The story of the relationship between a man and his victim, “Chauraha” is a story that treads a very fine line between redemption and glorification. Can a man who has destroyed the lives of many women be redeemed? This is the task “Chauraha” has taken on – and effectively so, at least so far. Written by Edison Idrees Masih and directed by Aehsun Talish, “Chauraha” stars Mikaal Zulfiqar and Madiha Imam in lead roles, supported by Saba Hameed, Behroze Sabzwari, Asad Siddiqui, Shabbir Jan, Ayesha Gul and others.
Zoya (Madiha Imam) became a victim of catfishing, lured out by Junaid (Mikaal Zulfiqar) and held hostage for 3 nights before Junaid had a sudden bout of compassion and returned her home. In a twist of fate, Shireen (Saba Hameed), Zoya’s mother, winds up marrying Saleem (Behroze Sabzwari), Junaid’s father. This forces the two to live under the same roof – and also come up against several awkward questions regarding their connection and Zoya’s evident dislike.
This could have been a story gone wrong, but it’s the writing that makes “Chauraha” appealing. There is certainly that melodramatic tingle to the story that’s typical of Geo (which we are currently seeing with Junaid’s evil Khala and her goofy son), but the lead characters are layered, complex characters who actually have meaningful thoughts. For example, while Naila (Arisha Razi Khan) threatens and attempts to push Zoya into submission, Zoya is exhausted of her past haunting her. She not only fights back, but also puts Naila in her place. It’s also refreshing to see how Zoya handles Junaid’s bossy, screaming Khala and holds her own against Junaid, not allowing him to push her around. This is a young girl who has been through a lot, but she recognizes her own worth and what has been taken from her due to no fault of her own.
Meanwhile, Junaid is a fascinating character. He has changed, but he still isn’t “good.” This is a man who is still capable of threatening to kill his ex-friends for threatening a loved one. However, Junaid has recognized the mistakes he’s made and now, after seeing Zoya suffer daily for an act that was his fault, he is being eaten alive by guilt. There’s a kindness that has come out after Zoya’s entry in his house, kindness not only towards Zoya, but also Shireen and even his own sister, who he expects to be a good human being. It’s a great moment when Junaid scolds Naila for treating Zoya badly when she could have easily been in the same situation as Zoya had Junaid not stepped in and saved her from her boyfriend. Mikaal Zulfiqar is excellent in this role and one has to wonder why he hasn’t experimented with his roles more in the past.
It’s the Shireen and Saleem “love story” that has come crashing down as Saleem’s reality is revealed. Sure, Saleem helped Shireen and her family at a time of need and as an audience, we truly believed he was a good man. However, Saleem was also a lonely man and now that he has the object of his affection as his wife, the mistreatment and controlling is…..jarring. This is a man who hasn’t had a chance to control a woman or boss her around and so now Shireen and Zoya are both under his “control.” It’s disheartening to see how two independent women finally have the “safety” of a man’s presence, but have also been stripped of that independence. The flaws in Saleem’s personality are so subtle and he has moments of kindness as well, but it’s clear that Zoya is a big problem in Shireen and Saleem’s marriage.
Overall, “Chauraha” continues to keep the audience engaged and entertained. This is an interesting concept with sensitive treatment. However, the final grade remains withheld until the end. One can only hope that Zoya ends up with Arsal (Asad Siddiqui), as he’s a great guy. Special mention to Shabbir Jan as Qadeer. It’s refreshing to see a father character like this who supports his son against a manipulative wife. It would be a shame if Junaid and Zoya wound up in a romantic angle, because even if Junaid is changing for the better…..shouldn’t his redemption also include punishment?