Chain Aye Na promotes violence against women and domestic abuse. It sets Pakistani cinema back a decade

Chain Aye Na promotes violence against women and domestic abuse. It sets Pakistani cinema back a decade

Syed Noor's latest might just be Pakistani cinema's most dangerous film yet, and the industry needs to take notice
Updated 18 Aug, 2017

Until I watched Syed Noor's latest production Chain Aye Na last night I'd never truly been ashamed of Pakistani cinema.

Yes, over the past few years we've produced films that are corny, tacky and flawed. But we've also come away with movies that are original, entertaining and full of promise, and as such, until a day ago I could say I was proud of Pakistani cinema's halting achievements.

Chain Aye Na sets back all our progress by at least a decade if not more.

To sit through the film is to endure two-plus hours of pure unadulterated misogyny, sexism and classism. The film promotes violence against women, glorifies abusive relationships, encourages stalking and emotional manipulation and normalises a culture of non-consent.

It is relentless in its portrayal of women as being deserving of whatever violence is done to them, to the extent that I can only conclude Syed Noor harbours a previously latent and now entirely obvious resentment against the female sex.

Regressive in both its politics and its aesthetics, Chain Aye Na is the most deeply irresponsible act of filmmaking I've had the misfortune to experience.

In this film's universe no means nothing if it's said by a woman

At the outset we're introduced to female lead Ruba (played by Sarish Khan) who bumps into young musician Rayan (played by Shahroz Sabzwari) at a wedding.

Spoilers ahead

A mere glance and one dance is enough to convince Rayan that he's madly in love with Ruba. When he confesses his love to her she brushes him off. She's very pointed in her dismissal but crucially, she frames her disinterest as a product of being engaged to another man, Murad (played by Adil Murad), rather than as her exercising her own free will to accept or reject a suitor. More on this later.

Rayan refuses to accept this state of affairs. He exhibits classic stalker behaviour -- he tracks down her phone number, shows up uninvited at her home and repeatedly invades her personal space. All this despite knowing barely anything about Ruba, who again is adamant that he should leave her alone.

At this point Rayan's near-pathological obsession with Ruba makes for deeply uncomfortable viewing. Without a backstory or any character development to prop him up, Rayan is the embodiment of male entitlement.

Rayan obsessed with Ruba, loses his calm when she says she doesn't love him back
Rayan obsessed with Ruba, loses his calm when she says she doesn't love him back

He cannot fathom that no means no. To him Ruba is little more than an object he can demand to own just because he desires this to be so. This notion that women are objects, little more than collectible items to be traded or discarded by men at will, is reinforced throughout the movie -- for example, at one point Rayan's friend ogles a picture of Ruba and says "Jis ko pehlay mili us ki."

Also read: Law student who survived brutal stabbing fears encountering attacker in school exam

I had the distinct and discomfiting sense that I was witnessing the prelude to violence, because as we all know, in a world where men feel entitled to receive a woman's attention or affection there is usually only one way rejection plays out - with murder.

One creep isn't enough, apparently

Murad ups the creep factor considerably.
Murad ups the creep factor considerably.

My sense of impending doom was validated when the other man in Ruba's life enters the picture -- her fiance Murad.

I still can't decide which leading man in Chain Aye Na is more repellent: Rayan the creepy stalker or Murad the cheating control freak.

Murad is the hard-drinking, womanising son of a sleazy politician. His marriage to Ruba is a political union; Ruba's mother, also a budding politico, is eager to sell her daughter for political gain.

As the film advances we see Murad is involved with another woman, Dolly. Despite his philandering ways, Murad is deeply possessive of Ruba, treating her as an object in the same way Rayan does. He monitors her phone calls and asks after her friends. He overrides her every opinion, at one point convincing her to drink against her wishes because it'll make her feel better.

If the film intended to present Murad as a villain it fails to do so. Murad is never convincingly cast as the bad guy; the script panders to him and his whims instead. What we're left with is a sense that this is just how men are, and that Ruba being caught between two unstable individuals is a fate we - and she - must accept.

The glorification of violence against women begins with a slap...

