The title Chup Raho encapsulates the essence of this drama. There is a sense of command and authority in this phrase, the kind of authority that society uses to silence victims, especially women.
Rameen (Sajal Ali) is subjected to rape just before her wedding to Azar (Feroz Khan) which is a conveniently arranged match between two families.
Azar is Rameen’s wealthy brother-in-law’s younger cousin, and just like her he is the poorer relative which makes both of them easy targets. Rameen’s sister Manahil (Arjumand Rahim) is the quintessential spoilt wife, and her overly generous, almost-too-perfect husband Numair (Syed Jibran) is everyone’s ideal. When Rameen unwillingly attracts Numair’s unwelcome attentions, her life changes forever.
Writer Samira Fazal is no stranger to challenging story lines. She also penned the screenplay for Dastaan, Hum TV’s gut-wrenchingly unforgettable drama, earlier. Directed by Haissem Hussain, it addressed the horrors and terrifying tragedy of its chief protagonist, Bano, in the form of her humiliation after her capture and assault.
Chup Raho is not just the tale of a victim but of a survivor
“It’s a very relevant yet taboo subject, something people do not want to talk about. To write about it intelligently is very difficult and challenging,” said Fazal in a recent interview.
|Rameen (Sajal Ali) is subjected to rape just before her wedding to Azar (Feroz Khan) which is a conveniently arranged match between two families. —Publicity photo|
Socially aware Pakistani writers rarely shy away from difficult subjects. In the recent past Roag (written by Faiza Iftikhar, directed by Furqan Khan/Javed Baber), Main Gunehgaar Nahin on ARY Digital and Mere Dard Ko Jo Zubaan Mile (written by Bushra Ansari) aired on Hum TV have also dealt with a similar topic that was treated with nuance and sensitivity.
The way a victim and her family carries the burden of shame and guilt is realistically portrayed in Roag in which the family finds itself exploited by a stranger on the eve of their daughter’s nikah. In Main Gunehgaar Nahin, the guilt-riddled main lead allows herself to be mistreated and marries an abusive man because of the misconception that ‘decent’ women do not put themselves in such ‘situations’.
In an episode of Chup Raho, Numair tells his confidant and business partner Shiraz (Yasir Nawaz) that he can no longer resist Rameen because she is flirting with him and even enticing him. This is typical of rape cases where a perpetrators first line of defense is always to cast doubt on a victim’s character. Even though Shiraz is well aware of what Numair is capable of doing, he accepts that Rameen must be at fault.
|In one swift turn, Samira Fazal twists the concept of the obedient, virtuous wife into making Manahil an accessory to the criminal act. —Publicity photo|
Meanwhile, Manahil is presented with enough evidence to make anyone suspect there is something wrong, but she cannot bear to leave her comfortable lifestyle and convinces herself that Rameen must be mentally ill. Her main concern is her husband.
In one swift turn, Samira Fazal twists the concept of the obedient, virtuous wife into making Manahil an accessory to the criminal act. Like many women in our society, Rameen’s mother tries to suppress her, declaring her mentally unstable and never taking a stand for what is right.
She thinks that she can somehow manipulate the situation so the status quo is not altered. She doesn’t want to ‘disturb’ her eldest daughter’s happy life and expects the youngest to come to terms with the horrible act. For her it is a matter of convenience — with an unstable financial situation, how would she ever handle the falling out of her two daughters with their husbands?
It never occurs to her that if Numair is let off the hook, there is no reason why he will not do it again. Similarly, Azar with all his promises of eternal love and devotion is bought off by Numair with a high-paying job, a car, perks and advantages. Azar has ample proof but refuses to acknowledge Rameen’s plight, accusing her of ruining his life and of being a ‘fallen woman’.
Chup Raho has been directed by Yasir Nawaz, a master at building suspense and captivating his audience. However, just like his previous collaboration with Samira Fazal, last year’s blockbuster drama Shukk, this serial too is long-drawn. A few of the episodes seem repetitive and inconsistent, and this reduces the dramatic punch.
Nawaz is also seen in front of the camera as Rameen’s saviour and Numair’s unwitting collaborator.
|It never occurs to Manahil that if Numair is let off the hook, there is no reason why he will not do it again.—Publicity photo|
Unbelievably, Rameen still remains gullible and naïve throughout her ordeal. She befriends a woman at the women’s hostel where she has found refuge and almost gets sold off into prostitution. When saved by Shiraz, she enters his house as little more than a maid but constantly challenges him, and for want of a better word almost flirts with him.
While it was necessary for Shiraz, just like the other protagonists, to be made to confront his actions, this track seems forced and reduces the gravity of the first part of the story. Shiraz is an unlikely hero, the depressed, irritable father of three young girls who takes Rameen under his wing at the lowest point in her life.
“What I am trying to show is that real heroes are not hero material, they are the people who trust you, blindly support you and stand by you,” explained the writer.
|Feroz Khan as Azar, Sajal Ali as Rameen, Syed Jibran as Nubair and Arjumand Rahim as Manahil —Publicity photo|
While the acting performances are outstanding, a major disappointment has been the actress who plays Rameen’s mother. Despite a few misgivings Feroz Khan has managed to impress in this debut role. His chemistry with Sajal Ali is perfect and their scenes together are well balanced. Sajal is one of the better young actresses in the industry and one of the few who could carry such a story with the depth and nuance it requires.
If only she would not let her makeup and at times nonsensical wardrobe distract the viewers’ attention. The final confrontation in which Rameen faces the culprits is simply magnificent. Samira Fazal’s fabulous dialogues are spoken with control and power by Sajal Ali, as Rameen tells her stunned husband that it is not he but she who divorces him.
Arjumand Rahim as Manahil is also a great addition to the cast as a silly, weak woman. The star of the show though is without doubt Syed Jibran. His performance is a tour de force, a nuanced portrayal other actors should study.
|Syed Jibran as Numair|
At times pure evil and a slave to his obsession, he never forces those around him to do anything. It’s just that his perfectly reasonable suggestions are so easy to follow!
The greatest strength of Chup Raho is that it is not the tale of a victim but that of a survivor. Rameen not only survives rape but her family’s betrayals and even the subsequent mistreatment at the hands of strangers.
“We should always have confidence in the Almighty and ourselves,” adds Samira Fazal when asked what the underlying message of the serial is.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, March 1st, 2015