We finally know why there's such a big fuss about Mawra Hocane's comeback drama.
The Sanam Teri Kasam star will soon be seen in Sammi, Hum TV's next TV serial with a cause.
We caught up with Hocane and producer Momina Duraid at the press conference in Karachi yesterday to get all the scoop on the upcoming project.
Speaking to Images on the red carpet, Momina described Sammi as "an infotainment play."
"One of the main issues that has been highlighted is karo-kari or honour killings. Another very important issue that we've touched upon is mother-and-child health. We've packaged it into a very entertaining story that will inform you about the issues, provide a solution and hopefully encourage girls around Pakistan to raise their voice if any such thing is happening to them."
Sammi sees John Hopkins University serve as co-producers of the play. "John Hopkins has been a big help in research for Sammi," said Momina. "It's great that both like-minded organisations wanted to work on the same cause."
For lead actor Mawra Hocane, the drama's appeal is its awareness-raising potential.
"Social problems can't be about you and me, like Karachites complaining about water issues. We have to touch the grassroot level. Women living in rural settings have to face far more issues than us. They don't have the same freedom. I think if I wasn't acting in dramas, I wouldn't even know about their plight. So it's obviously creating awareness, even if it is for one person like me, it's much-needed," reveals the actress.
"Sometimes while we're off living our privileged lives, we forget that there are villages in our own country where women are suffering."
"We're not claiming that we've solved the problem just by shooting a drama about it but at least we're starting something. Maybe, just maybe, somebody will watch me in Sammi and think this is how I treat my sister and perhaps I shouldn't," adds Hocane.
Will the show also convey a message of female empowerment?
When asked about whether we'll just be seeing a damsel in distress on the screen, director Saife Hassan said, "Most dramas have positive characters and negative characters. There's also a third character in some dramas though and we term that a transitioning character, which is what you'll see in Sammi; someone who has been victimised but evolves from being weak to strong. It's a journey that people will be able to relate to."
Momina adds, "Until you don't show victimisation, you can't show empowerment either. You have to show the path she takes to get to a state of liberation. Yes, you'll see a woman who has been put down, who has several hurdles ahead of her but you'll also see her overcome those obstacles and see exactly how to do so."
Is Sammi expected to match the success Udaari managed to gain?
Producer Momina Duraid says she sure hopes so.
"When I was making Shehr-e-Zaat, I didn't know if it was going to get good ratings, the only thing was to try and make it entertaining. So when unconventional plays as such do well, it paves the way for other such stories to do well too which is good."
"That being said, I'd like to say this to other show creators that don't pick up scripts just in hopes of getting ratings. Work on stories you're passionate about, topics you can do research on, social causes you can give solutions for. Don't do it just to make a sizzler, do it to make a difference."
Talking about how cautious she has to be while making dramas about sensitive topics, Duraid shares: "From the first sentence of the script to the last, every project is like my baby. And not just the script; from the production to the execution of every scene, I'm completely invested. Certain scenes are tricky to shoot and if we miss the mark, it could cause a lot of backlash. Every little detail matters, it's a big responsibility because we need projects about social causes to pick up."
"We just hope to achieve two things here. Firstly, the content must have entertainment value and secondly, it should be content everyone can watch. Even in Udaari, which was based on such a bold topic, we had no graphic scenes. We had to imply things in a way that the adults understand but the children sitting with them don't. We have to be extremely careful."
Sammi is a 20-episode serial that starts airing on January 29 at 8pm.