Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay is a drama that needs a trigger warning

Episode 18 was an emotional rollercoaster for Mehreen but also for viewers who are done with glorifying toxicity in dramas.
Updated 11 Dec, 2021

As someone who watches Pakistani dramas and has watched them for quite a while, I have noticed that it has become a norm to impose vulnerability on women who are often the ones who have to bear all the abuse in a drama. This plot device seems to be a favourite amongst show creators and writers who have been making different serials with similar characters and storylines.

Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay is a serial that has caught everyone’s attention. We are first introduced to Mehreen (Mahira Khan), a woman who dealt with trauma from an early age who now has to deal with lack of acceptance and all sorts of lies being told about her. Then Aswad (Usman Mukhtar), an emotionless mess who only believes scheming people that hate Mehreen and finally Mashal (Kubra Khan), a cousin of Mehreen and Aswad’s who can’t stand her and constantly tries to make her life worse than it already is.

Their relationship is as toxic as it gets and early into the series I wondered if I was perhaps too early to call out the glorification of toxicity in this drama that not only focuses on three individuals who are in a love triangle but also on abusive personalities, and normalises suicide and injustice, all of which we do not deserve to see as viewers.

The storyline is quite common if we compare it to screenwriter and novelist Umera Ahmad’s previous dramas — she’s also the brains behind Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishaan and Shehr-e-Zaat. When these two dramas released, it seemed like a never-before-seen storyline that we needed but now, rehashing the same old vulnerable characters has led to many fans, including myself, growing disappointed and only watching the drama each week in hopes that things will change.

Personally, I watch the show every weekend solely because of Mukhtar, hoping that his character won’t continue to disappoint, but being let down every week as Aswad continues to be the toxic guy no one wants to see or even talk to.

Mashal was last seen in the ninth episode telling house helper Shabbo (Kaif Ghaznavi) to throw away the poisoned food left for Mehreen. After eight episodes of the family bashing Mehreen and 'investigating' the murder and Aswad getting married to Mehreen and torturing her until he literally drives her nuts, the story begins to look somewhat promising again.

It has now picked up some pace in the 18th episode (after eight episodes of complete misery) and the opening scene begins with Mehreen hallucinating and conversing with Mashal in her head. Some parts of her hallucination include her deceased father who died in the early episodes by committing suicide.

Though the actors have each played their parts to perfection, what caught everyone’s attention was giving suicide importance in the form of a solution to all problems. This is just simply unnecessary and, if required as a plot device, should’ve subtly shown the struggle of a person contemplating the act rather than proceeding to show suicide without a trigger warning — a measure that should be considered seriously if this is the kind of storyline we want to show viewers in the future.

Warnings are often provided when a show is showing a character smoking and alcohol is always blurred out. Why then can something similar not be done when a show depicts suicide. Would it be that difficult to include a helpline number?

Stills from drama *Khaani*
Stills from drama Khaani

Why is it that something like suicide is not given much importance when it’s being showed in every other drama? Yashma Gill had publicly posted about not agreeing with the depiction of a suicide scene in her drama Azmaish and said that she gave in to pressure from her team. It's time people realise what we show on TV can set the wrong example for viewers who take inspiration from their favourite celebrities.

During the series, Mehreen suffers the trauma of losing someone who inexplicably means a lot to her— Aswad, the bully and abusive husband who wants nothing to do with her and asks her to sign divorce papers. In her grief, Mehreen suffers a nervous breakdown and sees ‘Mashal’ who wants her dead. Mashal, of course, died in episode 9 and comes back to haunt Mehreen in the form of a hallucination.

Soon after she is seen trying to drink a chemical cleaner, a rather disturbing scene that unnecessarily proceeded for more than five minutes up until her subconscious brings up images of her father. Losing him at a very young age triggers a number of battles faced by Mehreen who then has a breakdown in front of Aswad and her aunt, Saleha (Huma Nawab).

The much-awaited 18th episode made me jump in joy when the psychiatrist treating Mehreen calls Aswad out for his behaviour. It was indeed needed, not just for us but Aswad who badly needed a scolding.

The acting of the star-studded cast is definitely enjoyable but you can’t simply deny that Aswad was responsible along with Mashal for ruining Mehreen’s life. It’s almost as if in their bid to make Aswad the hero and love interest, the drama team is hoping to pit two women against each other and let the man walk away scot-free.

Growing up we have always heard the story of Prince Charming who will save you from your misery. Similarly, Pakistani dramas have heroes who save their ladyloves and live happily ever after. Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay has definitely changed for the good but it also seems to be painting Aswad as the prince who will ‘fix’ Mehreen and they will live happily for the rest of their lives. I wonder when will the day come when our dramas no longer link happiness with another human being but finding inner peace and strength instead.

I admit that the psychiatrist telling a deeply toxic person that he needs treatment is the one scene that I have watched over and over again because it was the best part of the episode. Perhaps Aswad should seek therapy from the same counsellor because everyone is tired of his problematic personality — especially me!

His confession of knowing about Mehreen’s mental illness raises the question about whether the way he tortured her was deliberate and if so, why is he not being held responsible for his actions.