Halfway through the film I was prepared to accept Chain Aye Na as nothing more sinister than the flawed product of an unoriginal mind. It was mildly offensive, yes, but not outrageously irresponsible or downright dangerous.

My opinion was changed with the slap.

In what I consider the film's defining and most disgusting moment, Rayan accosts Ruba at a golf club where she's jogging. He taunts her again, saying she'll fall for him soon. Ruba is understandably upset that he's stalking her and forcefully rejects him verbally. As she walks away Rayan grabs her arm and to loosen his grip, she slaps him twice.

In a shocking display of violence, Rayan slaps her three times across the face. After this he intimidates her physically, refusing to let her go. Ruba's fear is evident on her face, yet Rayan sees his actions as the logical outcome of his love for her, "Do thappar jawab they, aur teesra sawal... tum sirf meri aur meri ho."

Following this Rayan slashes his hand open as penance for his violence. And yet, even after this shocking display, he has the audacity to show up at Ruba's home the next day to goad her further. He blames Ruba for the slap and the cut on his hand, saying both are the product of her non-compliance.

In a shocking display of violence, Rayan slaps Ruba three times across the face. After this he intimidates her physically, refusing to let her go. Ruba's fear is evident on her face, yet Rayan sees his actions as the logical outcome of his love for her.

Anyone who is even slightly familiar with the psychology of domestic violence will understand how problematic this is. Abusers routinely blame their victims for 'making them do it,' making it impossible for a victim of abuse to speak up without bearing a burden of shame.

That a movie should promote these values today makes me sick. As Rayan's slap resounded throughout the theater my colleagues and I could only gaze at each other in disbelief. I felt nauseated and unwell, thoroughly shaken up.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the last act of violence Chain Aye Na would celebrate.

...and ends with murder

Murad tolerates his side chick until he can't control her anymore.
Murad tolerates his side chick until he can't control her anymore.

As it turns out Murad is no slouch when it comes to perpetuating violence either. Near the film's close he tries to break off his affair with Dolly. Because Chain Aye Na is so committed to portraying women as objects that have value only in relation to men, Dolly threatens to kill herself if Murad rejects her.

Murad is not terribly concerned by the prospect of a young woman taking her life. In fact, when Dolly presses a gun into his hand and asks him to choose between being with her and shooting her - he shoots her dead. And because Chain Aye Na would have you believe that without the attention of a man a woman is better off dead, Dolly's last words to her murderer are "Thank you."

Because Chain Aye Na is so committed to portraying women as objects that have value only in relation to men, Dolly threatens to kill herself if Murad rejects her. And because Chain Aye Na would have you believe that without the attention of a man a woman is better off dead, Dolly's last words to her murderer are "Thank you."

When Murad calls Ruba to confess his crime he doesn't express remorse at murder - he only regrets that Dolly "tried to create a wall between us." Following this Murad's politician father enters the scene and instructs his goons to throw Dolly's body in a ditch.

With the inconvenient female conveniently dispatched, Chain Aye Na proceeds to normalise her murder with shocking nonchalance. Dolly is never mentioned by name again. Despite knowing that Murad has most certainly murdered a woman Ruba agrees to marry him anyway to preserve her family's izzat.

When it is revealed that Dolly's sister is trying to pursue a case against Murad, Murad's father calls her a r*ndi.


This was the point at which I began gathering my things to leave the theater.

A failure on every level

Ruba is the most regressive female lead I've seen yet.
Ruba is the most regressive female lead I've seen yet.

Sometimes films that fail in their politics achieve success in other areas - like acting, cinematography or direction. If this is the case I'm not opposed to critiquing a film's artistic merits independent of the philosophical universe it inhabits.

But this isn't the case with Chain Aye Na. Every single moment of the film is saturated with misogyny and latent aggression towards women, from the songs to the jokes to the character development, making it impossible to form objective opinions about any one aspect.

Perhaps the single greatest failure here is Ruba's character. Ruba is consistently spineless and lacks any identity of her own. She exists only to please her parents and whoever they choose to wed her to.

The lack of self-awareness exhibited by every single member of the cast is deeply shocking. I can't quite fathom how an all-star ensemble could agree to feature in a film so regressive and distasteful.

