“Surkh Chandni” is a compelling story of an acid attack victim and how the attack subsequently affects her entire existence. Over the past several weeks, viewers have seen how Sohai Ali Abro’s character, Aida, has grappled with her changed appearance and the shame society has inflicted on her. Dealing with everything from isolation, low self esteem, character assassination and feelings of worthlessness, Aida has been through a lot and this has all been portrayed brilliantly by Sohai, a very talented actress. Alongside her, Osman Khalid Butt has been the shining light in an otherwise grim show in his role as Amaan. At present, the show has taken a turn. How the story plays out from here is something viewers will have to wait and watch for.
To summarize the events of episodes 21 and 22 briefly, Mukhtar (Hassan Ahmed) returns home to search for his “missing” mother, surprising Jawad (Asad Siddiqui) and Shumaila (Mansha Pasha). Rukhsana (Lubna Aslam) is safely tucked away with Amaan (Osmaan Khalid Butt) and Aida (Sohai Ali Abro), but they do not want Shumaila to discover this. Rukhsana has already relayed the news of Shumaila’s dangerous affair with Jawad and she is afraid that the two know that she overheard their conversation. Mukhtar becomes aware of Shumaila’s deceit and apologizes to both his mother and Aida, giving up his right to the family property, handing it over to Aida instead. He joins Aida and Amaan on their quest for justice against Jawad.
Aida’s NGO family comes to visit and the head decides to take up Aida’s case with her NGO’s lawyer at no cost to Aida, hoping to settle the issue with Jawad once and for all. Shumaila begins to see the negative side of Jawad, his anger, hostility and abusive nature. She drags her feet in talking to Mukhtar, but Mukhtar confronts her himself with the khulla (divorce) papers. Their fight becomes heated and Mukhtar, in a fit of passion, ties Shumaila up so she can’t escape to meet her lover. Jawad discovers this and frees Shumaila, vowing to get revenge. Mukhtar returns home to check in on Shumaila, but is stabbed from behind in the back.
Shumaila is an interesting character, possibly the most interesting character in the show and it’s evident why Mansha Pasha chose to play this role. Shumaila is evil, vindictive and materialistic. But at the end of the day, she’s human. While she is lured into Jawad’s life by the promises of love, attention and riches, she slowly begins to realize she’s playing with fire. Obsessive, Jawad is relentless in his eagerness for Shumaila’s divorce. Shumaila having seen Jawad’s abusive side and now beginning to experience it herself has become unsure of her feelings towards this change. The fear Shumaila has started to feel around Jawad and her uncertainty regarding her desire to divorce Mukhtar is portrayed by Mansha perfectly. She’s not a good person, she has mistreated almost everyone in her life and continues to mistreat others, including Jawad’s mother (Gul E Rana) at present. While there is no real “forgiveness” for her character, it is possible to sympathize with her and worry for her safety, especially because she has a young daughter connected to her life.
While the show overall has a good message, one part that is hard to digest is this “super villain” that the writers have turned Asad Siddiqui’s Jawad into. Asad cannot be blamed for this, because his performance is brilliant. But the way the character has been written is too smart, too cunning, too evil when dealing with this particular subject. The story is about acid attacks. Men who attack women with acid are angry, irrational and most importantly, they are cowards. They are unable to find an outlet for their rejection and they choose to pick on women, beings they see as “lesser than.” Jawad does not portray this man. Jawad portrays a psychopath, someone who kills and harms like it’s his job. Unfortunately by writing Jawad this way, it takes away from the real crime – the acid attack. Now the focus will turn to Mukhtar’s murder and the framing of Amaan for said murder. “Surkh Chandni” is turning away from its actual point: Acid attacks.