Viewers are calling the teenage series a ‘waste’
The first episode of the web series Midsummer Chaos streamed on Saturday, showing young people with “fake” accents, women in off-the-shoulder tops, liquor and smoking. Pakistani people were left wondering if their lives were really that shallow.
Midsummer Chaos opens with a dejected young man named Haris (Mustafa Babar), who is celebrating his birthday with only his father. The mysterious background score is clearly reminiscent of everything undesirable poor Haris has been through. Although his father laments how he could not throw a “real party” for his son, viewers get to see a party when the scene changes.
In the next scene Haris’ friend Sameer (Khushhal Khan) having a reunion with many of his old friends, including Salar, who is now in a relationship with his former girlfriend Hira. A scuffle breaks out between Sameer and Salar after he throws Hira into the pool. Haris’ girlfriend Alaynah (Hiba Ajaz) contemplates parting ways with him. Sameer and Haris’ friendship falls apart when he tries to calm him down. In the meantime, Haris, who is distressed after Alaynah tells him to leave her alone, is approached by Ushna (Mamia Shajjafar) and viewers wonder whether she’s there to offer him a shoulder to cry on or has some other motive through Haris and Sameer’s break up.
But this is not what normal teenagers go through in Pakistan. Midsummer Chaos has mostly been criticised for what people are calling an unrealistic setting. It’s not that alcohol, western clothes, and “girlfriend problems” are never seen nor heard of in Pakistan, but viewers argue that the series could have highlighted other problems young people face, such as mental health, education crises, or unemployment.
“It is unfair to judge the whole series on the basis of just one episode,” said Ahmed Sarym, the creator of Midsummer Chaos, while speaking to SAMAA Digital. “I am open to criticism once people watch all five episodes. It’s too early to pass judgement.”
According to Ahmed, young actors do not have a platform to exhibit their talent in Pakistan and the series was an attempt to get them recognition. In response to criticism for acting, Ahmed said that they were short on budget and crew; otherwise, he would have focused individually on each actor.
“One does not necessarily have to relate to the storyline, but it does not mean that stories like these do not exist,” said Ahmed. “There is a cult following for stories like these. As far as portraying a certain class goes, I’m not trying to glorify privilege. In fact, I’m trying to somewhat shed light upon the misery that comes with it. I’ve been around enough real-life people, who these characters are based off of, to know that this isn’t baseless or superficial.”
Ahmed’s aim was to come up with content for Pakistani teenagers. We would watch shows like Gossip Girls and Riverdale but do not necessarily identify with them, he added. The use of a pretentious Urdu accent was deliberate. It is to show that there are people that fit the class portrayed in the series.
“It is disappointing how people have been bashing the series on Twitter, and that too with our own talent,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed Sarym is the founder of Qissa Nagri, a production house. He is known for the short film Sikka (2020), which is a tribute to the late model Zara Abid who died in the PIA crash in Karachi’s Model Colony. The film stars Saba Qamar as well.