Neil Bhatt was able to give a performance that was very surprisingly, electrifying yet simultaneously tranquil; a performance that quite frankly belonged in a concert, yet which was not at all out of place in SaiRat’s room. All due credit must be given to Neil for this exceptional achievement and quite clearly the fans of the show agreed, hence the trending of ‘Neil Bhatt On Fire’. Neil's dancing abilities have been hailed by audiences as no less than legendary and he has been placed on par with the likes of Shahid Kapur and Tiger Shroff. Many have commented that performances of this level are by and large unheard of on the small screen. And with this, Neil was able to convey messages that go beyond GHKKPM: the importance of dance and music as forms of art and expression, which are just as important as acting.
The small screen as a medium has so much reach and potential, in many ways. It can provide entertainment whilst being educational. It can provide an escape from the day-to-day whilst also conveying social messages. It can be used as a means to promote the different forms of art – and not only can it highlight pre-existing talents of actors, but develop them too. Today the fans of GHKKPM saw Neil and Ayesha, lovingly referred to as #NeilSha, dance once again to a number of Bollywood classics, this time together. Their joint performances were fabulous (hence the trending of ‘Sairat Recreates Bollywood’ in acknowledgement) but the most notable point? Neil is a seasoned, self-trained dancer but Ayesha is not, but you wouldn’t have thought so seeing them together. Through the dance sequence, Neil was once again able to showcase his pre-existing dancing talents whilst Ayesha was able to develop her abilities –proof of how crucial the world of television is to both showcase and develop talent. Similarly, the original soundtracks of the show have been commended many a time for perfectly conveying the feelings of SaiRat as well as providing almost a commentary of the events so far and the milestones now reached by the couple on their journey. It is necessary to acknowledge the importance of music and dance for the small screen; they are not included for the sake of being included and have a purpose too.
Today was also notable for another reason that simply has to be mentioned; the importance of trust and support. Ayesha the non-dancer was able to gracefully match Neil’s steps despite the difference in their experiences. While Neil was obviously leading, it was clear he was supporting and uplifting her at the same time. The audience could see his belief in her and his protective stance and could see how she reciprocated because of her faith in his belief. They worked as a team and achieved magic. It was not just about the performance, it was about the camaraderie between the actors. At a time when many choose to focus on themselves, it is crucial we acknowledge and applaud examples of such beautiful partnerships where each accepts the others strengths and weaknesses and they progress as a team – which is why today is just as much about Neil and Ayesha as it is about SaiRat.It is almost hard to believe that the same show that was being criticised for its excessive use of ‘dramatic’ scriptwriting and direction is, in less than a month, the same show achieving a good balance between drama, romance and comedy and that it is the same show being applauded for its excellent use of music and dance to progress the story along. To the team of GHKKPM, well done on turning things around (let’s hope it lasts). To Neil Bhatt and Ayesha Singh, we hope your crowns are not too heavy.
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