With a thought-provoking narrative and well-developed characters, the show sheds light at the pain and suffering of an acid attack survivor.

Five reasons why Surkh Chandni is a milestone of our drama industry

Shahid Shafaat’s brilliant direction coupled with Sohai Ali Abro’s powerful acting is definitely worthy of applause.

Afshan Zahra August 12, 2019
Directed by Shahid Shafaat, the on-going drama serial Surkh Chandni highlights the highly sensitive issue of acid attacks on the women of our country.

Starring the versatile Sohai Ali Abro, heartthrob Osman Khalid Butt, and powerhouse performer Asad Abbas, the serial points at patriarchy as the deep-rooted cause behind such heinous crimes. It tells the story of a girl belonging to a lower-middle class household and subjected to the tragic attack because of her mere rejection to a marriage proposal from a loafer living in her neighbourhood.


With a thought-provoking narrative and well-developed characters, the show sheds light at the pain and suffering of an acid attack survivor. It also points out the loopholes in our legal system that allow predators to roam free despite committing such crimes.

The story is centered on Ayda (Sohai) whose parents prefer getting her married to her cousin Aman (Osman), son of Ayda’s aunt, who is in love with her. They also make her reject the proposal of Jawwad (Asad), a divorcee man living in their neighbourhood, because of his shady character and bad reputation.

Jawwad takes the rejection as a huge insult. He entices Shumaila (Mansha Pasha), Ayda’s sister-in-law, with some gold bangles to arrange one last meeting with her. Being a greedy and materialistic woman, Shumaila facilitates Jawwad who throws acid on Ayda on the day of her nikkah. Soon after the attack, Jawwad admits to committing the crime, ruining Ayda’s reputation through cheap tactics, and encouraging people to talk ill about her. All of this results in Ayda’s father committing suicide and her brother turning against her.

This is where Ayda’s never-ending struggle of restoring her identity begins, where everyone believes her to be the culprit and her tarnished character as the cause of the attack. This event leaves Ayda with her mother and Aman as her only saviours and supporters. Aman saves her from committing suicide multiple times and also marries her, in an attempt to bring her back to life. The society gives Aman an extremely difficult time for marrying a girl with a tainted reputation, yet he stands tall by her. He and Ayda’s mother give up on everything, including their money and their honour in the society, to save her.

There are several reasons why you should give this serial a watch, here are the five most important ones:

Based on an eye-opening topic that has remained untouched until now

Our drama industry has recently been focusing on various sensitive topics and taboos that haunt our society, such as child abuse, sexual harassment, domestic abuse and child labour. However, dramas showcasing the plight of acid attack victims and the struggles they face in restoring their identity were missing from our screens. Surkh Chandni is the first of its kind and will definitely strike a chord in the masses. It has an immensely realistic storyline and a powerful script penned down by Asma Nabeel, who has gotten her inspiration from actual acid attack victims at the Depilex Smile Again Foundation.


A realistic portrayal of the pain and agony an acid attack survivor goes through

So far, the drama has been handling the issue very realistically, giving us true insight into the sufferings of an acid attack victim, whose predicament is not only restricted to physical disfigurement but also extreme psychological trauma. Shahid’s brilliant direction coupled with Sohai’s powerful acting literally leaves the viewers teary-eyed. Whether it is writhing in pain in the hospital or being ostracised from the rest of the family in her own house, the show showcases Ayda’s each and every moment with the right intensity.

Surkh Chandni also shows how acid attack survivors are sometimes turned into pariahs by their own family due to societal pressure. Instead of being a shield to Ayda in such a miserable situation, her selfish brother Mukhtar (Hassan Ahmed) follows the society’s judgment of her and treats her like an outsider. Whereas Jawwad, who pretends to be exceptionally decent and compassionate towards the family, receives special reverence from Mukhtar.

Both men and women can be perpetrators of acid attacks

It is commonly assumed that such crimes are committed by men only, but Surkh Chandni defies this notion by showing that women can be equally involved. Even if Shumaila was unaware of Jawwad’s intention at the time of the attack, she could have stepped up and unveiled the culprit later, being the only eye-witness to the attack. But her greed for luxuries, and hatred for her sister-in-law, made her not only stay silent but assist Jawwad, despite knowing Ayda was innocent.

The loopholes in our legal system

Surkh Chandni draws our attention to the existing loopholes in our legal system, due to which the country’s acid attack legislation has failed. Despite knowing how Jawwad ruined her life, Ayda feels helpless, because whenever Jawwad gets arrested, he manages to escape accountability somehow. By paying hefty fees to corrupt lawyers and bribing police officials, he manipulates the situation in his favour.

For instance, when Ayda attempts to murder Jawwad, and Aman goes to the police station to get her released on bail, the policeman declines the order on the basis of the arrest being unbailable. Just as we believed that it really was an unbailable arrest, we see him talking to Jawwad in the next scene, where he assures him that his orders are being followed. The serial shows how our legal system is plagued with corrupt policemen and lawyers who would go to any extent of corruption for hefty bribes. And this is why the poor and helpless fear going to courts to fight against injustice, because they know the law cannot help them.

Powerful performances

The casting directors should take a bow for managing to assemble a stellar cast. Sohai steals the show in every episode with her brilliant portrayal of such a complex character. The way she fits into the skin of her character, making us feel the pain of such victims, is worthy of applause.

Osman also shines in his positive role among a bunch of negative characters in the play, restoring our faith in loyalty and true love. Whereas Asad outdoes himself as the cunning villain, making us hate him from the core of our hearts. For Mansha, it was her first time playing a negative role and she has done a fairly good job too but there was a lot more potential. Among the supporting actors, veteran Gul-e-Rana and Huma Nawab deliver amazing performances in their respective roles.

Another step taken in the right direction, Surkh Chandni is hopefully going to become another milestone of our drama industry; fulfilling the social responsibility of educating audiences through powerful serials.

(All photos: screenshots)
Afshan Zahra The author is a graduate from Bahria University Karachi. Writing is her favorite pastime and she writes whenever any topic touches the chords of her heart. She likes to raise her voice on issues related to social injustice, women rights and education. She tweets @AfshanZahra2014 (https://twitter.com/AfshanZahra2014)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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