However, most vitally: the film doesn't make her out to be a victim. It insists that she's chosen this fate, that she's chosen to be abused. She is ok with marrying a man who murdered a woman, and then she's equally ok with (spoiler alert!) falling in love with a man who slapped her in public too.

In her act of normalising this cycle of violence she is the opposite of a role model for women. A newcomer to Pakistani cinema, Sarish Khan has previously said she's a champion of women's empowerment, so it shocks me that she agreed to a role that so obviously glorifies a culture of abuse.

Even when the film attempts to depict 'powerful' women it does so in a way that makes clear that power in the hands of a woman is a corrupting influence. Ruba's politician mother is shown to be manipulative, mercenary and morally bankrupt, and in the absence of any other female characters we're left to believe that a woman must submit to male will or choose between one of two options: death or damnation.

I'm afraid that even one screening later, the damage is already done. When Rayan slapped Ruba onscreen yesterday, a group of men sitting next to me in the cinema broke out into applause. Acha kiya! exclaimed one of them.

I'm also shocked that Shahroz Sabzwari chose to make his film debut as an abusive stalker with zero depth and naunce. I kept waiting for the film to reveal that Rayan suffered from psychological issues, because that is really the only way to explain Rayan's behaviour. Unfortunately, that moment never came, and I realised that to Sabzwari and the rest of the cast Rayan is a perfectly acceptable romantic hero.

This lack of self-awareness, mirrored by every single member of the cast, is deeply shocking. I can't quite fathom how an all-star ensemble could agree to feature in a film so regressive and distasteful.

At the end I'm forced to conclude that Chain Aye Na is the fantasy of a man who, upon witnessing his gradual displacement and growing irrelevance in Pakistani cinema's fairly progressive revival, yearns to return to a time when ageing men held all the power, when women were subservient pawns and where critics turned a blind eye to sexist narratives.

This era Syed Noor yearns for is almost gone, and good riddance to it. However, we're not out of the woods yet. Irresponsible films like Chain Aye Na will seduce those who harbour nostalgia for that era, whispering to them that misogyny and violence are warranted sometimes.

I'm afraid that even one screening later, the damage is already done. When Rayan slapped Ruba onscreen yesterday, a group of men sitting next to me in the cinema broke out into applause. Acha kiya! exclaimed one of them.

"Shame!" I called out in return.

People turned around to look at us, two opposing viewpoints sitting side by side, bristling at each other.

Meanwhile the catalyst for our disagreement glowed larger than life in front us, either a stain or a vindication, depending on how Syed Noor you are.


