Marital issues under spotlight in two Ramadan TV series

May Selim, Wednesday 19 Apr 2023

The TV series El-Harsha El-Sabaa (The Seven-Year Crisis) and Mozakerat Zawg (Diary of a Husband), broadcast during Ramadan, address the marital problems of the Egyptian bourgeoisie and upper middle class.

Ramadan 2023

 

Directed by Billy Wilder, the American romantic comedy The Seven Year Itch was released in theatres in 1955. Based on the three-act play by George Axelrod, the film starred Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. The title of the film referenced a popular belief, later taken up by psychologists, that happiness in a marriage or long-term romantic relationship declines after about seven years.

The screenplay for El-Harsha El-Sabaa (The Seven-Year Crisis), directed by Karim El-Shenawy, is the result of a writing workshop supervised by Mariam Naoum. The title is a reference to the 1955 film.

The soap opera retraces the lives of a couple played by Amina Khalil and Mohamed Shahine from their first year of marriage until their seventh, when everything collapses.

Mozakerat Zawg (Diary of a Husband), directed by Tamer Nady, is an adaptation of an eponymous work by the late satirical writer Ahmad Bahgat (1932-2011). The book brings together a series of satirical articles written between the late 1960s and 1980s. Bahgat's book was first adapted for radio, with Amin El-Heneidi as the protagonist and then adapted as a television series in 1990, starring Mahmoud Yassine and Fardous Abdel-Hamid.

The two soap operas currently being featured deal brilliantly with married life and reflect marital struggles that particularly affect couples born in the 1970s and 1980s. These couples are the bourgeoisie of modern Cairo, who benefited from a good education, come from good families and have good careers. We witness the beginnings of their love stories, occasionally in flashbacks, before moving on to sequences that reflect the burdens of daily life, problems, divorce or separation.

Reality, dreams, humour

El-Harsha El-Sabaa brings to light the crises of couples, especially after the birth of children. It evokes the postpartum depression of a mother who, at times, cannot even take a shower. The ups and downs continue, routine sets in, jealousy sparks and love begins to fade.

El-Shenawy opted for intense face-to-face confrontations with the couples. Most of the scenes are between Nadine (Amina Khalil) and Adam (Mohamed Shahine) but also focus on secondary couples: the stepfather and the stepmother who separate after 30 years of marriage and the couple’s friends Salma and Sherif (Asmaa Galal and Ali Qassem). The series reflects the divergence of opinions and the total absence of communication. 

 

The events of Mozakerat Zawg are faster-paced. From the first episode, dark humour dominates the scenario. Raouf, an air traffic controller, suffers from life’s monotony with a woman who is strict about every detail. At night, he dreams of killing her.

Two new characters are then embedded in the scenario as a source of comedy, namely the life coach and psychologist Taha Ayad (Khaled El-Sawy) and his partner, a fellow life coach, who is interested in astrology and energy sciences, Naguiba. 

Separated from his wife, Raouf sets off in search of his freedom. He meets a new love, is unwilling to remarry and would rather make up for lost time. 

Songs of sorrows

Music plays a vital role in both soap operas. The song titled Kelma (Word) is a duet between Hany El-Dakkak (founder and vocalist of Massar Egbari) and Boustan Magdi.

In El-Harcha El-Sabea, the songs also enrich the drama and illustrate the complicated feelings of the characters. Added to this is the melancholic soundtrack composed by Khaled El-Kammar, which incorporates the voice of Nouran Abou-Taleb.

Mozakeret Zawg’s theme song, Min Dol? (Who Are They?) is performed by the Egyptian-Lebanese composer and singer Hamid El-Shaeri, a star of the 1990s and an idol of a now more mature generation. The song evokes the feelings of a person betrayed by time and is surprised to have aged. 

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