Review: Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay was a total disappointment

There's a lot that went wrong with this much-hyped drama, including the 'redemption' of a truly toxic character.
05 Jan, 2022

The drama Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay was advertised as this year’s must-watch drama serial but despite a stellar cast and promising promos, it turned out to be a total disappointment. Below we look at what went wrong.

The review

HKKST centres on the lives of three cousins — Mehreen, Mashal and Aswad. Mehreen (Mahira Khan) is academically gifted and well behaved but when her dad (a drug addict) commits suicide and her mother remarries, Mehreen essentially becomes an orphan and a liability. She moves in with her grandmother and cousin Mashal’s (Kubra Khan) family who treat her like a servant and constantly talk down to her because of her father’s checkered past.

Mehreen and Mashal’s childhood friendship turns sinister as Mashal becomes increasingly jealous of Mehreen being so good at everything she does. Mashal won’t miss an opportunity to torture Mehreen — she kills her pet bird, throws her inhaler in the trash, tells everyone Mehreen has a new boyfriend every three months and burns her clothes with a cigarette so everyone thinks she smokes. And because Mashal knows Mehreen loves Aswad (Usman Mukhtar), Mashal begins a relationship with him in which she basically takes on Mehreen’s persona by pretending that all of Mehreen’s art and trophies are hers. By the time Aswad returns to Pakistan, he’s fully poisoned against Mehreen and Mashal is confident he’s going to marry her.

Mehreen and Aswad at Mashal's grave
Mehreen and Aswad at Mashal's grave

But, plot twist, Aswad’s mom (ie Mehreen’s khala) sees through Mashal and tells her son if he’s going to marry anyone it’ll be Mehreen. When they hear that Aswad and his mother are coming for Mehreen not Mashal’s rishta, Mashal and her family rightly lose it because Aswad has been spending all this time talking to Mashal, sending her gifts from the US and taking her out for dinners. Mehreen, who is sick of Mashal ruining her life every chance she gets, agrees to marry Aswad even though she promised to marry her university friend Safwan.

One night, Mehreen comes home and sees that Mashal has torn her shaadi dupatta. Mehreen slaps her but Mashal invites her to sit down for a cup of chai so that they can have a real conversation about why the two of them went from being childhood best friends to sworn enemies. Mashal promises to tell Mehreen all the reasons she’s jealous of Mehreen who, in return, says she no longer will come in between Mashal and Aswad. The next day Mashal is found dead.

Immediately, Mashal’s parents and Aswad accuse Mehreen of killing Mashal because Mehreen and Shabo the maid (more on her later) were the only ones at home the night Mashal died. Mehreen is thrown in jail and no one from her family comes to visit her. Only Safwan visits. Eventually, Mehreen is bailed out by Aswad and shortly after Mehreen and Aswad are basically forced into a marriage by Aswad’s mother.

Things get ugly fast on the wedding night. Aswad tells Mehreen he only married her to avenge Mashal’s murder. He tells Mehreen she’s going to live like a prisoner in his home and won't be able to go out, call or see anyone.

Mehreen, now trapped in a bonkers marriage, begins to hallucinate that Mashal is back from the dead and wants to kill her. These hallucinations along with Aswad verbally torturing her every chance he gets leads to Mehreen having a nervous breakdown. A psychiatrist (Nadia Hussain) meets with Aswad and asks if there are any marital problems. Aswad replies that there aren’t because he doesn’t physically abuse or name-call his wife. The psychiatrist tells Aswad that there are other ways to abuse your spouse, including emotional abuse.


She then tells Aswad that his wife has always had anxiety but now she’s depressed and facing a complete mental breakdown. She also tells Aswad she thinks he could benefit from psychiatric treatment as well because he seems hellbent on forcing his wife to commit suicide.

Meanwhile, Shabo the maid is shown to be struggling with her conscience because she’s the only one in the world who knows what actually happened that night. It turns out that Mashal had planned to poison Mehreen’s chai the night they sat down to talk and reconcile. However, Mashal accidentally drank out of the wrong cup and died of an accidental overdose. And, to make it worse, Mashal’s parents know the truth. Shabo tells Aswad the whole truth and he spends the final few episodes crying and going through his wife’s diaries, which is how he realises Mehreen has always been kind and good and madly in love with him. He apologises to Mehreen and the two live happily ever after.

Is the criticism of the show warranted?

In a nutshell: yes.

Even with an excellent cast who really did their best with the script they’ve been given, the show meanders in an unbearably slow, choppy way. And, despite a happy ending, 22 episodes later, I’m left unsatisfied.

