Wahet al-Ghroub: can self-narration work for drama?

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Sat, 10 Jun 2017 - 06:10 GMT

Courtesy of Wahet El Ghroub - Official facebook

Courtesy of Wahet El Ghroub - Official facebook

CAIRO - 9 June 2017: It is always thrilling seeing your favorite novel coming to life with all the details and characters you have imagined in your head more than once, you cannot help with curiosity and high expectations for how it is going to be.

The adaptation of ‘Wahet al-Ghroub,’ (Sunset Oasis) novel quickly became one of the top-viewed soap operas during Ramadan 2017. The novel was written by author Bahaa Taher in 2008, by which it was a best-seller that won the first round of International Prize for Arabic Fiction (also known as Arabic Booker Prize) on the same year.

The novel’s events are suppose to be happening during the nineteenth century, especially after the failure of the Urabi Revolution, that took place from 1879 till 1882 against Egypt ruler then Khedive Tewfik and the alliance he made with British and French armies.

Main character, police officer Mahmoud Abd Al-Zaher finds himself forced to serve in an isolated Oasis, located between Qattara Depression and the Egyptian Sand Sea in the Western Desert called ‘Siwa.’

This assignment from his superiors comes as a punishment for his cooperation with the revolution, accordingly, he takes his Irish wife Catherin in a journey that pushes them to explore more about themselves in the desert in a very closed and tribal society.

Folklore intro song

The series is full of many successful aspects that made it one of the top-viewed shows during Ramadan, but the first thing you cannot turn a blind eye on is the amazing intro song by Wael el-Fashny. Upper-Egypt folklore lyrics, mixed with music composed by Tamer Carawan, have made an intro everyone talked about on social media.

However; during the first episode I was expecting more of everything, ‘events, characters, dialogue and introduction to the series mainline,’ I do not know if this was because I already know the novel and read it before, but I felt that it took so much time to say so little.

As the events were escalating during the following episodes I figured that it is not only about the first episode rhythm, and I do not know if it should be taken against the series crew.

It started to show during the following episodes that the series-makers are trying to maintain the events as a ‘novel’ I thought they wanted to keep the details as it was written by its original author Bahaa Taher. But accordingly the series main rhythm started to slow down.

Self-narrative drama style

Script-writer Mariam Naoum used the self-narration style, same as used by Taher in the original novel, in which characters can describe how each and every one of them sees the events from his own perspective.

The novel depended on this detailed-writing style; something I am not sure if it worked when it became a television series, or just made the audience feel little bit board and wondering about the reason of watching three following episodes ‘for a camel convoy traveling in the desert!’

The director Kamla Abo Zekry, has proved she is not accepting any performance but the best of everyone can make; not only the main characters ‘officer Mahmoud Abd al-Zaher and his wife Catherin,’ but also everyone else regardless of the role size.

Kamla Abo Zekry is an Egyptian television and film director who directed many movies and television series including (Yom Lel Settat (A Day for Women), 18 days, Wahed Sefr (One-Zero), Double Faces and An el-Eshq Wa el-Hawa (About Love and Passion.) She participated with her movies in number of international festivals including Cairo, Dubai, and Venice International Film Festivals. Her films have also been screened at Cannes.

Rich main characters

Officer Mahmoud Abd al-Zaher role played by Egyptian actor Khaled al-Nabawy is a very rich character; he is a man full of questions and regrets, blaming everyone around him for his own decisions.

Starting the first episode you might say that Abd al-Zaher is a very loyal, patriotic and rebel officer backing Urabi Revolution against any foreign interference inside his country; but later on, when you see how much he cannot overcome his pride or the surrounding society traditions to admits his feelings towards his loving odalisque, you would describe him as a ‘phony’ person whom you may love, hate or even pity sometimes.

Catherin, performed by amazing Menna Shalaby, was very convincing as an Irishwoman, with her little bit weird ‘orange’ hair, green eyes, freckled face and a very hard Arabic accent to understand.

It made sense that I cannot understand every single word she is saying to Mahmoud Abd Al-Zaher, or why I need to really concentrate following up with her weak language.
Catherin contradictory behavior would make you wonder, same as Abd Al-Zaher about her real intentions. Is a loyal, loving wife or a very selfish woman, eager for more knowledge about the Egyptian history and monuments?

Depending on the original novel, the series still has a lot to show, not only based on the events but based on the performances, because the fundamental element in the original novel was not the events as much as Taher’s epic, self-narrated and detailed writing style.

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