Nasiroski Aug 11, 2017 05:23pm
Why would I watch a movie from Syed Noor the left over of a disaster called Pakistan film industry. There was a reason why that ship sank.
Falcon1 Aug 11, 2017 05:34pm
Salacious and inappropriate. It should be banned from cinemas.
mana Aug 11, 2017 05:38pm
Mr Syed Noor is one of the main causes of Pakistani cinema following Bollywood of 1990's which has drastic effects on Indian society and Pakistani to some extent. He should not be allowed to make movies
Luna Aug 11, 2017 05:56pm
Hundreds of people work on a film. The fact that they all agreed to be part of such an appalling narrative speaks volumes about them and about what is still considered normal here
analyses Aug 11, 2017 05:57pm
Great article. The issue is purely with the director Syed Noor. Even before making this movie, he and Shaan always used to show their extreme jealousy for the new era better films and their unmasked hatred of showing Bollywood movies in Pakistan's cinemas. It is due to these individuals Pakistani cinema industry never progressed beyond the 60s, whereas the world around us changed.
Ahsan Gul Aug 11, 2017 06:03pm
Either violence scenes be cut or film be pulled away from theaters. Too much violence against females. We already have in Pakistan.
Shaheen A. Aug 11, 2017 06:03pm
no point in blaming cinema, because it only depicts what the society and people are like.
Sam Aug 11, 2017 06:07pm
Nicely written and I'm not surprised a bit. What else did you expect from Syed Noor? He has no sensitivity to any subject - Can't begin to understand how he would have conceived the "slapgate"?? Maybe because he doesn't consider it to be an anomaly. Pretty sure that's his reason. Unfortunately, free speech cannot stop us from banning people like him or movies like this... I did feel that there was a tone of generalization of Pakistani men in your article? It's sad that a major chunk of our men reflect Syed Noor and the acha kia guy's thoughts process but there is a lot who would consider this movie as offensive as you did and that number is growing. Violence against women is an issue that needs to be addressed nor to be glorified via cinema. Also, the problem is not Syed Noor alone - someone winning a beauty pageant and acting in a film like this needs a serious wake up call. How could she??
Dili Aug 11, 2017 06:18pm
Well, even from a 4 min long trailer one could judge its a low quality production. Syed noors big ego just can't accept the fact that Pakistan industry and audience has moved on from a jahil era movies. The other day he was whining about not getting any support from the industry fellows and claimed its because he is from Lahore. I mean the guy decided to stir up racism and provincialism just because no one liked his crappy production. Over all very nice and detailed review
SQ Aug 11, 2017 06:25pm
I can't believe this movie got made. I agree with you that in a society where honor killings are part of tradition and incidents of violence against women who reject a man's proposal are rampamt, this kind of films are dangerous.
Lydia Aug 11, 2017 06:40pm
Thank you for writing this article, it comes in a timely manner. In refence the Google manifesto; claiming that women are "biologically less capable" than men. I thought I'd share this uplifting article, that supports your claims here, from Scientists who show that biological differences between men and women are not to blame for the differences between the two in society, rather it is culture and the plasticity of the brain. The claims made by the author of the "Google manifesto" are proved completely false by evidence from matrilineal societies which show the exact opposite his claims. That the brains of women from societies where women are appreciated and expected to be good with math reflect those skills, unlike the brains of women who are told by patriarchal culture not to value math, ect. (
Ehtisham Hussain Aug 11, 2017 07:05pm
Four years from now, there will be a sequel to this movie where Ruba decides to enter politics and speak publicly against her abusers. People will question why it took her four years to speak up, and you will write an article defending her. Sarish Khan signed up for this movie knowing that it is supposed to be a trilogy. Syed Noor is a genius, he will rile up all the feminists through this movie, bring up the Karachi vs Lahore divide in the next, and the cinemas will be sold out when the third movie comes out.
Sub bechain hogaey Aug 11, 2017 07:27pm
No need to criticize Syed Noor please, at such a short budget he placed before viewers the most discussed film of today.After all you guys see senseless horror movies, or fiction movies. If Chain Aye Na, is unique movy just appreciate it, and understand there are crazy mad people in society. I will not discourage Syed Noor and still hope he may bring some new ideas in his next release.No doubt his talent is great.
Weq Aug 11, 2017 07:40pm
Please put some clothes on women, lesser clothes does not imply quality unless film budget was too low to buy some.
