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KARACHI:
At a first glance, Midsummer Chaos looks like a parody of a group of teenagers from Islamabad’s affluent social class and how their seemingly ‘first world’ problems and teenage angst gets the better of them. As their intolerable accents get accentuated by their pretentious mannerism, these teenagers become more and more annoying as the show propels into utter confusion. By the way, we are only two episodes down and there’s more to come.

The show does not intend to be funny – with the exceptions of a few comic elements – but it is intentionally superficial. With its attractive male lead, non-linear narrative, glamorous parties, truckload of drama and complicated personal relationships – a formula previously used by shows like Gossip Girl, Riverdale and Dynasty – the world of Midsummer Chaos represents the bubble its characters live in.

In a nutshell, Midsummer Chaos became the talk of the town (not just Islamabad), for what can best be described as organised cringe and not comedy. Mind you, it does not feature short sketches or home-made videos of white women throwing pizza in a blender, it is in fact, a complete show with characters going through a serious crises. It came out of nowhere and got everyone talking, just like Taher Shah’s songs, whose catalogue wouldn’t have been this funny either if he didn't take it so seriously.

The show also offers enough fodder to provoke celebrity WhatsApp groups, established filmmakers and many of us viewers to get a kick out of it. Many would like, if not hope, to believe that it is a result of sloppy writing which could have been better if left to the pros. But the brains behind the series has clarified that Midsummer Chaos was intended to be an exaggerated depiction.

“Midsummer Chaos represents teenagers from affluent backgrounds who live in their own bubbles, projecting themselves in an exaggerated fashion because they’re still discovering who they are,” writer-director Ahmed Sarym tells The Express Tribune.

The joke is on you

 

“I agree that some actors could have prepared more but as for the characters, we’ve offered a surface level introduction of them so the following outings can delve deeper into their backstories. When the context isn’t provided, their initial outbursts will seem unreasonable, and that’s the point. For the good or bad of it, people will remain hooked.” - Sarym

According to Sarym, the show does not intend to be funny – with the exceptions of a few comic elements – but it is intentionally superficial. With its attractive male lead, non-linear narrative, glamorous parties, truckload of drama and complicated personal relationships – a formula previously used by shows like Gossip Girl, Riverdale and Dynasty – the world of Midsummer Chaos represents the bubble its characters live in. It highlights the parties these adolescents attend and their inclination towards a westernised lifestyle reflects the lack of Islamabad’s inherent cultural identity.

“Many even made fun of the party scene in the first episode but the reality is, it was a pool party for teenagers, which usually starts around 4pm in Islamabad and goes on until 9pm so everyone can meet their curfews” shared Sarym.

As for its failure to create that suspension of disbelief offering the world it adapts, Sarym explained, “On the set of a drama serial, there’s a crew of 20 people or more that takes care of everything while the actors simply come in, play their parts and leave. But despite the resources their channels have, many of these drama serials are not up to the mark. Even mainstream actors fail to nail their roles. Whereas Midsummer Chaos is produced, directed and written entirely by myself. It received no financial backing whatsoever since producers thought its story was too risky to invest in.”

 

On the contrary, however, several low-budget films still manage to strike a chord with the audience if the actors are in tune with their characters and the characters are well-written, irrespective of how flawed and wonky they may be. So what happened with Midsummer Chaos? “I agree that some actors could have prepared more but as for the characters, we’ve offered a surface level introduction of them so the following outings can delve deeper into their backstories. When the context isn’t provided, their initial outbursts will seem unreasonable, and that’s the point. For the good or bad of it, people will remain hooked,” assured Sarym.

While he agrees that there is room for improvement in his series, Sarym is against the bullying that is coming his way, followed by the critique of a show which has not even released in its entirety and stars ‘non-actors’, ‘kids’ like himself who are just starting out. “I really have a problem with the whole series being judged after two episodes. I’ve read such prestigious publications, offering their reviews at this stage. I’ve practiced journalism for a while too and I don’t think there’s any journalistic integrity in passing judgments on something without even watching its conclusion,” said the 18-year-old filmmaker.

Stay tuned

 

“If not their backgrounds, viewers will connect with the characters’ insecurities because the emotional arc is universal. Midsummer Chaos is just a story of a lot of people and their identities, since teenage angst is a very real emotion and you’re very hormonal when you’re figuring yourself out. And everybody has a right to figure themselves out.” - Sarym

Sarym feels his show is layered with symbolism and will offer elements that will make it relatable in the forthcoming episodes, just like Gossip Girl offered Dan Humphrey. “When Haris comes home to Mehar Bano in the first episode or Sameer comes back to his mother, there’s a conversation shift. If you pick up on slight details it will make more sense. And when I compare it to GG I mean to say that it isn’t supposed to be a relatable story, even New York doesn’t function like that but GG is a dramatised version of a small community in NY that comes from the Upper East Side,” he adds.

For Sarym, one thing that makes Midsummer Chaos stand out is its progressive nature, which attempts to normalise women going out and wearing whatever they want. “I don’t want to give away the story but there is so much that is yet to come,” he assures. “We’re also trying to build a certain notion of aspirations, for instance, we have a trans actor, Zara Khan, who was also in Churails. With a teenage drama, I wasn’t able to have a very serious social commentary but Zara, who in real life is a brilliant make-up artist, has played a psychologist in the show. Occupations have nothing to do with gender but I have never come across a trans psychologist in real life,” admits Sarym.

The young filmmaker acknowledges that many may continue to watch Midsummer Chaos solely for the sake of entertainment but as his characters humanise, the class difference will no longer be an agent of disconnect. “If not their backgrounds, viewers will connect with the characters’ insecurities because the emotional arc is universal. Midsummer Chaos is just a story of a lot of people and their identities, since teenage angst is a very real emotion and you’re very hormonal when you’re figuring yourself out. And everybody has a right to figure themselves out

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