This Ramadan, the drama competition has tipped the balance. It witnessed a rebirth of some experienced and young actors, and frustration with others who failed to impress their audience with a new story or performance this year.
Yousra is one of the actresses who has enjoyed the spotlight this Ramadan, thanks to her outstanding talent in personifying evil. In her new series Fooq Mostawa El Shobhat (Above Reproach), she–for the first time in her career–played the role of a psycho killer named Rahma. Using her sharp facial expressions, aggressive gestures, and seductive tone of voice, Yousra managed to break all the ideal templates she restricted herself to over the past decades, revealing a new face that surprised her audience.
The series managed to show the good and evil sides of every person, and shed light on the circumstances that made a respectable university professor turn into a brutal killer. In her scenes with her mother, she managed to trigger feelings of regret and sympathy that may leave the audience confused about whether to feel empathy or hatred towards this complicated character. Because of her remarkable performance, a big number of critics considered this series one of the best this Ramadan.
Similarly, Yehia El-Fakharany’s performance in Wanoos garnered much praise, as he played the role of the devil who tries to seduce Yakout’s family, and urge them to commit unforgivable sins, including adultery, quackery, murder, and robbery. Although the series discusses the eternal battle between mankind and the devil from a philosophical perspective, the idea was introduced in a simple and direct way to allow each member of the audience to identify with the occurrences. Unlike his previous roles in Dahsha, Sheikh El Arab Hamam, Abbas El Abyad and the dubbing of Toy Story, El-Fakharany proved his brilliance in personifying Satan, with malice and hatred in his eyes, added to his deceptive smile, sweet talk, and promising words.
Wanoos was also a great opportunity to rediscover the potential of Hanan Motawee. Motawee played the role of Nermine, a veiled divorced woman who practices different kinds of quackery and black magic with the help of the devil’s instructions. Although Motawee had impersonated a lot of characters in cinema and drama before, this series can be considered an important turning point in her career. Similarly, Hala Sedky managed to play one of her greatest roles as a devastated mother who tries to protect her sons from the devil’s tricks and traps. Her spontaneous reactions and natural appearance were far from any exaggeration and artificiality.
On the other side, the Afrah El-Qobba series, based on the prominent Naguib Mahfouz novel bearing the same name, was a fierce acting battle between a number of stars, including Iyad Nassar, Seba Mubarak, Mona Zaki, and Sabrine. The series takes the audience on a journey back in history to the 1970s, when actors of a theatre group find themselves obligated to reveal their scandalous secrets in a new play they have to perform. Although each character contains feelings of love, hatred, revenge, and anxiety, the watcher is tempted to understand each character’s ulterior motive, in a setting that blends thriller with romance. With her confident and quiet performance, Mona Zaki succeeded in acting as Taheya, who refuses to work as a prostitute like her sister, and decides to join the theatre group, dreaming of being a famous actress. However, the series faced a lot of criticism given its excessive amount of prostitution, betrayal, and homosexuality that shocked most of the viewers.
The series Grand Hotel also faced a lot of attacks and criticism, even before the beginning of the holy month. Some critics realised that it was copied from a Spanish drama bearing the same name. This was not the first time script writer Tamer Habib had faced such allegations; he was also accused of copying last year’s drama Tareeqy from a Colombian series. However, the remarkable performance of the actors, the locations, as well as the costumes, decorations, and cinematography made Grand Hotel one of the most sought TV dramas this year. The events of the series take place in Aswan during the 1950s, where Ali – played by Amr Youssef – visits the hotel to search for his absent sister. He gets caught between conspiracies among the servants, the owners, and the guests of the hotel. The series combines romance and thriller.
Although the series featured a number of actors and actresses, including Amina Khalil, Sawsan Badr, Anoshka, and others, Mohammed Mamdouh and Dina El-Sherbiny were the vocal point of the social media-wide obsession since the beginning of the month. With his spontaneous way of acting, Mamdouh received positive feedback, from critics and viewers alike, for playing the role of kind, loyal Amin. Similarly, El-Sherbiny showcased how her talent had been improved over the past years. The scene where Ward – the character she impersonates – gives birth triggered a lot of praise on social media, as she acted realistically, gaining people’s sympathy.
However, a large number of drama series did not meet the audience’s expectations this year. An example would be Sokoot Horr (Free Fall), starring Nelly Karim, Ahmed Wafik, Safaa El Tokhy, and others. Unlike her previous successful series that used to attain very high viewership rates, Sokoot Horr did not appeal to a large segment of the audience. Viewers took to social media to mock and curse Karim for the overdose of depression she brings to the screen every year. Around 80% of the series is set inside a mental hospital, where the main character meets different women suffering from different mental disorders. Despite that intensity, the series was accused of being ‘too loose’, making the viewer forget what it was about in the first place. The series could not box itself out of the boredom zone, despite Karim’s great acting skills, which were highlighted during the first episodes. The series started off with her character getting exposed to a psychological trauma and turning mute.
Adel Imam’s series Maamon wa Shorakah (Maamon and his partners) has also been the source of negative feedback, as people accused it of deliberately spreading misconceptions about bearded Muslims and religious Christians. To stand up against the presented stereotypes, many people started clarifying the wrongly depicted generalisations via Facebook. These clarifications included that not all bearded Muslims should be treated as terrorists, and that Christians do not literally worship the cross and do not pray without a veil on their heads.
Similarly, El-Khanka, starring Ghada Abdul Razek, Fathy Abdul Wahab, and Maged El-Masry did not meet people’s expectations, unlike Abdul Razek’s previous dramas, such as Maa Sabq El-Esrar, Hekayet Hayah, and El-Kaboos. Also, prominent singer Mohammed Mounir’s autobiography drama El-Moghany (The Singer) did not appeal to a lot of his fans.