“Saraab” is a story that sets forth to uncover social taboos and attitudes towards mental health in South Asian society. The show airs on Hum TV on Thursdays, has been written by Edison Idrees and directed by Mohsin Talat. Starring Sonya Hussyn in the lead role, the show follows her character Hoorain’s love story with Asfandyar, played by Sami Khan, and depicts how their relationship is affected by her undiagnosed schizophrenia and how she is viewed by those around her. The show also stars Auranzeb Laghar, Farida Shabbir, Ghana Ali, Nazish Jehangir, Sajid Shah and others in supporting roles.
Episode 6 follows two basic tracks – first, Hoorain’s family and their attitude towards Hoorain and second, Asfandyar’s family and their attempts to create a happy situation for their son. Hoorain (Sonya Hussyn) has created this world in her head, a world where this suave, sophisticated, romantic, well-spoken version of Asfandyar (Sami Khan) exists, a version that also caters to a “bad boy” desire and carries a sinister side to his personality. It’s odd, but Hoorain has created a stronger bond and strength of trust with her imaginary Asfandyar than the real human being. What’s more frustrating is that this version of Asfandyar consoles Hoorain and protects her – but unfortunately, he’s not real, which leaves Hoorain unprotected and reliant on, essentially, no one. On the other end, Asfandyar is perplexed with Hoorain’s behavior, unable to understand her actions or recollection of conversations that never occurred. As the episode progresses and Asfandyar confronts Hoorain over her agreement to get engaged, he realizes that something is terribly wrong with Hoorain. He has been building on his suspicions, but has now begun research on mental illnesses and has become convinced that Hoorain needs medical treatment – a far cry away from what her family is indulging in.
Hoorain’s mother has it firmly planted in her head that Asfandyar’s mother has been practicing black magic on Hoorain and is determined to expel Asfandyar and his family from her life. While Jamal, Asfandyar’s dad, arrives to play peacemaker, he leaves disheartened. Watching the women surrounding Hoorain, it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that Hoorain’s schizophrenia may be a result of genetics. Hoorain’s mother is a highly unstable woman, a woman who would rather blame her mother-in-law’s death on black magic rather than understanding she passed away from cancer. She’s a woman who will not take her daughter to a doctor, but will take her to spiritual healer and leave her at his mercy for “treatment.”
Episode 6 is not as strong as past episodes have been. While the story does a great job of highlighting the attitudes and believes surrounding mental health in Pakistani society accurately, there’s a very fine line between realistic portrayal and kitchen politics. Unfortunately, Hoorain’s two sisters are “culprit characters” that drag the show away from its base plotline. While one sister is in love with Asfandyar and wants him for herself, the other is hell-bent on getting her married to her brother-in-law. The addition of these angles feel simply unnecessary and forced. The show would have been better off without such angles. Both Sonya Hussyn and Sami Khan carry this show. Sami Khan is essentially playing a double-role, playing the reliable, committed Asfandyar on one end and the man of Hoorain’s dreams and he does a great job in both roles. Of course, the star of the show is Sonya Hussyn, who is giving a stellar performance as Hoorain. Hoorain is not entirely balanced, but there’s an innocence and vulnerability in the way Sonya plays her that makes this a character to root for. The viewer wants to see Hoorain succeed in life and find happiness – and health. With Hoorain’s family giving up hope on her, how will the show progress from here? While episode 6 wasn’t particularly eventful, the show has set up the storyline for upcoming episodes to follow a unique, intriguing path.