“Initially I had slight reservations doing Aswad. “ – Usman Mukhtar
As the Hum Kahan Kay Sachay Thay episode closed last night, twitter opened up – Aswad was trending, and NOT in a good way! So one agrees, and rightly so, that Usman would have reservations about taking on the role.
I have been irked by the greatly one dimensional story line of Hum Kahan Kay Sachay Thay, but then, astounded at the mind-blowing performances, the intensity of human emotions, the lengths to which parenting can affect a human being – making or breaking lives – HKKST, in a nutshell, incorporates all that which is not good in us, unless of course, you consider Saleha Phuppo, or then again, should you?
I therefore, naturally, reached out to Usman Mukhtar aka Aswad who has been at the receiving end of much public (twitter) outrage.
Why would you take on Aswad, what spoke to you about this character – my question came from the heart, more like a please – yeah, give me something!
We sense your reservation there Usman.
The guy who walks into a restaurant with a female friend/colleague but points the finger at Mehreen for accidentally bumping into Safwan (her ex), the husband who orders his wife to not step out of the house, planning to torture her by not giving her a divorce, marrying her in vengeance, not letting on that he had ignored Mashal’s calls, leaving Mehreen with not an announce of self respect when she appeared before him, all dolled up in a sari … the list goes on. It is, in fact endless – and viewers are quick to point out, quite astutely – that Mehreen had a history of life long deprivation – but what did Aswad have?
Oh well, I say, Aswad has a lifelong history of desi male culture to fall back on? Toxic much, don’t you think? Some people would agree. And many have reached out to our onscreen Aswad to tell him the same – toxic, yes, but we relate!
The fact that men like Aswad exist in real life is more scary than the fact that we are playing out this character onscreen, no? Many wo(men) have nodded their heads as they see Aswad bullying Mehreen, Aswad, hiding his own guilt and blaming Mehreen for everything that went wrong, Aswad being the cool, calm, collected man of the house (but the toxic presence within), Aswad, silent on the outside, and dripping sarcasm on the inside – have we not all known or known of, such men at some point?
Why are we then, so enraged when we see them onscreen? Perhaps because, … drum roll … we feel Pakistani dramas do not need to show these men onscreen, as heroes, as people to fall in love with as Mehreen does, as people to forgive(?) … That’s a tough one!
We are enraged because, if Aswad did not make us feel in the beginning that he would pair up nicely with Mehreen, if Aswad did not have the good looks, the charm, the US return thappa on him, we would not relegate hero status to him – if Aswad were not Mehreen’s hero, we would be okay with his ‘near psychotic’ behaviour. But because Aswad is all of these (and more), because our hero Safwan was sidelined and Aswad took his place, the story takes on a feel that is more life-like than we want it to be.
In HKKST’s Aswad, we see all the Aswad’s we would rather unsee, and we see all the Mehreen’s who have submitted to his will, and though we sympathize with Mehreen, we are also angry with her. We do not want her to cave in, and when she signed that affidavit, it was as if she let down all the Mehreen’s we know, it was as if Aswad and all his toxicity finally won – and that’s what made us so mad at him. That’s what made us desperately want him to suffer, except, he wasn’t, … she was, instead.
We would have been fine if Aswad would have lost.
Yes, there are. The number one message is that, people who seem, (on the surface), put together well, might, if you scratch the surface, have a latent Aswad inside them – Aswad’s toxicity grew as the episodes progressed. Even we, the audience did not see it creeping up on us. Message number two, we have many Mehreen’s among us too – strong, independent minded women, high on pride, pretty and talented, but when it comes to love, they lose out and handpick the Aswad’s of this world, rather than a Safwan who is a sure shot winner in the happy marriage department – lekin, kya karen, dil hai keh maanta nahi! Message number three, why are we making heroes out of men who do not deserve it, and, is there a silent conditioning going on in our society to create Mehreen’s – strong women who turn docile after we, as a society tell them to put their head down and accept the command of the higher being – eg. husband. Saleha does quite a good job of dolling up Mehreen and telling her to move into Aswad’s room again.
Ummm… question, I, the audience. But isn’t that why we watch a drama?
We want to see the hero and heroine getting together. But if you, the writer has penned a hugely flawed character, aka Aswad, and ahem, Mehreen too, are we then, doomed to witness an unhappy ending, because we, sure as hell, cannot see them together after what Aswad did to her (Mehreen’s love for him be damned of course, she’s a doormat and doormats shouldn’t get their dream men by any stretch of the imagination)!
Flawed, we all are, show me a perfect human being and I’ll show you a perfect drama – exactly – even the best of them are far from perfect. So is it us, the audience, that needs to accept flawed humans on our screen, to recognize that we have men like Aswad and women like Mehreen among us, and that, if they play out on screen, they are, but testament to the fact that they exist, but not role models to be aspire to? Do we, as an audience need to be mature enough to take that leap?
So, you took on Aswad, because you wanted the challenge, the versatility? I pressed on with Usman Mukhtar
It is us then, who complain that certain actors do a certain type of role and do not experiment, but when they do, we have a bone to pick with them there too! That being said, Usman is nailing the character here, if the point was to despise him in all his negativity, he has held our hand, and taken us there, without doubt, we don’t need a push, we have arrived – Aswad we are seeing red and you are, perhaps, the most cursed character on twitter today!
However, as an audience, we are, but naturally going through the emotions of an audience who has had enough! We want the healing, the retribution to begin. We are at a precipice where our anger for both Mehreen and Aswad, she for being submissive beyond a stretch of the imagination, and him, psychotic, has reached fever pitch! A lot must be handed to writer- director team Umera Ahmed & Farooq Rind for leading us to this precipice – we wait now to take the leap to the other side – just like Mehreen and Aswad – but is it too late already or can they still help us do it?
For now, we’ll have to control our rage and watch the next episode (despite our very best judgement), because, though we might not have the happy ending we crave, we might witness the beginnings of a journey towards healing – after all, that’s a dream to root for, isn’t it? Not every life story is gifted with a healing process and Hum Kahan Kay Sachay Thay can at least give us that – a dream for many more Aswad’s and Mehreen’s to aspire to!