Book Review: Alif – Complete Review (By Umera Ahmed)

Alif-1

Introduction

I love when I read a novel about writers, or watch a movie about actors.

Umera had not written a novel post Aab-e-Hayaat, which was about 3-4 years ago. I remember that because I had just moved to my apartment, my own apartment, around that time. My sisters and I used to discuss the abrupt ending over a cup of tea until late in the night. Ah, those were the good times. In fact, I don’t recall any drama or telefilm written by Umera Ahmed since Ek Thhi Mariyam. Anyways!

Alif was a welcome surprise for Umera Ahmed fans and non-fans alike. We all remember Aab-e-Hayaat, don’t we? There were a lot of arguments about how it ended, some denouncing her future novels and what not.

I digress but I have a point. The reading community must have been just as apprehensive about the new novel as I was. To make things more interesting, the drama was announced at the same time. The cast playing those characters was revealed, too. When I read the episodes, I could visualize those actors mouthing those dialogue, enacting those heartwarming and heartbreaking scenes. To be honest, I would have imagined Hamza Ali Abbasi in that role anyway. He has that Qalb-e-Momin vibe. And he’s so good-lookin’.

Enough chit chat, let’s get started.

Disclaimer

There may be a few spoilers. If you intend to read the novel or watch the drama; stop here, go away and read other stuff, like my books.

Review

You’re still reading. Sure, be my guest. You have been warned.

Alif, the new novel by Umera Ahmed is 12 episodes long and we see the journey of various characters. Let’s get to know them before we proceed, shall we?

Characters

Qalb-e-Momin

Qalb-e-Momin is the male protagonist. We see him as a young boy who wrote innocent letters to Allah. We also see him as a super-successful commercial movie director. He obnoxious, narcissist and does not mind making a living by objectifying women in his movies. How did his journey take him from one place to other?

Husn-e-Jahan

Husn-e-Jahan is Qalb-e-Momin’s mother. She is epitome of beautify. She was once the queen of Pakistani film industry.

Taha Abdul Aala

Taha Abdul Aala is Qalb-e-Momin’s father. He is a whirling durvesh who falls in love with Husn-e-Jahan.

Abdul Aala

Abdul Aala is Qalb-e-Momin’s grandfather. He is a calligrapher, much like his ancestors.

Momina Sultan

Momina is the female protagonist. She is an actor, a powerhouse performer, but is still struggling to find her foothold in the industry. She doesn’t like her profession, but has to work to support her family, which included her parents and her brother Jehangir. For her soul, she works as a calligrapher with Master Ibrahim to correct Quran nuskhas.

Jehangir

Jehangir is Momina’s ailing brother with a failed kidney. He was once a rising star of Pakistani film industry. He is now bedridden but his spirits are still high and he hopes to get back to the silver screen.

Sultan

Sultan is Momina’s father. He was one the makeup artist of Husn-e-Jahan, and an admirer. Not just an admirer. He loved her, to the extent that even when she was married, he was willing to do anything for her.

Suraiyya

Suraiyya is Momina’s mother. Her life revolves around Jehangir, the glory of his past and the hopes for his future. She doesn’t hate Momina. Momina just does not have a priority in her life. Suraiyya’s love for Jehangir results in a heartbreaking plot twist towards the end.

Aqsa

Momina’s selfless friend and pillar of support

Daud

Momina’s friend and Aqsa’s fiancé.

Master Ibrahim

Momina’s teacher for calligraphy, her mentor in life. A plot twist at the end reveals that he is also part of the entangled story of Husn-e-Jahan.

Faisal

Faisal is Momina’s boyfriend and fiancé for a short time before he breaks up because he had a problem with Momina’s profession.

Shakoor

Qalb-e-Momin’s house help. He is quite a character.

Jhumar

Jhumar is the eunuch who lives in the same locality as Momina. He appears in only a couple of episodes but says things that scar you for life.

Others

There are other small characters appearing in1-2 episodes? Neha (Momin’s girlfriend), Tina (Momin’s assistant), Shelly (The actress who was signed for Momin’s next film before he had a life altering epiphany). Since they are not as important to the story, I will leave them from this review. I have a deadline to publish this today. I enforced that deadline, don’t worry.

My 10 Point Plot Summary

Jumping to the plot summary, are we? Please read characters section above or the plot won’t make sense.