Thoroughthinker Aug 11, 2017 07:57pm
Why worry? We are a mature nation and do not follow films to get any education from them. It is a universal fact that, our best entertainment is in observing scandalous deeds of others and rejoicing being not involved in them.
talat Aug 11, 2017 07:58pm
So good you wrote this review and so happy you shamed them - bless you
KAHN Aug 11, 2017 08:11pm
In all trueness Shahroz Sabzwari is not a hero material and that tells a lot about movie and its director.
Rfam Aug 11, 2017 08:42pm
@analyses Agreed. Plus I don't really understand why Syed Noor is supposed to be a great director. As I understand he started making films in 1980/1990's which is the worst era for Pakistani films ( I left Pakistan in the early 70's and prior to that there was a thriving movie industry and we made halfway decent films) essentially leading to the death of the industry. Now that there is somewhat of a revival going on the Syed Noors and Shaans should have rehaim on us and go away
Ganesh S Aug 11, 2017 08:46pm
Sounds too appalling to be even a rip-off of one of those pathetic Hindi movies manufactured by Bollywood on similar subjects. We also need to realise that degrading women need not involve violence. Here in India we have an atrocious TV serial, built around the story of a nine year old boy married off to a girl twice his age!
Alba Aug 11, 2017 09:06pm
Sorry to say, Pakistani actresses wear way too much make up.
Absano Aug 11, 2017 09:20pm
Goodness! This sounds like a cringefest. Means all the ppl involved in the film need a crash course in basic human rights, at the least.
aaq Aug 11, 2017 09:20pm
Ewww. Such movies should be banned
gabbar singh Aug 11, 2017 09:53pm
I am an NRI in the US. A fairly well to do Pakistani friend in his early thirties, confided in me that " ... I have not beaten my wife , yet..." as if it was the norm in Pakistan. I think South Asia has some ways to go before they can call themselves civilized.
JAVED ahmed Aug 11, 2017 10:32pm
its reality of our society we can not deny we have to acknowledge it syed Noor Knew it what he was going to launch .
Ali Aug 11, 2017 10:51pm
@Lydia So what does this have to do with the movie?
Hasan Aug 11, 2017 11:45pm
Syed Noor sahib, please read this! Time for you to find another profession!
Zubair Aug 11, 2017 11:57pm
Utterly disgusting!
Hasan Aug 12, 2017 12:35am
@Sam "someone winning a beauty pageant and acting in a film like this needs a serious wake up call. How could she??" I'm confused...why does the fact that she won a beauty pageant have any relevance to her decision to take this role? Anyway, good article. The very presence of the author's views are, hopefully, a sign that some subtle changes are afoot within Pakistani society. Hasan
Ustaad Aug 12, 2017 01:44am
That misogynistic stain in the society is here to stay and not only in Pakistan (don't think it is that progressive a society anyways) but US as well. A lot and I mean a LOT of people, including women, find Mr. Trump's views on women perfectly fine.
DANIYAL Aug 12, 2017 02:02am
We all love to criticize Indian Cinema & Television Shows. But I absolutely hate our Cinema & so-called Drama shows. Nothing except Poor, desolate, gorgeous, vulnerable Women...just waiting for some kindness, some love by a Man, she has been betrayed, cheated, beaten by every other Male. I HATE our shows/movie.
Hassan Aug 12, 2017 02:46am
Looks like a true entertainer.
Ravi vancouver Aug 12, 2017 03:47am
I am glad that Pakistanis criticized the violence against women in the film. It is positive thing got women that lot of Pakistanis are against the violence against woman. This movie tried to copy Bollywood films, but Pakistanis have moved on and are against current corrupt bad copy of western culture in India. Any movie released in Pakistan must adhere to the Pakistanis culture and sensitivity.
Harsha Subbaiah Aug 12, 2017 04:40am
@Ganesh S but it happens or rather used to happen! I mean what's wrong in showing that we still have flaws in our society!
Afzal Khwaja Aug 12, 2017 04:45am
I saw the film and was entertained with beautiful photography, sound, songs and acting. Producer provided jobs -- isn't it great? It has less violence and misogyny than watching Indian movies or Hollywood movies -- which many Pakistani gladly watch and praise. In recent years, Pakistani movies like Balu Mahi or this movie are on the right track to have Pakistanis watch Pakistani movies in order to compete with foreign movies. Syed Noor is on right track.
Ather Aug 12, 2017 05:06am
@Luna From the description provided by author, I consider this film depiction of immaturity in our society. Such films will banned in the west, in present days, from showing on prime time TV or in a cinema hall. Yes, they used to show such movies some 20 years ago. In other words, we are not growing up!
Saniah Aug 12, 2017 05:35am
