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It’s been a good weekend for Saba Qamar’s fans as ARY Digital released the first episode of Fraud. The drama has been written by Zanjabeel Asim, is being directed by Saqib Khan, and features a star studded cast. Saba plays the female protagonist Maya, and is joined by Ahsan Khan and Mikaal Zulfiqar as the male protagonists. The trio shares the screen with a lineup of heavy weights, including Mehmood Aslam and Nazli Soomro.

Fraud‘s first episode does a good job of setting the stage on which the drama will unfold. The curtain rises on a dreamlike setting, a forest covered in mist. A mirror hangs from a tree, in it we see Maya approaching. Dressed in extravagant clothes, Maya looks at herself in the mirror and puts on dangling gold earrings. Her hands are decorated with henna and she looks happy.

The melodious background score is suddenly interrupted by a screeching. Maya turns around worriedly, as bats gather above her. As she steps back, the bats seem to attack her. Then the screen cuts to black.

As Maya awakens from her nightmare, we meet her family. An aging couple, played by Aslam and Nida Mumtaz, who are living with their two young daughters in Karachi. Maya is the eldest and is now old enough to be married. Her destiny is caught in a tug of war between her parents. Maya’s mother worries that her time is running out and hastens to find her a husband. However, her father refuses to give her away to the wrong man. He insists on waiting for a match that is worthy of her.

Like any father, Maya’s father wants her to marry someone who can provide her with comfort and luxury. He has brought up his daughters with a lot of love and is adamant that they will marry rich men. He dreams of seeing his daughters being driven around in big cars. Ultimately, he wants Maya to have a husband that will give her a better life than he was able to give her mother.

On her part, Maya is obedient. She has surrendered the decision to her father. However, she is getting impatient. In her heart, she has also developed affections for a man — played by Adnan Samad Khan; who is much closer to the family than her father could imagine. Whether he will let her follow this inclination is another matter altogether.

Fraud’s leading men don’t get much screen time in this episode. Mikaal’s character has not yet made an appearance. We see Ahsan’s character Tabraiz very briefly at the end of the episode. In a grand home that hints at wealth, Tabraiz sits with his mother, making a post on social media that announces his search for a wife. We only see Ahsan’s eyes during the entire scene, the lower half of his face hidden by a laptop. His expression is hard to read but we get the sense that something is not quite right.

Fraud is clearly in no rush to jump into the story. The first episode is dedicated entirely to exposition. We are able to familiarize ourselves with the characters and their world without being overwhelmed with drama. For a show that is taking its time to build up, the episode is remarkably well-paced. Fraud avoids longwinded speeches while also allotting adequate time to key moments. We do not feel bored or restless for the plot to move forward. By the end of the episode, we have developed an affinity with Fraud’s characters and are curious to know what comes next.

Credit goes to the cast for delivering performances that speak to us. We find ourselves feeling flustered by Aslam’s character. His standards seem unrealistic. Yet we also sympathize with him and understand that he just wants the best for his daughters.

Saba’s Maya threatens to fall flat at certain instances. She seems to lack a will of her own. Her readiness to go with her father’s decisions makes us question whether she has a personality of her own. But Saba is able to communicate the nuances of her character. The audience can see that Maya’s calm demeanor hides a multitude of emotions and desires. Adnan Samad Khan also delivers a particularly convincing performance. While we are still getting to know his character, we can’t help but feel his disappointment at the end of the episode.

With only his eyes to rely on in this episode, Ahsan manages to unsettle the audience with his portrayal of Tabraiz. We can’t quite put our finger on what those eyes are feeling, but we can tell that is a tumultuous mix of emotions. The character has a lot of promise, as long as Fraud is able to present his complexities and doesn’t fall into the trap of reducing him to a one-dimensional villain.

All in all, Fraud looks to be a promising new series. The show is being produced by iDream Entertainment. New episodes will be airing on ARY Digital every Saturday at 8:00 p.m.




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