Ever since the official social media handles of the designer brand, Zara Shahjahan, posted a back shot of two people in extravagant outfits sitting on a swing, there was a flurry of netizens speculating who the mysterious couple was. Eagle-eyed fans were quick to guess that it was none other than Ahad Raza Mir and Sajal Aly, the internet’s favorite jodi. They were proved right when the official collection was unveiled.
The campaign, which is for the designer’s luxury bridal wear collection, is stunning. It also features the Lollywood darling Resham and model Eman Suleman alongside Ahad Raza Mir and Sajal Aly. The shoot was Sajal and Ahad’s first campaign together after their wedding and fans all over the world cited it as their best one yet. The brand too was lauded for the amazing creative vision of the shoot.
However, some people started noticing that something was off with the shoot soon after it was released. After some scrutiny, people started pointing out the rather blatant similarity of the shoot with the popular Netflix series A Suitable Boy. And once one notices the similarities, it is impossible to ignore how ‘inspired’ the shoot actually is.
What Is ‘A Suitable Boy’?
The BBC television miniseries A Suitable Boy is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Vikram Seth. The series was streamed on Netflix after originally airing on BBC One earlier this year. The story of the series takes place in the still tumultuous post-partition India in the 1950s. The setting of the drama meant that the drama was full of many period-specific visuals that gave it an old-world charm. A significant part of the story revolves around the romance of an older courtesan (Tabu) and a young man (Ishaan Khatter) which means there were specific sets designed in the drama to show the setting of a haveli where their romance grew.
The Zara Shahjahan shoot appears to have made suitable use of the visuals shown in A Suitable Boy. From the set to the models to the shots and even the color palette of the shoot, everything bears an uncanny resemblance to the aforementioned series.
For those of you who haven’t noticed it, let’s dissect the entire shoot. Beginning with the set, our models are seen posing in a charming old haveli much like Saeeda Bai’s haveli from the series. The wooden lattice windows, the mihrab arches, the furniture, the birdcages and the famous jhoola are some of the props that link both sets and therefore, create a similar vibe.
Besides the sets, even the posing tells a similar story. In one picture Resham, who is playing the character of Resham bai in the shoot, is seen strumming the sitar while Ahad looks on leaning against a wall. The caption says “all that are present fall under the veil of magic”. In the series, the first time Maan sees Saeeda Bai is when she sings at a mehfil at his house and he is transfixed, much like a spell has been cast on him. The sitar is also a visible similarity as Saeeda Bai plays the very instrument multiple times while singing ghazals. Also, the way Ahad leans against a wall while looking at her mirrors a scene from the movie where Maan leans against a pillar, staring at Saeeda Bai as she reads.
Another glaring similarity is the swing. In the series, the swing plays a huge part in showcasing Maan and Saeeda Bai’s romance. Sajal and Ahad posing on a swing in the shoot seem incredibly inspired. In the series, Saeeda Bai is gifted a book of ghazals by Maan, whom she affectionately calls Daagh Sahib. In the shoot, in one picture we see Ahad and Sajal immersed in the book while in several others Ahad is seen engrossed in his poetry while Sajal lingers about. The caption of these pictures suggests Ahad is a poet and his muse Sajal impatiently awaits his next verse. Co-incidentally, the bridal wear collection by Zara Shahjahan is also called Ghazal.
In A Suitable Boy one of Lata’s suitors, Amit Chatterji is a poet and while sending her his poetry book, writes her a poetic dedication. He treats Lata as his muse and when he has a poetry reading at the latter’s university, he makes a point to show that all his poetry is dedicated to Lata only.
The shot of Eman with a paandaan reminds us of Saeeda Bai’s paandaan where she makes paan for her beloved. The shot of Resham and Eman sitting together reminds us of scenes where Saeeda Bai is seen interacting with her sister Tasneem. The shots with Eman somewhere nearby as Sajal and Ahad are enjoying each other’s company reminds us of Tasneem watching from the sidelines as Saeeda Bai and Maan got closer. The birdcage reminds us of the birdcage that housed Saeeda Bai and Tasneem’s parrot, Mian Mithu. To sum it up, there is no dearth of comparisons as the shoot seems to have mixed and matched several elements of A Suitable Boy and made them all a part of a single shoot.
While one may argue that Sajal, Ahad, Resham and Eman were chosen for the magnitude of their influence, their resemblance to some characters from the show can not be ignored.
Ishaan Khatter and Ahad Raza Mir both share similar unruly curls, height, and build. Add on the identical settings and wardrobe affinity and voila. Comparably, Tania Maniktala has beautiful big eyes and a petite build, much like our doe-eyed Sajal. Resham embodies the very glamour and allure that allowed Tabu to portray a stunning older woman who had captured the heart of a young gentleman. Even Eman makes us reminisce about Joyeeta Dutta’s portrayal of Tasneem in the series.
All in all, despite the homogeneity among the series and shoot, we have to say that team Zara Shahjahan has pulled off a formidable marketing campaign and for one reason or the other, people are talking about it. We’ll leave you to be the judge of whether the idea of an inspired shoot was successful or not.