I understand and agree that that's wrong but movies can also be just for entertainment and not always have to get so serious about it. I personally watched it just to have an entertaining night out which I did with all the songs suspense comedy drama and romance all in one. It was fast paced and had me into it and I didn't get bored. So I know that's a plus regarding our cinema which can only improve if we support it and hopefully will get better.
Hafeez Aug 12, 2017 06:49am
I m going to watch no matter what people say. Syed noor has good reputation
Ahmad Aug 12, 2017 06:50am
Where is the censor board now?
ali Aug 12, 2017 07:23am
you are assuming movies change attitudes. no scientific evidence of that whatsoever.
Shazam Aug 12, 2017 08:14am
A very good review. Thumbs up
aamna Aug 12, 2017 10:34am
Both of these megalomaniacs Shaan and Syed Noor ve only one option, that is to take a couple of years off and become human, let alone unleash their crazy ideas on mankind ...
sheema zain Aug 12, 2017 10:53am
Shocking. Sounds disgusting. I definitely dont want to watch it.
Aryan Aug 12, 2017 11:34am
@Ganesh S This is like comparing Udaari a issue based serial to trivial movies. That serial too is issue based showing ills and how it affects society, and there is no movie glorifying woman violence implying woman derserve it in their cinema. Confusing issue based movie/serial to this mysogynist movie is deflecting blame.
lafanga Aug 12, 2017 12:09pm
This is not Bollywood. we would not allow these type of movies in Pakistan.
saqib mughal Aug 12, 2017 12:18pm
this syed noor fella was boasting how his films have never been censored. Well perhaps the people need to force the censor board to this time round ban this vile excuse of entertainment altogether. To think we were doing so well with recent romcoms and thrillers such as Maalik.
saqib mughal Aug 12, 2017 12:25pm
@Shaheen A. Every society has problems, but it doesn't mean we have to glorify such ills of a society. If Mr Noor was projecting such vulgarity and violence in his movie to highlight such issues in society then that would be a different matter but he has already claimed in his interview that he doesnt believe in movies being made for social commentaries but merely for entertainment. This may be acceptable to you madam but not for Pakistanis any longer who refuse to follow such narratives.
parveez shafi Aug 12, 2017 12:44pm
Let the people decide after seeing the film. First it's the father or the brother who think they have the right to control the women in the house. Women in Pakistan are treated as objects to own and do what the husband wants The family of the girl once married think that now the husband is the owner and they have no say. We need to change. By banning the film will no stop violence against women.
VIN Aug 13, 2017 12:25am
@Ravi vancouver According to director this movie represent Pakistani culture.
Badar khan Aug 13, 2017 01:41am
@saqib mughal i heard it did get censored in all states of Pakistan and passed all censors in first try. No cuts were done I think ppl go to movies to lighten up and enjoy not to get serious and it's the only time we can get away from stress and sadness in this world. Why not focus on all the good aspects such as songs and suspense of film! Take care everyone and see you at the movies!! SmiLe everyone and be happy. !!
kamran anas Aug 13, 2017 01:51am
Dear Mr Noor, better produce horror movies. you are still living in die era.
Nina Aug 14, 2017 09:50am
Movies and actors truly project the true images of a society so don't blame the films fix your society and look in the mirror people..
AAMER Aug 14, 2017 03:19pm
Syed Noor started really good with films like Jeeva, Chor Machay Shor and Ghoongat. He also did Dewany Terey Pyar kay. Apart from that all his movies were very bad.
maria Aug 14, 2017 04:44pm
I dont know what peope are talking about.We watched the movie.loved it.was very entertaining.Sarish .Sheroz did great performance.Goodluck to all of you.Sarish you improved your urdu so much.After watchig your previous interviews .your urdu is amazing now as i know you are raised in America.The acting for your first movie is made a lot of fans all over the world.I look forward to seeing more movies of Sheroz.Sarish and Adil.Haters will hate and be negative.All of you have Fans now.
saqib Aug 15, 2017 02:15pm
The problem is that Syed Noor is not ready to accept that 'it's about time'.
leila Aug 15, 2017 02:47pm
This is so messed up. But unsurprising. Especially the disgusting response of the men in the cinema lauding violence. This is the "true" Pakistan that Pakistani women have to live in and deal with. It's awful. But on a side note to the author if this review: psychological "issues" are no excuse for being a vile human being. Comments like these promote stigma against people with mental illnesses. The word you were looking for is psychopath or someone with antisocial personality disorder.
khan Aug 16, 2017 06:18am
flop movie of 2017
Ali Aug 25, 2017 07:27am
@Sub bechain hogaey All I can say to his talent is great is ....hahahahahahaha! I hope you were being sarcastic!