ARY’s Surkh Chandni is currently on top of my list of must-sees.

The obvious reason for why the show is worth a watch is because of the cast. Sohai Ali Abro, who recently took home a Lux Style Award for her role in Motorcycle Girl, plays the part of Aida, a survivor of an acid attack to perfection.

Osman Khalid Butt in the role of Aman, Aida’s super sincere fiancé/cousin is equally perfect as is Asad Siddiqui, who has become one of my favourite villains after Balaa, in the role of Aida’s spurned suitor turned revenge-seeking madman.

I had expected the drama to do a mostly surface-level sweep of a woman’s life altered by an acid attack. Tip of the iceberg stuff. But, so far, the show has done a surprisingly thorough job of diving into all the deep stuff that I imagine are at play in the aftermath of an acid attack.

By not just limiting itself to the suffering of the protagonists, the show does justice to telling the story of not only the victim but everyone in her orbit.

Surkh Chandni explores neighbourhood politics, crooked cops, the role of good NGOs and medical care as well as the role that socioeconomic circumstances play when it comes to a victim’s mental well-being and physical recovery.

Powerful moments so far

The show begins by setting the stage for Aida’s family dynamic. Aida and her family live in a lower-income neighbourhood where everyone is all up in everybody's business.

She has nice enough parents and a clueless, overwhelmed-by-life older brother married to a snarky and selfish sister-in-law. Aida has a curly-haired, cute love interest who is the son of her really kind and positive khala.

She also has an obsessive stalker cum admirer who she turns down in a really public, insulting way. This has devastating consequences for her life.

Osman Khalid Butt as Aman.
Osman Khalid Butt as Aman.

There are plenty of powerful moments throughout the play. Personally, I was relieved that Aida’s acid attack was over with quickly because gratuitous and unnecessarily drawn out acts of violence are not my thing.

For me, the real agony is in watching Aida’s physical and emotional struggles in the aftermath of the attack. The moment Aida demands to see herself in a mirror for the first time is a deeply compelling one.

In one pivotal scene, Aman’s mom even encourages him to look at Aida with so much love that she forgets to see herself as anything less than perfect. (Be! Still! My! Heart!) If you haven’t turned to this drama for a strong social message, you’ll certainly want to stay for the strong love story.

Equally powerful is the intimacy and affection that Aman has for Aida. So satisfyingly genuine and wholesome is their relationship that, of the many dramas I’m plugged into right now, Aida and Aman are my current favourite on-screen couple.

Sohai Ali Abro and Osman Khalid Butt.
Sohai Ali Abro and Osman Khalid Butt.

Before she is attacked, Aida and Aman are shown sitting, talking and plotting their future together several times. This sounds like a straightforward thing for a young couple in love to do but in the world of dramas usually a single meeting or a series of stolen glances is enough to fuel a love story. That’s not always the most realistic thing nor is the most sustainable way to build a life together.

In one pivotal scene, Aman’s mom even encourages him to look at Aida with so much love that she forgets to see herself as anything less than perfect. (Be! Still! My! Heart!) If you haven’t turned to this drama for a strong social message, you’ll certainly want to stay for the strong love story.

Throughout Aida and Aman’s journey, we see an unprecedented depth and frequency to the couple’s conversations. And they only come together more frequently after her attack, when Aida is left shattered mentally.

The show needs to pick up the pace

There are some typical theatrics I wish the drama creators hadn’t relied on so heavily. Aida’s father’s suicide is particularly troublesome because up until that point, the show had consistently emphasised Aida’s parents as supportive.

To have a parent give up part way through a daughter’s recovery because he’s tired of hearing nasty rumours about her feels like a betrayal.

Equally frustrating is the sheer number of times the women in the drama are shown sobbing, shouting or getting slapped — or shouting and sobbing while getting slapped.

By not just limiting itself to the suffering of the protagonists, the show does justice to telling the story of not only the victim but everyone in her orbit.

Right now, the show is on its 16th episode and things are somewhat stagnating as dramas tend to in the middle of things. But because the topic is something I haven’t yet seen dramas explore and because of the strong cast, I plan to push through the slump.


Surkh Chandni airs on ARY Digital every Tuesday at 8pm.

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