Surkh Chandni is a drama serial about the journey of an acid attack survivor played by the exceptionally talented Sohai Ali Abro. However, Osman Khalid Butt who is playing the male lead as her fiancé in the play also has a tricky character. The actor is treading a fine line here as such characters have a possibility to end up looking like a supporting role or as someone who just delivers consoling dialogues.
Osman agreed and explained what is different about Amaan in Surkh Chandni.
“The character that I’m playing is Amaan who’s bride-to-be (Aida) is subjected to this act of cowardice on her wedding day. Here is a man who is completely opposite to the other men he is surrounded by and that’s because he is raised right. Huma Nawab plays my mother and she has imbibed these feminist teachings in Amaan. So his viewpoint about women is entirely different from the traditional norm. Amaan is a character that really propels the narrative forward in the drama because he takes action. He is not just the silent, stoic supporter. He is so horrified at the lack of justice being served in this society, and it is odd to say, that he fights to restore this loss of honour or dignity that allegedly Aida has to suffer through,” Osman said.
Talking about the story, Osman believes that Asma Nabeel has written a great script. “It has all the commercial trappings, but at the same time it poses some hard-hitting questions like how it is so easy to procure acid despite that bills have been passed for its control. The drama really tackles not just the physical ramifications of the heinous crime but also the psychological and emotional ramifications of the brutal act which far outweigh because in a patriarchal society like Pakistan where the shadow of the doubt is always cast on a woman, whether she is the victim or the alleged perpetrator, it doesn’t matter. It is so hard to believe a woman’s story; why is it that a woman’s voice is diminished so easily and so quickly? These are some of the questions that Surkh Chandni raises,” he added.
Speaking about his co-star Sohai Ali Abro, Osman was all-praises.
“We really invested in the play especially Sohai; she is like a chameleon. She can mould herself into any character whether comedic or dramatic. She has really given her all and I had so many scenes with her,” the actor said.
Osman also discussed how the director Shahid Shafaat has “treated the whole drama almost like an extended theater play”. “There is a lot of movement, blocking and physicality. Dramas usually have close shots and mid shots, but he has kind of opened up the frames a lot as it was seen in the teasers,” he said adding, “The drama has a brilliant cast and we had to preserve our sanity during the shoot so one of us was always cracking an off-colour joke to kind of bring us back. I can safely say on behalf of all my fellow actors that we carried the weight of these characters home throughout the shoot of this drama.”.
Talking about the gravity of the subject, initially Osman also thought that the “script is too heavy, bordering on melodrama”. “I was in two minds because it wasn’t any regular subject. I spoke about it with my sister who is my guru and mentor and she told me that real-life stories are more horrific than what’s written here. Then I did some research and I felt like we are living in 2019, but still think like we’re in the Middle Ages. We’ve to combat that and what better way than through art,” Osman said.
Osman also hopes that after watching the drama people should not question his character. “When I did Baaghi, a lot of people thought that Sheheryar (his character) was wish fulfillment. People said that these kind of men don’t exist who would marry someone of such ill repute. So, when I was reading Amaan’s character, I hoped that people do not treat him similarly as then you diminish the character. I would also like to mention that two of the women we met (acid attack survivors) have men who supported them and they are the love of their husband’s lives. This ability to see past the superficiality; that is what ‘rohani muhabbat‘ is. Hearing these real-life stories gave me more impetus to build the chemistry that I share with Sohai,” he added.
“It has truly been a privilege to be a part of this project and to represent what I’m hoping is a seismic shift in how we treat men and how men can show vulnerability and can support women, how they can do more than just be passive listeners or observers. This is not a savior story; I’m not playing a male savior. I’m playing someone who stands up for what he believes in and I think as a society we have forgotten how to do that,” Osman concluded.
Surkh Chandni is set to air on ARY Digital soon.