After a scene from their latest drama offering Angna went viral for all the wrong reasons, actors Ali Abbas and Rabab Hashmi recently sat down for an interview with a local publication to share their side of the story. A scene in which Ali’s character, Zain, slaps his wife, played by Rabab, to please his mother, blew up recently on social media, with netizens taking up arms against the actors and writers of the drama serial for glorifying abuse and encouraging women to stay in toxic relationships.
However, according to the two leads, there is more to the story than meets the eye, with Ali’s character suffering the effects of a toxic relationship with his mother, who in her own way has seen her fair share of bad days. Rabab’s character, Eshaal, on the other hand, wishes to “save” herself and her husband from the dysfunctional dynamic.
In the viral scene, the mother-in-law, played by veteran actor Rubina Ashraf, disapproves of Eshaal’s dressing. However, the husband is happy with the outfit and is seen complimenting his wife prior to his mother’s entrance. When his mother asks his wife to change her outfit immediately, without even explaining herself, Zain retracts his statement and asks Eshaal to go and change. When she calls him out, he slaps her and accuses her of lying.
Speaking about how, in Angna, it is the male character who needs saving, Rabab shared, “It’s so interesting. When this script first came to me, I thought of it the same way as any other conventional script… But, when I read Eshaal’s part, I felt there was a possibility to educate [the audience] with her track.”
She continued, “When the project went on air, the feedback we got made us realise that people were relating to it. That means dysfunctional characters [such as Zain] are a part of society. There are relationships where the mother-in-law is dominating and controlling, husbands who behave a certain way because they come from a dysfunctional household. I felt like normally, we wouldn’t be having these conversations. Normally we’d show a dominating man and a meek woman, but here the equation is reversed.”
Elaborating further on the role reversal, she added, “It takes her a while to understand that [her husband] is the victim. He isn’t the one oppressing her, he’s the one being oppressed, and it’s an outcome of how he has been brought up.”
On settling into a new home and making concessions, Rabab added, “I think, as Eshaal, an important thing is that being independent and strong does not mean outright rejecting your home and walking away. Sometimes, when you get into a new relationship, it takes time for you to assess what is exactly going on. In our society, ending a marriage is not easy. For a girl, it is very important to understand that the dynamics you have married into are different from what you come from.”
In defence of Rubina’s character, Ali explained that she herself is a product of difficult circumstances. He asserted, “Rubina Ashraf’s character represents a very different story. She is a single mother who has faced many hardships in life and has become very protective of her son. Some people have a different way of showing their love. She’s not an evil character, she’s just one person who has lived her life in tough times.”
Deeming Eshaal a “responsible” character due to her refusal to leave, Ali added further, “Eshaal’s character doesn’t represent a helpless woman. She’s somebody who took her time to first grasp and understand what exactly is happening. She’s a responsible person who ran her family business. If she runs a business, she has to be practical, not emotional.”
He continued, “She wouldn’t go straight back to her parent’s house and tell them what her husband and mother-in-law are like. She moves forward with responsibility and she has developed some feelings for her husband, which is very natural. She can’t just leave him when she can see that he’s begging for her forgiveness.”
After the interviewer asked the two whether it was wise to encourage acceptance in the face of abuse and feed into the trope of women being able to “save” abusive men, Rabab responded, “She has these small windows to realise that when the mother is not in the picture, he’s a different person. She’s grasped that he’s not a bad person and that she wants to live with him, there’s love developing there. More than denial, there have been stages of her acceptance.” She added, “Eshaal can either just save herself, or she can save Zain as well.”
Ali interjected with his own take on the matter, adding, “The pattern of doing something and then apologising exists in alcoholics, drug addicts or psychologically disturbed. There’s nothing like that going on here. He’s a kind man who tries to take care of his wife.”
Stressing that there is no “glorification” of abuse involved in the story, Rabab shared, “We are in no way supporting abusive marriages. We’re not saying you should accept abuse. We aren’t glorifying it, we’re telling the audience that if this happens in your life, there will be many negative consequences. You can see, they are all tormented. None of them are happy.”
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