What to Watch: Ramadan TV highlights

A scene from ‘Al Assouf,’ MBC’s drama examining the rapid social and economic changes in the Kingdom in the early 1970s (Courtesy of MBC)
Updated 17 May 2018
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What to Watch: Ramadan TV highlights

  • See some of the television shows that will be hitting our TV screens this Holy Month
  • Ramadan sees some of the highest viewing figures Pan-Arab TV stations experience

It’s peak TV time in the Arab world, as networks roll out their big hitters. Here, Arab News takes a look at some of the shows we’ll be following on pan-Arab networks over the Holy Month

Kalabsh

One of this Ramadan’s most hotly anticipated dramas sees the return of heroic police officer Salim Al-Ansari (played by Egyptian star Amir Karara) for the second season of this acclaimed hard-hitting suspense thriller written by Baher Dweidar and directed by Peter Mimi.

This season, Dweidar said in a statement, “the thrill, excitement and action will be even greater,” as the cop investigates a terror network in a job that puts himself and his family in harm’s way.

As our hero digs deeper, he discovers just how wide the network’s web has spread, with the story reportedly taking in Libyan extremists and Israeli spies as it progresses and Al-Ansari unearths a conspiracy that involves top officials.

Dweidar stressed that viewers need not have seen the first season to enjoy the new one.

“It’s an independent journey in conflict with different people,” he said. “I made sure to address issues that are much broader than the first (series).

We are discussing issues that don’t just concern Egyptian citizens, but Arabs in general.”

 

Al Assouf

One of MBC’s flagship shows for this month, “Al Assouf” is a Saudi Arabia-based drama set in one of the most dramatic time periods for the Kingdom: 1970-1975.

The late writer Abdul Rahman Al-Wabli examines the socio-economic impact of the oil boom, and the resultant cultural shifts, by focusing on the show’s titular family.

Saudi actor Nasser Al-Qasabi — best known for the wildly successful satirical comedy “Tash Ma Tash” — takes the lead role in a stellar cast that also features fellow “Tash Ma Tash” alumnus Reem Abdullah, Habib Al-Sanei, and Laila Al-Salman, among others.

According to Al-Qasabi, “We tried to simplify human relations and we were keen to be realistic with the events, without ignoring the political movement that goes on in the background, to give an impression of the time period we’re talking about.”

 

Tareeq

Expect plenty of buzz around this romantic drama directed by Rasha Sharbatji and featuring Syrian star Abed Fahd and Lebanese-Tunisian actress Nadine Njeim as lovers Jaber and Ameera.

Jaber, an amicable restaurant owner, is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his family in a car accident when he meets young law student Ameera. 

As their relationship develops, the pair face tough decisions about priorities and sacrifice in a series that poses some thought-provoking questions about class prejudice. Based on the novel "Al Shareeda," by Naguib Mahfouz.

Awad Aban An Jid

This time-travelling comedy, written by Saudi journalist, poet and novelist Khalaf Al-Harbi, explores the family tree of main character Awad Aban (played by Asaad Al-Zahrani, star of 2015’s “Selfie”), following six storylines from six different historical periods.

In fact, director Ouss Al-Sharqi has described the show as “six different series in one, each with its own details, sets and wardrobe.”

It’s a big moment for Zahrani, who has spoken of the “technical comedy challenge” of playing six different characters in the fantasy show, which features a cosmopolitan lineup of actors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt and Syria.

 

Ma Hessat Qalam

This Khaleeji drama, written by Ali Al-Dohan, tells the story of ageing matriarch Hessa (played by Kuwaiti actress and poet Hayat Al-Fahad), who is left with serious amnesia issues after being in an accident.

Hessa begins to record everything that happens in her life using pen and paper, while many of those around her seek to manipulate the situation to their own ends.

Director Manaf Abdul was delighted to be working with Al-Fahad, whom he described as “a giant, with tremendous energy,” adding that he felt his career was “starting again” on the show.

For her part, Al-Fahd said the series “combines laughter and tears.” “Besides the tragic plot,” she said in a statement, “there is some comedy too, because her forgetfulness is funny sometimes.”

 

Tango

Levant stars Bassel Khayyat, Bassem Moughnieh, Daniella Rahme and Dana Mardini play married couples and best friends (and tango dancers!) Sami and Farah and Omar and Lina.

When a terrible car accident leaves Farah dead and Omar in a coma, it becomes apparent that the two were having an affair.

Lina and Sami must deal with the fallout of both the accident and the revelations that follow. Rami Hanna directs.

 

Secret of the Nile

Netflix’s Ramadan TV research revealed that a typical MENA viewer would clock up an extra 90 hours in front of a screen over the month, according to its press office.

So, of course, the streaming giant is doing its best to cater to that increased demand with some popular content.

Egyptian drama “Secret of the Nile” is already a proven success. It first aired on Egypt’s CBC in 2016, under the name “Grand Hotel,” and subscribers can binge on all 30 episodes of the first Egyptian series to air on Netflix.

