Written by Mariem ELTagoury
Welcome back readers! You might have been following my column before when it was more feminist focused, but after many requests for my “in your face” style to open its doors for more themes & topics, I finally complied, hence, now I’m writing Sans Sugarcoating.
So let me start with everything that turned me off from last Ramadan’s most loved TV show, Grand Hotel. I said turned-off, not hated since I was more than willing to love the show. It had all the elements to win anyone’s favour; the scenery, the fashion, the starting storyline, the scene riddles with flashbacks, the romance, Anoshka/Kesmat Hanem was regal, Ragaa ELGedawy was part of the cast – need I say more!? Oh and Sherine/Fakhr Hanem, I must say she was the reason I kept watching till the end of the show; outstanding performance. The show didn’t fail me on a dramatic level (pun intended), it failed me most with the storyline. I might have had a lot more issues with the writer Tamer Habib last Ramadan than anyone else.
Portrayed as the kind man who was killed for his money. The picture of this nobleman doesn’t waver once throughout the story. No one despises him for his cowardice for neither facing his father nor accepting his son, or his unjustness for having Kesmat as a wife without the knowledge about his secret wife, Sekeena; or his greed for accepting her money for his dream business. Even Sekeena’s dying love for him made absolutely no sense.
2- The Grand Scene
Let me start with the scene that emotionally shook masses, who insisted that Mohamed Mamdouh deserved an Oscar. There is no question the scene was a job well done, I almost cried as he picked up the baby ever so gently in contrast to how he picked up his wife. It was a complex scene filled with human violence & tenderness. It’s drama, so exaggeration is expected, but my admiration was lost when he threw her and her child at Murad’s feet saying, “these things don’t belong to me!” things. How can one refer to a person and a child as things! Just ask your traitor wife to take the baby and leave! It was the most de-humanising thing I’d ever watched and it screamed every single problem we have within our society! This misogynistic attitude that invites a man to visualize a scene where a man can throw a woman & a child around to another man is the epitome of reason why we are still in desperate need of more laws to protect women & children, because we are still ‘objects’ in the eyes of men of our society.
3- The Romantic limits!?
We’ve watched Cinderella and every other fairy-tale where love conquers all and can never be explained; but I think the writer was asking for a bit too much from the romance department this time! Nazly runs away leaving her family & fiancée behind for Aly, she has no clue where they’re heading and most definitely doesn’t expect a palace at the other end, yet he goes back because of news regarding his dead sister!!! This is 1950 we’re talking about, if her paternal cousin/fiancée had decided to crush her head, he’d get off the case by showing the police her letter! It’d be drafted as an honour killing! So she risks her life for Aly, who proves unworthy, then somehow he convinces her to forgive him and love him again?!
4- Divorce…. You think it’s that easy??
While we’re on the topic of women misfortunes in the 50s. Nazly comes up with an excellent plan to just ask for a divorce. Women didn’t just get a divorce back then, not unless the man wanted to divorce her, even if she requested a divorce there’d be the “Beyt Elta’a” law (compulsory obedience), which would force her back into his marital bed! The writer could have used this to highlight the difficulties women had back then and how far we’ve come now, but instead he whooshed away years of women’s tears & sweat that paved the easier life for women like us today.
5- The romance in… cheating!?
The love story between Nazly & Aly was pictured as the most romantic thing ever and I couldn’t get what was so romantic about cheating on your fiancée who later became your husband!? It just shows the extent of our belief that relationships solely revolve around sex! Everyone was ok with this relationship as long as it didn’t involve sex, because in our world of confused ideals emotional cheating doesn’t count as cheating!!!
I was in love with Ehsan’s role, the breath of a true gentleman from another era was amazing. His gallant choice to go to take the guilt & the consequences instead of his wife, and my favourite moment when he told Murad about the time & effort it takes to raise a gentleman, a Pasha’s son. However the writer had a sudden change of heart with this character. Based on his character, I’d expect him to return the hotel share to his wife after the divorce, but he chose to keep it! No reference was made as to whether this was an act of greed, revenge, or despair?! Overall, Ehsan’s character gave me the impression of a story with an open ending, it felt like the writer just saved him for the happy ending!
7- Victimizing Doha
The story just kept framing Doha as a victim, in spite of the obvious fact that she was driven by greed! At one point she exclaims to Amal how heartless she is towards Amin, yet she herself is just as guilty since she never handed Amin the letter! Also her insistence that Murad pay her back. For what?! She was in a voluntary relationship with him!? I love a good sexy drama but those lines were ridiculous.
8- Aly is gallant, noble, and always a victim
Aly’s betrayal to Nazly aside, how can you just picture someone who was involved in a crime of theft & murder as a victim and expect the show to go on in peace?! Aly literally tells his ex-mistress/accomplice “you told me to steal & you killed her”!!!! That’s an excuse you’d likely hear in kindergarten. It is so pathetic; I couldn’t even sympathise with him in any manner!
9- Kesmat… the real victim?!
Beautifully portrayed by Anoushka, but so little sympathy from the writer & audience. Adham marries her, takes her money for his dream business, she discovers he has another wife (the maid) and a child, both who live with them! After Nazly’s eloquent speech about justice and Kesmat revealing the source of her father’s fortune, I imagined a “Maleficent movie” moment where the dawn of understanding this woman’s source of hate & evil enlightens the audience and changes the scheme of the story, turning her from the evil witch to the actual victim. I had to watch the audacity of her daughter giving her mother’s money away and still going to her smiling! How could the writer still portray this one as the innocent heroine?! Sorry guys, I’m on team Kesmat!
10- Pregnant, please notice!
All my criticism was for the writer & story but I saved this last one for the costume stylist, Yasmine Elkady, who in spite of her excellent taste and style missed out on that one last outfit. Nazly & her tummy! In 1952 women’s fashion was very strict when it came to pregnancy; women had to hide their bellies at most times, loose dresses were the only appropriate attire, and covering the belly with a blanket while sitting was preferred!
What was your favourite Ramadan series?
What do you think of the grand hotel? What series are you currently following? Which series are on your to watch list? Besides drama, what would you like us to discuss next time? Let us know in the comments below!