Two competing Ramadan television series on Queen Nazli

[FILE] Actress Nicole Saba may star in a new Ramadan series about Queen Nazli.

[FILE] Actress Nicole Saba may star in a new Ramadan series about Queen Nazli.

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For the first time in the history of Ramadan TV dramas, audiences around the Arab world can follow two series about a single character, Queen Nazli, the mother of King Farouk.

The first series, titled "El Princessa wel Afandi" (The Princess and the Gentleman), is produced by Hossam Sha'ban and directed by Gamal Abdel Hamid, who wants Nicole Saba to star in the series. The series is based on a story by Salah Issa and a screenplay by actor Ahmad Salama.

The second series is titled "Malika fil Manfa" (A Queen in Exile). It was produced by Ismail Kutkut, directed by Mohamad Zuhair, written by Rawiya Rashed and stars Nadia El Gendi.

While neither production company has made any move to withdraw its series, each is busy casting roles and signing contracts with TV channels that will be airing the series. Gamal Abdel Hamid set mid-March as the date to start shooting "El Princessa wel Afandi".

Meanwhile, Kutkut says he has a claim on "Queen Nazli", given that it's a sequel to the King Farouk series, which he produced years ago.

As for actress Nicole Saba, she is currently busy studying the character of Queen Nazli. Saba told Al-Shorfa, "I am still in the negotiation stage, and I am not through with the script yet. I am hoping to accept the part after wrapping up negotiations with the producer and the director who selected me for the part."

"No obstacles are keeping me from playing that part, especially because Queen Nazli was a contentious character," she added.

If Saba accepts the role, this will be her third TV series in Egypt, after "Ada El Nahar," (The Day is Over) and "I'sabet Mama we Baba," (Mom and Dad's Gang) which substantially boosted her popularity.

As for veteran Nadia El Gendy, who boasts a long-standing career with 55 movies, her new series "Malika fel Manfa," will be her fifth comeback to the small screen.

El Gendy's debut on the silver screen was through short scenes in "Gamila," with Magda, Rushdi Abaza and Ahmad Mazhar. Directed by Youssef Shahin, the movie was released in 1960 and dealt with Algeria's revolution. El Gendy was then barely 20 years old.

But it was not until she portrayed the life story of renowned belly dancer Bamba Kashar in 1975 that she became a star. The movie was a golden chance for the then not-so-glamorous artist to showcase her acting, singing and dancing talents. Five years later in 1980, "Al Batiniya" (Mysticism) was another resounding success.

Her starring role in a Queen Nazli series is a culmination of her previous work on the silver screen where she portrayed famous historic figures such as belly dancer "Bamba Kashar," and "Imraa' Hazat Arsh Masr," (A Woman who Shook Egypt's Throne), which goes back to the days of King Farouk.

Queen Nazli (1894-1978) was King Fouad's second wife after he divorced Princess Showikar. Nazli married him in 1919 and gave birth to five children, King Farouk and princesses Fawzeya, Fayza, Fayaa and Fatheya.

She supposedly had an affair, then secretly married Ahmad Hassanein pasha, who was then killed by a drunk English driver in 1946.

King Farouk granted her permission to travel to France to seek therapy for her liver disease. After some futile treatments, Nazli left for the US with her two girls Fayaa and Fatheya, and their cortege which included PR employee Riyad Ghali, who later married Fatheya.

This marriage was controversial in Egypt, which led King Farouk to issue a decree stripping Nazli of her title as "the Queen Mother" in 1950, and annulling custody over her daughter Fatheya. The former queen was declared bankrupt in 1974. She died in 1978 at the age of 83 and was buried in the US.