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Barzakh, starring Fawad & Sanam, will have its international premiere at Series Mania.


“Barzakh,” starring top Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed, is the only South Asian selection at Series Mania this year.

The series will debut in the showcase’s International Panorama, a 12-title competitive section where it will be eligible for the best series, director, actress, actor, student jury and audience awards.

Asim Abbasi, the widely praised filmmaker of “Cake” and Zindagi’s first Pakistani original “Churails,” is behind the camera for “Barzakh” (6 X 58?). It is created by Waqas Hassan and Shailja Kejriwal for Zindagi, a streaming service on ZEE5 Global that focuses on the Indian subcontinent. The family drama series is centred on a senior man’s search for love. It examines fathers’ and sons’ generational trauma. The story is set in a fanciful universe with supernatural creatures and paranormal occurrences that highlight the gaps between life, death, and rebirth.

“What does being human mean? Does our soul survive us? What does it mean to have a soul? How does one find happiness and hope in a never-ending condition of uncertainty? These issues are the focus of “Barzakh,” according to Abbasi, who spoke to Variety.

The TV show was filmed in the scenic Hunza valley and on location in Karachi.

“Barzakh” is a deeply personal show for Abbasi. “In the aftermath of my father’s passing, and witnessing my son grow into a young boy, I found myself consumed with nostalgia, and memories of times gone and loves lost. And I began to think about my fears – the end of consciousness, the end of imagination, the end of love. And from these fears, grew a story where love was indeed eternal. Where it survived us – making it the ultimate human legacy,” Abbasi said.

“Barzakh” is a result of COVID brain, according to Kejriwal, who said to Variety: “It was a time when Asim and I, like everyone else, were talking about love, life, death, losing loved ones, and not being able to say our goodbyes. Due to a lack of closure, there was a sense of loss as well as perplexity. Due to the fact that both weddings and funerals were taking place on Zoom, death and parting didn’t seem as final as they formerly did. Physical touch or in-person meetings with friends and family became essential in order to make any sense of this new reality, which was strange. As a result, the concept for a show that was essentially a family reunion emerged.

“But families are never easy. And the families that Asim creates are complex, layered, anguished, funny and vulnerable at the same time,” Kejriwal added.

Abbasi, who worked with Saeed on “Cake,” praises the actor’s “stoic otherworldliness” in the show. On Khan, who recently starred in “The Legend of Maula Jatt,” the biggest Pakistani box office hit of all time, Abbasi says that the actor “gave so much honesty and authenticity to his performance, capturing both the charm and the defiance of his character with ease.” “Barzakh” marks a tonal shift for Abbasi from the verve of “Churails.” “‘Churails’ had a flamboyant flair and kinetic energy to it. It found its crux in the exploration of rage and our stylistic choices for that series mirrored that. ‘Barzakh’ is more concerned with the silences, the spaces in between of what is said and not said. It is enigmatic and mystical in its essence. And therefore, it needed a different level of control, restrain and precision,” Abbasi said.

“Ek Jhoothi Love Story,” “Dhoop Ki Deewar,” “Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam,” and “Mrs. & Mr. Shameem” are only a few of Zindagi’s original commissions.

“With Zindagi, I’m doing all in my power to establish a secure environment in which writers and directors can freely express themselves. I actually have no other commissioning philosophies. Therefore, we are this little boutique attempting to locate the perfect audience for every piece of original idea, rather than trying to force fit an artist’s thought to the “need” of audiences. If produced within reasonable budgets, every [piece of content] can find its audience and generate returns, in my opinion, Kejriwal stated.

Both Abbasi and Kejriwal are elated at making the Series Mania cut. “Being a part of the Series Mania selection gives my team and I great courage and a sense of validation that it’s okay to think beyond data. The space for original thought is shrinking rapidly and it is encouraging moments such as these of being ‘seen’ and acknowledged that gives us hope and wings,” Kejriwal said.

Abbasi added: “As artists, we often find ourselves working in a bubble for long periods, away from outside viewpoints, so to be selected by the programmers at a prestigious festival, where some of the most interesting series from the globe will be having their premieres, is very humbling. ‘Barzakh’ has been an experiment of sorts, for both me and Zindagi – a narrative that defies easy definitions. And to see it carve a space out for itself on an international stage, is truly a joyous moment for the entire team.”