Set in the 1950s, the series covers the journey of protagonist Ali (Amr Youssef) as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of his sister Doha (Dina El-Sherbiny) from her place of employment, the luxurious Grand Hotel.

Along the way, he uncovers a number of secrets, and falls in love.

 

Layali Eugenie

Throwbacks are big this Ramadan, it seems. This Egyptian romantic drama — directed by Hani Khalil and adapted from a Spanish original — is another period piece, this time set in Cairo and Port Said in the 1940s.

The story centers on Farid, a doctor (played by Tunisian heartthrob Dhafer L’Abidine, who’s appeared in a few Western movies, including “Sex and the City 2”), recently separated from his wife Aida.

When his sister-in-law (who happens to be a princess, played by Egyptian star Amina Khalil) is falsely accused of murdering her husband, she turns to Farid for help.

 


Muse: Singer-songwriter Gaya talks storytelling and creativity

Updated 27 May 2018
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Muse: Singer-songwriter Gaya talks storytelling and creativity

DUBAI: Dubai-based singer-songwriter, vlogger and content creator Gaya (Gayathri Krishnan) talks storytelling, creativity, and experimentation in a conversation with Arab News.

If you want your voice heard, build your own microphone, your own channel, your own soapbox. When you’re young you feel like the world owes you a stage, a chance, a shot. But with time you realize that the dream opportunity, whatever it is, the surest way to get there is to create that opportunity for yourself.

Music inspires me to do most things in my life. It really sets the tone for everything I do and I am. My exploration as a creative person started with music, but over time it has taken me into the spaces of film and design. Whatever the medium, though, a need to be creative and tell a story is what drives me.

Getting into the vlogging space has been extremely rewarding as it has a semblance of the immediacy that a live performance has; you’re connecting with people in real time and you’re breaking the third wall and putting yourself out there. The space feels familiar to me and brings together all my loves — music, shooting and editing films, and telling stories.

I don’t see my work as separate from my life or who I am. It is a very intrinsic part of my existence, so being creative is something I’m engaged in most of the time. I’m proud of having figured out how to make a living by doing all the things that I love and not having to limit myself to doing only one thing or being only one thing.

A lot of my work is autobiographical to some degree. It gives me great joy to be able to have a record of my life and be able to stay present in the moment through the pursuit of my work. I love that I am the boss of my own time and have the privilege and pleasure of working for myself. Most of all, I love that the intent of any idea that I work on is to be able to connect with people on an emotional level.

Every time I travel, I feel like I’m getting to live an alternate reality. I try to have an experience as close to a local as possible, making sure to carve out days to do the mundane things I would do in my own city. This really feeds my creative process in so many ways and many unfinished songs have been completed during my travels. I love traveling for extended periods of time as opposed to short trips because I feel like the best songs and writing come from that pivot point between comfort and discomfort. And when I travel, that oscillation is constant and really gets my creative juices flowing.

I move from project to project with a certain level of uninhibitedness. This somehow leads people to believe that everything I do is locked into some of kind of well-thought out strategy, but in reality every day is pretty much an experiment.

The biggest influence on me as a person has been watching my parents’ love and appreciation for music while I was growing up. Their ability to take anything we were listening to and appreciate every note, every nuance, every instrument, the timbre of the singer’s voice… It was a masterclass in music appreciation. It taught me and my siblings at an early age about the value of art and creativity in the world and how much of a two-way street it is: That as much as one must create for oneself, a perceptive audience is an essential part of any art form made for public consumption.

I admire any artist who isn’t afraid of going against what they set out to do when they started. I think the biggest disservice you can do to yourself as an artist is to say, “I do this one thing.” As great as it is to have a signature style that distinguishes you, it also important to not let it box you in.

My husband is also my music producer. In our relationship, the music came before the love and the marriage, so music has sort of been the cupid in our story. I think what makes it work is that I have always felt an immense sense of trust with him as a producer; that he too, wants the best for these songs. So when we’re both setting out with the same intention, everything else is gravy. We have learned to communicate well with each other and are able to both stand our ground, have both our voices heard and still love each other no matter how heated the creative arguments may get.

There’s still such conditioning around what a woman ought to be and what her role is, and it’s the root of so many problems. “Ambition” in a woman, for example, is seen firstly as something that needs to be talked about or pin-pointed and secondly, and most annoyingly, as some kind of negative, cut-throat thing; a quality that shouldn’t be possessed by women. I’m hoping to continue to voice my opinion when I feel like I’m being boxed into some archaic idea of what a woman ought to be.

A lot of men seem to be shaken and a bit confused about how they figure in a world where women are demanding their rightful place in various spheres. Very few men are happy to engage in a dialogue about this without feeling like we are on opposite sides of the table, but by getting involved they can help move the needle as opposed to drawing more lines in the sand. We need to get on the same page to actually move forward.