Mahira Khan as Mehreen is simply sensational. Her interactions with her mother and nani are my favourite because that’s when we really see how painful Mehreen’s life has been and how bitterly realistic her circumstances have made her. A particularly poignant moment takes place near the end of the show when Mehreen tells her mother that all she needed as a child was her mother’s soft touch. She tells her mom that her remarrying was never the issue but not seeing her daughter for five years after getting married was what allowed the bitterness to seep into and become a part of adult Mehreen. It’s a shockingly simple yet powerful reminder of how much power adults have to mould young lives. Throughout the show, watching the elders criticise and compare and neglect the children made me realise that just because someone can become a parent doesn’t mean they’re automatically a good parent.

Kubra Khan as Mashal also packs a punch. Mashal’s character is a nuanced, multi-layered portrait of a woman torn between right and wrong, good and bad. Initially, I dismissed Mashal as a stereotypically one-dimensional typical Hum TV villainess. But by the end, when we learn why Mashal had so much jealousy and hate in her heart, we almost sympathise with her. Mashal’s motivation to make Mehreen’s life hell, while unjustifiable, is motivated by a lonely life spent constantly belittled and compared to her larger-than-life cousin. By the time we come to learn that Mashal changed her mind about poisoning Mehreen and accidentally overdosed, she’s almost become a tragic heroine in our eyes.

Usman Mukhtar’s Aswad is the character that has generated the most controversy and caught a lot of flak on social media, so much so that Mukhtar recently admitted to having had reservations about taking on the role of Aswad.

To me, the biggest problem with Aswad is that he starts off and remains a poster-boy for toxic masculinity with no proper redemption arc. While we see both Mehreen and Mashal undergo character transformations from start to finish, Aswad who is fantastically bad for pretty much the entirety of the series is never shown as going through any meaningful change and still manages to get the girl at the end.

Toxic masculinity is defined as a set of expectations and behaviours of how a “real man” should be and Aswad is the epitome of the stereotypically tortured and toxic desi male. First, he lets Mashal think he’s interested in her. Then, when her family is upset that Aswad’s mother wants Mehreen as her bahu, Aswad acts shocked that Mashal had any romantic expectations from him. Later, he marries Mehreen just to ruin her life.

Indeed, throughout the show, Aswad is single-handedly destructive and damaging to the women in his life. He’s the kind of man who thinks he owns and controls the women around him, from his mother to his wife. He’s the sort of guy who goes out for lunch with a random girl only to come home and accuse his wife of having an affair. He’s also the kind of guy who will verbally abuse his wife to the point where she has a nervous breakdown but be shocked at the suggestion that he could’ve played a part in her psychotic break.

Even when Aswad comes to learn the truth about Mashal and Mehreen, he doesn’t take ownership for his role in their mutual destruction. He never details what he did or apologises to all the women he has wronged. Near the end, he tells Mehreen, “I don’t know who's at fault but maybe I was a little bit at fault”, which is the greatest understatement of the century considering he gaslit and misled everyone around him from the get-go.

It’s searingly obvious that Aswad sees the sum of his transgressions not as mistakes he’s made, but as stuff that’s happened to him. There’s never any redemption story here because Aswad never has any personal growth. And, for such a toxic, unstable and unredeemed character to be the romantic lead who “gets the girl” feels like a frustratingly rushed decision on part of the writers. Sure, he spends the final two episodes driving around town looking morose and crying a lot. But, for the most part, his bad behaviour gets a free pass.

In the end, Aswad quickly goes from being the fantastically terrible husband to our supposed romantic hero. Many have (rightly) commented on Twitter that at no point in the show does Aswad actually do anything that makes him worthy of a woman like Mehreen who is repeatedly shown to be an academically gifted, self-sufficient person.

It’s not enough for the writers to just expect that the audience will happily accept Aswad as a different, reformed and remorseful man. After 22 episodes, we deserve more. And this, ironically, is exactly how our society views and rewards toxic masculinity. Because no matter what, the Aswads of our society will always manage to land on their feet and find their place in society.