The scene at the psychiatrist’s office was exceptional but it doesn’t change the fact that Mehreen suffered due to Aswad’s toxicity and that does not deserve to be praised. Fans of the Raees star tweeted about her performance and I agree it was definitely an emotional rollercoaster.

The episode also revealed information about the sudden death of Mashal, though it should’ve had happened eight episodes earlier without dragging the story. The episode also goes into the depths of what went down between the two cousins that night. Judging by the current episode I can only hope that the next one lives up to the mark because the pace may slow down with each character feeling sorry for Mehreen.

After watching a number of serials, I believe TV shows need to evolve and offer better content. How many of us actually watch Pakistani dramas because we like the story? It’s often the stellar star cast that wins us over, not the actual script. Whenever we think about our Netflix watch-list it’s always got something interesting and different to binge watch. We can’t always say the same about our list of Pakistani dramas to watch.

Even though Netflix offers us variety, there are still millions of people who still watch both local and foreign content but if our stories revolve around same ‘love triangle’, ignoring basics like a trigger warning, then sooner or later the shift from local content to foreign will become permanent as people search for variety. In order to grow as an industry, it’s necessary to offer better yet promising content that doesn’t lead to disappointments. At a time where people appreciate content such as Squid Game or Stranger Things, it’s high time we look into making the kind of stories we should be showing and not giving in to what we’ve been watching for years.

As it stands, Pakistani dramas are often a rehash of the same old content, often missing the trigger warning for repetitiveness, toxic characters, violence and the glorification of abuse.