  1. The story is about… The story isn’t about one or two characters. It isn’t about hero or heroine. It is equally about the six characters. Abdul Alaa, Husn-e-Jahan, Taha, Qalb-e-Momin, Momina Sultan and Sultan. The characters who do not have as many scenes or dialogues, also have crucial roles to play in the story – Suraiyya, Jehangir and Master Ibrahim.
  2. The aforementioned six characters, their lives and their stories overlap in more ways than one; and is more heartbreaking than pleasant.
  3. Sultan loves Husn-e-Jahan. Husn-e-Jahan falls in love with Taha. Abdul Alaa is against the union of his beloved son Taha and a lowly actress Husn-e-Jahan.
  4. Bad things happen, Taha dies and Husn-e-Jahan falls in Ishq-e-Haqiqi. Abdul Alaa finally realizes his mistake and regrets that he should have accepted Husn-e-Jahan with open heart. Too little, too late.
  5. Qalb-e-Momin is haunted by memories of his childhood and his past seemed to have turn him into a misogynist who thrives on making commercial cinema that objectifies women. He runs into Momina Sultan, who, no prizes for guessing, is Sultan’s daughter.
  6. Momin and Momina run into each other where Momina is auditioning for a role in Momin’s upcoming movie. That does not go well, obviously.
  7. Momina suffers a personal loss and Momin had frequent confrontations with Abdul Alaa and his internal demons.
  8. Momina gets the much-deserved big break, in Hollywood. But she still isn’t happy. Why? She’s heart-broken.
  9. There is a moment of epiphany and Momin has a change of heart. He decides to make a movie named Alif based on his mother’s life. Can you guess who is cast to play the lead character?
  10. They fall in love, helplessly. But they cannot be together. Can they? We will have to wait. To be precise, Momin will have to wait. Abdul Alaa’s prophecy about Qalb-e-Momin does become true as he leaves for Turkey to continue as a calligrapher.

That does not cover the details, I agree. You will find links below to read detailed episode-wise reviews.

My Thoughts

The characters are selfish, just as you would in real life. Husn-e-Jahan life surrounds around Taha and later Qalb-e-Momin. She realizes Sultan’s feelings for her but is absolutely helpless and fails to return his sentiments. When she falls in ishq e haqeeqi, however, things change.

The story relied a lot on clichés and is predictable. We know that Qalb-e-Momin will learn his lessons and will have a change of heart. We know Momina who’s struggling to get even side roles will become a star and soon. What blows our kind is how mystery about who the characters are and the relationship between them. And that, by the way, I have explained already. You can thank me later.

There are so many things going on here. A writer writes a novel Alif and at the same time the drama Alif shooting begins. The story is about a movie director who in turn directs movie Alif… it’s an entangled spiral of sorts.

Some Questions

It left me with a series of questions.

How do I feel about Momin and Momina not ending up together?

Well, they sort of did. I personally feel Umera likes to keep things abstract towards the end. We all remember how vague and abrupt the ending of Aab-e-Hayaat felt. In this one, though Momina and Momin did not end up together, there is a promise of a happily ever after.

Does it leave a chance for another book? 

You never know. One never knows, except Umera 🙂

Peer-e-Kamil ended on a note that did not leave much room for another book, but then there was Aab-e-Hayaat and it was such a phenomenon, until the last episode, y’know.

Do think there should have been proper closure? 

This is as close as it comes to a proper closure. I’m just glad she didn’t kill Momin or Momina. Do you remember Mann-o-Salwa? Till the last page, as Karam Ali follows her and finds stuff that she has left behind, we were hopeful. Hopeful that he would meet her, they would talk and resolve their issues. But then what happened? Of you have not read the book, you should. It a slow book and it certainly will give you a headache for days but it is one heck of a (love) story. I am taking another note to review that sometime soon. I read too many books and watch too many dramas than I can review. I wish it was my job to review things. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Has she written how dark and ugly showbiz can be? 

Yes, Mann-o-Salwa.

Has she written about the relationship between Allah and insaan before? 

Yes. It is her genre, in a way.

Has she written stories with heavy dose of philosophies of life? 

Yes.

Has she written stories where every character is on the extreme side, black or white?

ALL.THE.TIME.

Are you thrilled to watch the drama?

Of course, and will hopefully be reviewing it soon.

Final Words

  1. All the shit that happened to the characters, in my opinion, is due to their quick judgements and hasty reactions.
  2. Love is blind and love is deaf, and love makes us dumb – incapable to hear and incapable of thinking straight. Momina falls in love with Momin, despite their differences and their bitter past. She herself calls her Husn-e-Jahan, the woman who loved and got her heart broken.
  3. We need money to make our family happy and provide them the best. We cannot give them time, because we spend that time making more money, buying more happiness. And then, all the money seems to have no value, because suddenly the family needs you, not your money. It is such a vicious cycle.
  4. Don’t upset anyone. If you feel you’ve done a mistake, apologize, communicate and resolve the differences. You never know when that certain someone will pass away, leaving you with loads of regrets for your lifetime.

Please check out my review of individual episodes for more details or the episode and the link to read the same.

1st Episode  Review

2nd Episode  Review

3rd Episode  Review

4th Episode  Review

5th Episode  Review

6th Episode  Review

7th Episode  Review

8th Episode  Review

9th Episode  Review

10th Episode  Review

11th Episode  Review

12th Episode  Review

The drama is slated to air sometime in September 2019, which is like anytime now. But there are no promos yet. Wonder what’s happening.

Thanks, you for reading my review of Alif. Let me know how you felt about the novel. You can comment, or email me.

Happy reading!

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