When a scene from drama Aitebaar made rounds on social media, people were both confused and repulsed, but the main lead trying to distance herself from the drama has people angry.
The scene in question featured the main character, played by Zarnish Khan, escaping an attempted rape, only to come home to a mistrusting husband who, instead of believing her and comforting her, threw a fit and yelled at her. The drama faced a lot of backlash for promoting such problematic behaviour and actor Khan's condemnation of her character's actions only further agitated netizens as they pointed out that she chose the role.
"On a serious note, I completely condemn this kind of behaviour, girls are much stronger than this and I’d like for all of us to acknowledge that," she wrote on Instagram on Wednesday.
"Your man deserves all the respect and loyalty in the world as long as he has the same amount of respect and love to offer if not more. Know your worth and never beg," she added, referring to her own character begging her husband to stay and believe her while he acted like a man-child with a bruised ego.
The actor condemning the behaviour of a character she chose to play has netizens furious. They've questioned her choice of script and suggested better ways of dealing with the scene rather than just accepting it and portraying a weak woman who needs a man's support.
Netizens responded to her statement in the comment section on her Instagram post, telling her she should've stood up to the director or writer and gotten the scene changed instead of going through with it.
Another user asked why she selected such a character instead of someone who could've left a positive impact. "What is the point of you saying girls are stronger and then agreeing to play such roles?" they asked.
This user said she shouldn't have acted in the drama if she condemns it, adding that our drama industry thrives on showing women as the weaker sex.
Users asked Khan to let her work speak for what she advocates instead of an Instagram post that will miss half her audience anyway. They suggested better portrayals of women where they're seen taking a stand for themselves, something that would empower women and set an example for them to follow.
Netizens said actors simply shouldn't take up a role they don't believe in. Celebrities have an impact on their fans and, whether they intend it or not, — they are automatic influencers. So when they decide to star in any production, they take a good chunk of their adoring fans towards it. And to be aware of their influence and then feed viewers such disturbing content that sets society back a few decades instead of moving forward is just plain irresponsible. Celebrities need to do better and take up more empowering projects to leave a good impact with their work.
The flaw that dominates the Pakistani entertainment industry is that there is no clarity on how a hero's personality needs to be crafted. Add problematic aspects to a villain's character and no one bats an eye but when you give the hero toxic and rather unredeemable traits, it just doesn't make sense. If the whole purpose is to portray the very real problems in a society, the hero can't be the one perpetuating those problems.
An actor doesn't always have to personify their character or even agree with what their character does. Take Yasir Hussain playing Javed Iqbal in the serial killer's biopic — Hussain doesn't need to be a serial killer to play the role but then again, he's not the hero. Javed Iqbal isn't going to end up with the girl at the end of the film and ride away into the sunset but the husband in Aitebaar likely is.
Classifying villains as heroes is a big problem in our industry because it seems like many people can't tell the difference between the two. When a main lead says such horrible and asinine things, it's easy to confuse him with a villain. Syed Jibran, who plays the husband in Aitebaar, is presumably the 'hero' but his behaviour is nothing short of criminal. Seeing him get a redemption arc in this drama — something he will inevitably get, if his problematic behaviour isn't ignored entirely and brushed under the rug — will deal a double blow, because it signals that what he did was okay.
There's another added problem with Khan's Instagram post. As one user mentioned, the majority of the drama viewers won't even get to see the post where she's condemning the problematic behaviour. Most will just take what they get from the show itself and not know that the actor they respect so much doesn't support the toxicity on screen. If you, as an actor, don't believe in this kind of behaviour, you should either skip these kinds of dramas or act in dramas where the woman leaves her toxic husband when he says something like this to her.