“Saraab” stars Sami Khan and Sonya Hussyn in lead roles, airing on Hum Tv on Thursday nights. The show has tackled the topic of mental illness, much like “Ishq Zahe Naseeb” did earlier this year. However, this show is different in how it’s tackling the way mental illness is perceived by the world and, particularly, by family members who look elsewhere for treatment rather than visiting doctors. It’s a story with a great concept and great performances, a story which has been gripping and has been moving along really well up until now.
Unfortunately, episode 8 of “Saraab” has allowed the dreaded kitchen politics to take over. Up until now, the situations have been realistic and understandable, even highlighting how families in South Asian society view mental illness and their idea of treatment (Jinns and Darghas). In episode 8, there are two main tracks. The first track focuses on Asfandyar (Sami Khan) and Hoorain (Sonya Hussyn) as they arrive back home. Asfand and Hoorain share an interesting discussion about trust and honesty, both making veiled accusations about the other. When Asfand finally prods it out of her, Hoorain admits to seeing Asfand in every corner, pointing to thin air. Asfand realizing things are much worse than what he imagined, takes Hoorain to a psychiatrist to have her evaluated. Once there, Hoorain asks to be taken back home, but Asfand presses on, convincing her to simply see the doctor. Of course, as expected, Afandyar is advised to keep Hoorain away from her household her environment is not healthy for her mental state – which she confirms is not stable. While it’s great to see all this, one would have appreciated seeing more scenes with the doctor, actually hearing her (well-researched) medical advice, which would give viewers more information on the actual subject of mental illness and how to recognize it. Television shows are not meant to educate, but rather provide some awareness within their show and that would have been nice to see instead of showing the doctor mouthing lines with music drowning out her words. Instead, we are treated to a heavy dose of track 2 – Warda.
Warda has taken center stage at home, trying to manipulate the scene to her liking. Mental illness can be hereditary and looking at Hoorain’s family system, her mother and both her sisters, it’s clear that what the doctor said about Hoorain’s environment triggering her condition is absolutely correct. Warda’s nasty side has slowly been coming out, but in this episode it’s at full force. It also must be said that it’s illogical. Warda is well-aware that Hoorain is not “normal,” yet she is still pushing her own personal agenda of getting Hoorain married to her brother-in-law. Why would she want that? Warda lays on the waterworks and convinces her father, in a very manipulative, adding-oil-to-the-fire way, that Hoorain should under no circumstances be married off to Asfandyar and her parents agree. Namal (Nazish Jehangir) happily listens in, still seeing dreams of marrying Asfandyar herself – which makes Namal a bizarre character in herself. This, of course, sets the scene for what happens when Asfandyar and Hoorain return home.
Asfandyar is pushed out of the house and, quite literally, slapped and beaten with shoes upon his arrival and Hoorain is locked into her room. Both sisters do not waste a moment in taunting their already-stressed sister and their words are rather abusive when taking Hoorain’s mental state into account. Of course, these women have no concept of mental illness, because they have decided Hoorain created a “fake” situation of being possessed by a Jinn. Mental illness isn’t even an option. However, this is realistic, as many families in South Asian society do not acknowledge her condition to be a legitimate condition. Like the doctor says earlier in the episode, those around the individual must actually recognize her illness as an illness for her to benefit from treatment.
“Saraab” has taken on a topic that is necessary to drive home to the masses and it’s an important show for that reason. Up until now, it’s been running strong and doing a great job getting the point across. However, this episode simply spent too much time focusing on Warda and her unnecessary manipulations. Stories like this only become muddled when family and marital politics enter the fold and it’s very easy for the show to fall off track. Regarding performances, again, this is a Sonya Hussyn and Sami Khan show. These two perform so well, it’s heart-wrenching to see how their relationship is unraveling at the hands of their families – and at the hands of Hoorain’s mental condition and her mistrust of Asfandyar. Sonya Hussyn is simply a revelation as the vulnerable Hoorain, while Sami Khan is the ideal partner for her as Asfandyar. This is a character who wants the best for his partner and while many (on-screen) men would have developed an ego after being slapped by her father, he pays no attention to it and pushes forward as he convinces his mother to get Hoorain’s medication to her. The strength of the show lies in Sami Khan and Sonya Hussyn’s characters and portrayal of those characters. One hopes the show continues to focus on them and moves away from the family bickering.