Ramadan drama season: Most watched

Soha Hesham , Friday 22 Mar 2024

This year the Ramadan drama season is full of potential.

Masar Egbari
Masar Egbari


This season many of the usual faces are absent from Ramadan TV screens — stars Mohamed Ramadan and Youssra among them — while others, like the renowned actor Yehia Al-Fakharani are as present as ever.

Al-Fakharani is joining forces with director Magdi Abu-Emera in an adaptation of Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid’s novel Atabat Al-Bahga (Thresholds of Joy) scripted by Medhat Al-Adl and Ahmed Al-Bohi.

Atabat Al-Bahga turned out to be too monotonous and low-key to sustain my interest, so I turned instead to Masar Egbari (Ahead Only), directed by the talented Nadine Khan, daughter of the late director Mohamed Khan.

Khan was one of the three directors of the acclaimed TV series Sabei Garr (Farthest Neighbour) with Ayten Amin and Heba Youssry. She also directed the series Leih Laa (Why Not) Part III and made her debut feature film for the silver screen in Abu Sadaam with a screenplay writer Mahmoud Ezzat, starring Mohamed Mamdouh and Ahmed Dash.

In this series Khan skillfully crafts an authentic story with the assistance of Baher Deweidar for drama treatment, as well as screenplay writers Amin Gamal, Mohamed Mehrez and Mina Bebawy. The drama revolves around Ali (Essam Omar) and Hussein (Ahmed Dash) who, meeting for the first time at the hospital where their father Omar (Mahmoud Al-Bezawi) is suffering a heart attack, they discover they are brothers.

Omar has somehow managed to divide his time between their respective mothers, his two wives, without either of them finding out about the other. But now that he is dying he needs to summon them both.

Khan manages to craft the convoluted details of how to portray and present the two families and their response to the unexpected turn of events. The first family is Ali’s, which consists of himself, his mother Ihsan (Sabrine) and his younger sister and brother. Ali is the eldest, he shares a strong bond with his mother and is currently pursuing a law degree and possibly a scholarship opportunity in France. Additionally, Ali discreetly assists his girlfriend Haneen (Gehad Hossameddine) with her own legal cases while she works at the renowned law firm of the famous lawyer Magdi Hashish (Roushdy Al-Shami).

Much of the action concerns a case Hashish is working on, in which Ali’s father was shoddily involved while working as a forensic examiner. This, he informs both his children of, with the result that the criminals involved start going after them…

The second family comprises Hussein (Ahmed Dash) and his mother Enayat (Basma). Hussein is Enayat’s only son, a vibrant young man who runs a popular burger cart that is confiscated following his father’s involvement with that case.

Khan captures the Egyptian streets at different times while the brothers begin to bond — chased by scary and powerful people they don’t know. The screenplay is brilliantly written with attention to the smallest details, creating a gripping story with a touching human element. Khan manages to extract extraordinary performances from all four main actors. The opening and closing credits use music by the band Masar Egbari, which shares its name with the show.

From Masar Egbari I moved onto Aala Nesbet Moshahda (Highest Views), written by Samar Taher and directed by Yasmine Ahmed Kamel, a rising star in the field. She made her debut with Hadoutet Morra (Morra’s Story, 2019), starring Ghada Abdel-Razek and Magdi Kamel, having assisted directors on series like Al-Hara (The Alley) and Lahazat Hariga (Critical Moments).

The fact that Aala Nesbet Moshahda is based on a true story, kindled my interest. It revolves around Shaimaa (Salma Abu-Deif). Shaimaa lives with her mother Hamdia (Intissar), her father Fathi (Mohamed Mahmoud) and her younger sister Nesma (Laila Ahmed Zaher). They are visited frequently by her older sister Amaal (Farah Youssef), who is unhappily married to Ali (Islam Ibrahim), a greedy, dishonest man operating a dry cleaning business where he forces her to work.

Shaimaa, who is constantly dreaming of being rich, is a TikToker, largely unsuccessful until, in an attempt to cheer up her two sisters after a family crisis, she makes a video that goes viral. She grows famous overnight, and Laila is deeply jealous of her. It is clear from the avant-titres that this will lead to one or both of the two sisters becoming suspects in a prostitution trial, recalling cases of female TikTokers sent to prison for “violating family values”. The series started powerfully, with brilliant performances from Intissar and Youssef, though Abu-Deif is somewhat affected and unconvincing.

Another controversial issue is discussed in Selat Rahem (Kinship), starring Eyad Nassar and Youssra Al-Louzi, directed by Tamer Nadi with a screenplay by Mohamed Hisham Obaya. This unusual drama tackles the complex issue of surrogate mothers in Egypt, throwing light on gynaecological issues as well. Anesthesiologist Hossam (Eyad Nassar) and his psychologist wife Laila (Youssra Al-Louzi) have been trying for a baby for many years.

Laila is five months pregnant when Hossam fails to notice her phone calls in the middle of the night — he is having a drink with his ex-lover Gihan (Reyam Kafarna) — then crashes the car on the way to the hospital. She loses the baby and has to have a hysterectomy. Using her frozen ova, obtained in a previous procedure, the guilt-ridden Hossam embarks on the desperate journey of finding a surrogate.

Alongside this couple, there is also Hanan and Nora (Asmaa Abul-Yazid and Nora Abdel-Rahman, respectively), best friends who work at a hairdresser’s owned by Mervat (Safaa Galal), who is a brilliant and totally convincing character. Nora is pregnant and trying to get rid of the baby, having failed to persuade Shaker (Mohamed Dessouki) to marry her in time.

Hanan helps her find Seham (Heba Abdel-Ghani), a nurse who works with a doctor, Khaled (Mohamed Gomaa), who might give her an abortion. When something goes wrong during the procedure, Khaled takes her to Hossam’s hospital to save her life. This results in a confrontation with Hossam, who feels obliged to report Khaled. But can Khaled help with his own problem?

After the success of Kamel Al-Adad (Full House) last year, director Khaled Al-Halafawi has made Kamel Al-Adad +1, a sequel. Despite a skillful screenplay by the same writers, Yousr Taher and Rana Abul-Reish, however, it has nothing new to offer.

Kamel Al-Adad +1 is more of the same comedy revolving around a couple with many children that they’re trying to live with all together, now with more people in the crazy household of Laila and Ahmed (Dina Al-Sherbini and Sherif Salama, respectively).

Laila’s teenage son Hassan and Hussein are dealing with the death of their father Omar (Mustafa Darwish, whose actual death obviously shocked his colleagues who are now paying him tribute). A new and welcome character is Omar’s mother, played by the veteran Mimi Gamal.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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