Great idea Dec 11, 2021 05:00pm
Looks like another piece of trash on the screen..
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ST Dec 11, 2021 05:00pm
Fazool drama! Wastahe of time
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M. Saeed Dec 11, 2021 05:13pm
Slow moving drama that kills one's interest, waiting a week to get the continued disappointment to see any movement forward.
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Mrs. S Dec 11, 2021 05:19pm
While I agree with everything else you've written, humsafar was a novel by farhat ishtiaq and not umera ahmed, even though umera ahmeds novels and dramas also all usually feature bechari female protagonists, abusive husbands and a lot of repitition of the same plot point (a bechari will be shown to be bechari for five episodes before the story progresses).
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ENGR Hamid Shafiq Dec 11, 2021 05:24pm
Nothing new ideas old stories with same actors
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MiZ Dec 11, 2021 06:24pm
Hamsafar isn't Umera Ahmed's novel, it's Farhat Ishtiaq's novel, kindly correct your facts.
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Sadaf Dec 11, 2021 06:57pm
Humsafar was not Umera Ahmed’s, it was Farhat Ishtiaq’s work if I remember correctly
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Sarah Dec 11, 2021 07:44pm
This drama shouldn't list the ways a person can suicide. So dangerous to give these ideas to people!!
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TZaman Dec 11, 2021 07:58pm
First the drama is torture, and now column in newspaper about it. This is double torture and waste of newspaper space.
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MIR Dec 11, 2021 08:41pm
After 14 episodes, I committed suicide. What a junk drama.....
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Nadia Dec 11, 2021 09:08pm
Pakistani dramas are regressive and normalize women abuse. Such a sham that even female writers contribute to continued women victimization in the society. Haseena Moin has sure left a great vacuum.
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Talha Dec 11, 2021 09:55pm
You have written by very good points. But please let go of the idea that all pieces of fiction should be vetted by the thought police/woke crowd. You may disagree with someone's ideas, but you can't take away their right to present their point of view.
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leo Dec 11, 2021 10:20pm
@TZaman agree
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Mansoor Dec 11, 2021 11:08pm
In every episode 10mins title song + 10mins Face expressions + 10min of interactions + 8mins of past repeating history. This what is all about this drama. Seriously...
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Ijaz Dec 12, 2021 01:13am
Hats off to you for writing a coherent review on a few Pakistani dramas. The fact is they are so poor in quality that just one line will suffice: "avoid at all costs"
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Humayra Dec 12, 2021 01:31am
why do you guys find negatives in everything? Being woke doesnt actually mean that!
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Myths Dec 12, 2021 08:56am
Making us feel depressed every Sunday. Y such a regressive content
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Asif Dec 12, 2021 10:14am
Waste of time. Fazool unlimited.
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M Dec 12, 2021 12:11pm
I had high hopes for this drama. I read the story only to find it it was pretty short and precise. The drama drags on endlessly and unnecessarily. I have little interest as to what happens next. Why do screen writers and directors feel that 1 episode of goodness and reforms justifies 99 episodes of toxic plots and characters? Always the same style. Toture the main characters till the very end, everyone forgives each other in the last episode or the the antagonist goes crazy. Finally, suicide in dramas NEED TRIGGER WARNING. Firstly we don't need dramas filled abuse everyway. Show us good people too! Finally two things I want to point in the article (well written!) Mehreen's father didn't commit suicide. He does most probably due to his drug addiction. And Aswad didn't ask Mehreen to sign divorce papers (he does once but) rather on confessional papers that Mehreen was responsible behind Mashal's suicide.
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waseem zia Dec 12, 2021 01:01pm
Very sad very bad
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waseem zia Dec 12, 2021 01:02pm
Very sad very bad .it's no like me
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Shagufta Aziz Dec 12, 2021 03:21pm
I am sorry after watching first two episodes, stopped watching it. All dramas are nothing but showing saazishain aur ajeeb o ghareeb relationships.
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Anila Rehman Dec 12, 2021 05:28pm
This story is about how parents ruin their children life by comparing them other children.
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Anila Rehman Dec 12, 2021 05:30pm
But very slow
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Ga Dec 12, 2021 06:57pm
Where is the sense of humor in Pak dramas. Already a depressed nation and these dramas have made everyone even more depressed !! Ban them all
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Rizwanaa Shaikh Dec 12, 2021 07:13pm
I'd stopped watching this drama after that episode when the toxic man, Aswad, misbehaves with Safwan and becomes a cause of all toxicity in the life of Mehreen.
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M123 Dec 12, 2021 08:31pm
It's just a drama so please treat it as one!! Those who plan to commit suicide were not waiting for this drama to get some ideas.. They already know through various different mediums.. Drama is not for kids and adults should know better that it's just a drama
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Sunshine Dec 12, 2021 08:37pm
@Mansoor Absolutely - cheating viewers time! High IQ entertainment sometimes do not even show the scene, we just are supposed to listen that some thing occurred. Here an event is repeated so many times with the same music till it bores us to death!!! Does it reflect our very low IQ??
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Seen Dec 12, 2021 09:03pm
The article seemed to be making perfect sense up to the final paragraphs; and then the Squid Game was mentioned as good quality content!! I haven't watched Hum Kahan K... or Squid Game but i know the stories, and I would surely have a problem with suicide and abuse scenes, but I strongly believe that something like Squid Game would be undoubtedly much much worse. How is the sadistic killing of scores of people for no particular reason better than a suicide and an abusive husband?! I'm sure Netflix would have much better quality content to take inspiration from, but Squid Game instead of even the most abusive family drama? NEVER!!
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Noor Dec 13, 2021 01:20am
I agreed with your point of view.
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ZA Dec 13, 2021 01:55am
I fail to understand why Mahira Khan would accept a role in this 3rd rate drama. The Aswad guy doesn't know how to act
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Masood Haider Dec 13, 2021 01:59am
@Talha : Wrong!
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Masood Haider Dec 13, 2021 02:01am
Total trash and ridiculously improbable plot like 90% of Pakistani TV dramas.
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Akil Akhtar Dec 13, 2021 07:13am
Its just a drama and they are still popular because our middle class women love to see a crying women it seems....
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Rami Dec 13, 2021 07:58am
@Mansoor add 10 min of trolling, how else will you get your cheap thrill,let’s see your masterpiece !
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Rami Dec 13, 2021 08:01am
The drama point is made by trolls, toxic adults are raised by dysfunctional families who raise dysfunctional adult ,it is a cycle, this only broken by truth or a major event! The trolls with negative showing their own toxic nature as dysfunctional adults ! The drama and the cast did awesome work !
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Schehz Dec 13, 2021 10:21am
seems to be a favourite amongst show creators and writers who have been making different serials with similar characters and storylines. coz writer /show creator get Extra paid from (difference sources) who really want to misrepresentation of Pakistani society .
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About time. Dec 13, 2021 10:23am
More dramas with natural skin colour used around the themes of Parizaad needed.
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Shady Dec 13, 2021 01:41pm
This drama has got be the biggest trash i have ever seen on tv
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Mansoor Dec 13, 2021 11:39pm
@Sunshine Rami is really getting angry on this forum about my post. I had just pointed out what I have picked through few episodes. This serial is strechted out unnecessarily.
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Hasby Dec 14, 2021 12:06pm
Unfortunately like almost every other facet of life there, the creators of these dramas are striving for mediocrity at all cost. The easy formula is to have a 'mute' character and require other characters to come up with every mean trick to abuse this mute. This makes the job of writing and mass producing these 'dramas' so much easier. No dialogues to write for the mute and other characters can themselves apply everyday meanness so hardly any creative effort required. I sometimes wonder is this the same place that gave us worthwhile soaps like Ankahi or Andhera Ujala etc.
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Laila Dec 14, 2021 05:04pm
Pakistani dramas were once known for their quality and strong stories of social issues. Today the dramas are not dramas but soap operas which comically sensationalizes serious things like schizophrenia, rape, child abuse, marital abuse, bullying, misogyny for ratings without basic knowledge or research. Instead writers just make up things for shock value. THAT needs to stop. However, as for trigger warnings for suicide or censorship I don't agree. I think we should show, because this happens. Dramas can't be all happy happy stories where all the unpleasant aspects are blurred out or censored. How about censoring the rampant and normative misogyny including everything from the mandatory slapping of female characters to indoctrinating them with their "inherent" female gender weakness and encouraging them to stay in abusive marriages instead of leaving. Let's ponder the very real effects of that on our society and our girls.
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Umme Dec 14, 2021 11:53pm
We may have evolved but things like this happens every where ....I think the writers are showing us how the depression affects a person n how one feels suicidal in such circumstances
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