Hend Sabry in Halawet al-Dunia. Archive
CAIRO- 2 June 2017: The trailer for the long awaited Ramadan Series Halawet al-Dunia, or The Sweetness of The World, gave away the content of the drama before it was even broadcasted. It is the story of a young career woman who is about to get married but her world comes crushing down on her as she discovers that she has leukaemia just a few weeks before her wedding.
Adapted from a Spanish soap opera according to some internet sources, this simple story may not attract a large audience due to the heavy subject matter or the fact that people are already weighed down with the reality of everyday life and won’t want to watch a drama series that brings them more agony. Yet to balance things and to ensure people tune in, the production hosts a galaxy of stars, most notably the Tunisian heartthrob Dhaffer L'Abidine and the renowned Hend Sabry alongside big Egyptian stars such as Hani Adel, Anoushka, Mostafa Fahmy, Hanan Motawe’a , Ragaa al-Gedawy among others.
How the script failed to generate attachment to the protagonist
Hend Sabry plays the role of Amina; a young successful event manager at a leading company who is engaged to be married, lives with her grandmother, mother and sister and whose best friend is her neighbour. But her life takes a dramatic turn when she goes to do pre-wedding blood tests only to be told that she has cancer. The reaction to this revelation was a point that let the drama series down.
Personally, as someone who lost immediate family members to cancer I found the family’s reaction very cold and devoid of any emotion; especially the scene where Sabry screams out to her sister after an argument that she has cancer. The natural reaction would be for the sister to laugh it off and not believe her and instead of letting Sabry go she would have run after her and demanded an explanation, not just stand still and sit on the bed. Even the mother and grandmother failed to make the audience empathise with what they are enduring. As a viewer I kept wondering where the anger was. Where are the tears, the denial and even the questioning of faith; all very natural emotions and reactions one would have when they find out that a member of their family has cancer?
The only character that portrayed a more real response to the news is the best friend played by the exemplary acting of Hanan Motawe’a who provides the comical aspect of the drama but when she finds out that her friend has cancer we see a slight change in her behaviour and general character as she breaks into a fit of tears in the restaurant.
There are other flaws that can’t be ignored like the secret daughter that appears suddenly at the graveyard of Sabry’s father in the drama even though she dislikes him for never introducing her sisters to her, so why was she visiting him? Yes, the writer wanted Sabry to find out about her father’s secret but surely it could have been written in a more convincing way. Another example is when Sabry is admitted into hospital and we see people visiting her room wearing hospital masks. Sabry’s visitors are restricted to family members only, and yet she receives random visitors such as L’Abidine and another cancer patient who enter her room without wearing any mask even though she is in semi-isolation!
As for Hani Adel, he has yet to display the level of acting that made him such a star in other movies and it is inevitable that the script will eventually make him and Sabry split up because it is likely that Dhaffer L'Abidine, who in the drama suffers from a brain tumour and empathises with Sabry, has been written into the script for such a reason.
The best thing about this series is the opening credit song by Sherine that successfully captures the feeling of the audience and engages them with her voice and feelings far more than the director or the writer of the drama series.
‘Halawet al-Dunya’ offers a new take on cancer in Arabic drama but so far it feels more like an advert that encourages people to do regular check-ups and to deal with the illness in a positive way. Educating people and raising awareness is a great step, but for me the drama lacked an aspect of reality in the way it dealt with the sensitive subject.