A woman's right to choose a life partner in Pakistan is still considered taboo in some households.

Some think that a young woman having a love-interest is an act of shame, something that should be hidden from the world. In some households, this can get a woman killed, sometimes along with the man, silenced for life.

So what becomes of the families after one of their members is killed by another? What happens to the mother who watches her son murdering her daughter? What happens to the woman who sees her brother set their sister on fire because she had fallen in love?

That is what makers of Ghairat, an upcoming TV drama on ARY Digital, attempts to explore: the trauma families collectively undergo after an honour killing in their home and how this tragedy shapes their individual lives as they move forward.

The story of Ghairat

The plot revolves around Saba (played by budding actor Iqra Aziz) who has a "girl-next-door" persona. She has lived a sheltered life, all well within the constraints of patriarchal norms.

Saba finds a confidante and a friend in her elder sister Iqra (played by model-turned-actress Jinaan Hussain).

Iqra Aziz with Jinaan Hussain who plays her elder sister in the drama. Photo Courtesy of iDream Entertainment
Iqra Aziz with Jinaan Hussain who plays her elder sister in the drama. Photo Courtesy of iDream Entertainment

In a tragic turn of events, their elder brother Usman (played by Syed Jibran of Chup Raho and Khuda Mera Bhi Hai fame) burns Iqra alive over "honour".

Saba, who held deep respect for Usman Bhai who she thought couldn't even harm a fly, now sees him in a different light. She grows up the day she sees her sister engulfed in flames and grows out of many ideals she had grown up with.

Ghairat cast and crew speak

While discussing violence against women in Pakistan, Aziz said she finds it difficult to understand why women suffer if they are thought to have failed to uphold the values of honour and dignity?

"If a man does something a woman finds offensive, should she kill him?" the actor playing the protagonist said.

When asked if she knows of anyone who may have been a victim of such violence, Aziz said she does not directly know anyone like that. "But I know families continue to pressure girls into getting married right after Intermediate," she added.

"These girls come from good families, attend one of the best colleges in the city," Aziz said.

"Playing the villain in Ghairat was one of the most intense experiences I've had as an actor," says Syed Jibran. Born and raised in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Jibran said he has seen "quite a few things" in life.

Sharing her thoughts on feminism, Aziz said, "People in our society do not fully understand what the ideology encompasses, which is why they hesitate to take on the label."

"But I do think I am a feminist... I wish we all had worn T-shirts today that said, 'We should all be feminists!'" the actor said with a laugh.

Speaking about his character, Jibran said he has played the villain before but it was the first time in 16 years of his acting career he did a scene where his character actually sets someone ablaze.

"It was one of the most intense experiences I have had as an actor," he added. Born and raised in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Jibran said he has seen "quite a few things" in life.

Though he did not share any details, Jibran said he tries to put his experiences into acting to make it look as real as possible.

Iqra Aziz as Saba. Photo Courtesy of iDream Entertainment
Iqra Aziz as Saba. Photo Courtesy of iDream Entertainment

"As actors, we have to maintain the authenticity of the character in order to keep the audience interested," he said.

"I have to embody the beliefs of my character no matter how much I disagree with him to ensure my internal conflict does not show on the screen," Jibran, who attended Kishore Namit Kapoor Acting Institute in India, said.

"It is a mental exercise we are taught in acting school - making that switch between reality and acting," the actor shared.

For Muneeb Butt, who plays Saba's love interest in the drama, the biggest take-away from the story is to speak up. "Life and death are not in our hands, so we should not cower."

Actor Muneeb Butt as Zohaib, Saba's love interest.
Actor Muneeb Butt as Zohaib, Saba's love interest.

Is there a need for another drama on honour killing? Producer Abdullah Seja says yes.

"Honour killing is a sensitive topic to discuss in the mainstream, but one that is current to our times and needs to be talked about," he said.

"With Ghairat, we have tried to show how a girl could react when violence of this degree takes place in her house," he added.

When asked about the most interesting angle of the story, Seja said, "We want to nudge the audience to think, 'What if the roles were reversed?'"

Ghairat begins airing on ARY Digital at 8pm on July 24th.

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