ST Jan 05, 2022 03:08pm
A stupid drama.
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Sentat Jan 05, 2022 03:11pm
I was expecting an article like this as soon as i started to watch the last episode and was not disappointed. Although I agree with most of your criticism of the drama including its pacing, aswad's general toxicity as well as feeling like a music video with how frequently they played the theme song, I feel that you missed the actual message it was trying to convey. The end was about redemption for Mehreen and her having the freedom to choose whether she would forgive everyone or choose to go her way. Everything was building up to that, her lack of choice of where she lived, who she loved and married was always barred by her antagonists. In the end she choose to forgive and highlighted a very common societal issue in how parents raise children. I disagree with her choice to forgive Aswad, but I feel the important point in all of this is that she had the ability to choose at long last which is something many women are deprived of in our society.
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haris Jan 05, 2022 03:20pm
'Aswad' is an arabic word, meaning 'Black'. Not sure the writer or the casts knew about it.
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LeftTrack Jan 05, 2022 03:46pm
"Toxic masculinity is defined as a set of expectations and behaviours of how a “real man” should be and Aswad is the epitome of the stereotypically tortured and toxic desi male." And what about the women ? Could these women not see through him ? Could they not see that a successful, financially secure , educated and "good looking" guy has all the makings of a toxic male. Yet they choose him , why ? What if he was unsuccesful , financially insecure , illiterate , would he be shown as a desirable person ? All the desirable things are also part of toxic masculinity.
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Sane Mind1st Jan 05, 2022 03:58pm
Reflected the true misogynistic culture of Pakistan, position of women, overall beautifully. Criticise the dramaand the twists and turns but the underline fact remains as said above.
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Iqbal Aswani Jan 05, 2022 04:00pm
With all the same drama, only if in the end, lady didn't forgive the man and the man was left repenting, the writer would be liking the whole drama very much.
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Saeeds Jan 05, 2022 04:15pm
I feel like throwing up every time I think of Aswad.
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Irfan Huq Jan 05, 2022 04:18pm
When Mehrin tells her aunt that she wants y divorce she should have stood at her decision. She may have forgiven Aswad but her decision to divorce him would have been a message to others suffering women to stay strong and to men that it is not always in their way to live happily ever after. There were many mistakes in the drama
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Afiah Ahsan Jan 05, 2022 05:10pm
You totally nailed it period I am in hundred percent agreement with your take on this drama
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Alina Jan 05, 2022 05:28pm
Utter disappointment from Umera Ahmed. She is a typical male-dominated paindu minded lady. MAHIRA u should have realised that what ur signing.
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TPA Jan 05, 2022 05:48pm
Mahira Khan is a bore
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Kamran Aquil Jan 05, 2022 06:41pm
Useless content and same old story line.
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syd usa Jan 05, 2022 07:09pm
Drama is a drama and writer of the play is not a clinical pschycologist. Nor it is based on quranic story. We are better off not reading such articles.
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Masood Haider Jan 05, 2022 07:50pm
The most disturbing part of the drama is the weak character of Mehreen with absolutely no self respect. How could Mahira Khan sign up for such a demeaning role?
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Dr. Ahmed Jan 05, 2022 09:09pm
@Masood Haider She hasn't acted in ages. Its not like she was offered roles for multiple other dramas. She's an average actor at best.
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NYS Jan 05, 2022 09:17pm
@LeftTrack raised point from you is on point
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John Jan 05, 2022 10:23pm
Such vulgar display.. why is the lady In the picture not wearing dupatta?
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Taz Jan 05, 2022 10:42pm
Agree with the review, extremely poor direction and content. Mahira and Kubra's stardom could not save this drama
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Adnan Jan 05, 2022 11:01pm
Good plot, kept us engaged right at the edge of our seats… yes stretched for a few episodes and threw in the OST too much… but overall… amazing use of Urdu, gr8 acting… Good to see Mahira back on TV… she absolutely rules!
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hor chupo Jan 05, 2022 11:02pm
@Masood Haider Why Mehreen was so self -effacing?Why she expressed her love for Aswad,who married her to punish her. However,the OST of the drama was superb.
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GUL ZAIB Jan 06, 2022 03:19am
Mehreen signed the divorce already!! Where did that go?
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Adnan Mazher Khan Jan 06, 2022 05:45am
Didn't see a single episode. So, I really can't comment.
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Atif Khan Jan 06, 2022 08:44am
A well written and well directed drama that through incredible acting highlighted the serious societal issue of comparing and benchmarking children with other siblings and relatives.
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Mahi Jan 06, 2022 03:55pm
She did not take Divorce, that was her best decision. Girl should save her marriage life in all conditions, and she did so.. Well done Mehreeen
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KPK Booster Jan 06, 2022 05:11pm
Still better than best Indian play.
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Glen D'Abreo Jan 07, 2022 12:51am
@John Chill bro, when does television have to cater to conservatives
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