Aadhi Gawahi – Social Statement or Illogical Fluff?

Written by Sophia Qureshi

Aadhi Gawahi is a show that I made an active decision not to watch right when it began.  Why?  Well, in my past experience, shows featuring Sohai Ali Abro and Azfar Rehman tend to tether the line between reality and fantasy.  Mind you,both of these actors are really great, natural actors that always display their talent in each and every project they work in.  However, despite delivering great performances, the shows they choose to associate themselves with always seem overly melodramatic and fall under the title of “mediocre.”

Why did I begin to watch this show then after 26 episodes had already gone on air?  Social media, of course!  I began seeing all these declarations of what a great social message the show had, what a strong female lead the show boasted of and how the issue touched upon in the show is such an important issue in Pakistani society.  “What IS this show about?” I thought, still sticking to my decision of not watching.  Then, last week, a friend openly began raving about the show and insisted that I must watch it…..so I did…

The summary of the show on the official Hum TV site is as follows:

“Aadhi Gawahi raises questions on the sensitive issue of “Nikah” and highlights how the subjects of “divorce” and “nikah” should not be taken lightly. Aadhi Gawahi is an interwoven story of Salwa, Saad, Hamdan, Soha and their families and depicts how an assumed “joke” amongst Salwa and Hamdan transformed Salwa and her family’s lives into a bad dream. Salwa and her cousin Saad like each other, however when they are going to get married, their batch mate Hamdan approaches with pictures and video of his “Nikah” with Salwa which was recorded at a play as a joke when Hamdan declined to play her significant other in the play since she was not a “mehrum.” What takes after is an account of regret, battle and repercussions of Salwa’s evil idea design.” (Source:  www.hum.tv)

I’m not sure what is being described as a summary of this show is what I’m actually watching.  In fact, this summary sounds even more illogical than what actually happened on the show.  They certainly didn’t get married as a “joke,” rather it was an added scene in a play.

I absolutely agree that the general knowledge and education on the rights of women regarding Nikkah in South Asian society is highly lacking.  This is a situation made even worse by Pakistani media, depicting divorce as “talaaq, talaaq, talaaq” and, despite their intentions, showing situations like “accidental Nikkah” in this particular drama.

It has been shown that the “accidental Nikkah” between Hamdan & Salwa was orchestrated as an ill-intentioned plan by Hamdan himself (as he likes her), followed by a “fake” Fatwah issued by a hired Maulana Sahab.  If that’s the case, then why did Salwa’s Maulana Sahab also agree that this Nikkah was “jaayaz” (valid)?  In what world would anyone consider a Nikkah done without INTENTIONvalid?  This aside, what kind of sound-minded adults would partake in an act consisting of a Nikkah, using their real names, complete with signing of papers?  The basis of the show alone is illogical.

On the other end, we have Salwa’s once love-of-her-life Saad.  Saad and Salwa are cousins and understand each other incredibly well, highly in tune with the feelings of the other.  When Saad injures his foot, he finds himself unable to act in their media arts class project opposite Salwa.  Hamdan uses this to his advantage and takes Saad’s place – and this is when the “fake Nikkah” takes place.  Salwa informs Saad of the situation and they even have a fight over it.  Why then would Saad go on to distrust Salwa over the nikkah situation when the entire incident was put in front of him immediately?  How do characters that had a solid understanding suddenly morph into completely different people?  It’s frustrating to watch.

It’s amusing to watch the difference between Salwa and Hamdan’s families.  While Salwa’s family is supposed to be an “izzatdaar khandaan” (respectable family), educated and broad-minded, their actions tell a completely different story.  They are quick to judge, make impulse decisions, are rude to their guests and conduct themselves without class.  On the other end, Hamdan’s family is comprised of landlords and are described as “jaahil” (uneducated and ignorant)…..however, their behavior is much more dignified, compromising and intelligent.  It’s almost difficult to sympathize with Salwa and her family’s situation, because of the haphazard way they conduct their lives.

The ensemble cast does a decent job with their roles, but there are two actors specifically worth mention.  Ayesha Sana and Saleem Sheikh play their roles with the utmost dignity and exude charm each time they appear on screen.  Despite being from the “bad family” on the show, they are two of the more likable characters.  I also have to give credit to Usama Khan who plays the role of Usama.  He is written as a side character, but he is highly memorable and leaves an impression on the viewer.  Ironically, he leaves a stronger impression than our lead “hero” Saad (played by Ali Josh).  Ali is a decent enough actor, but his character is so poorly written that it’s difficult to really find him endearing.

Coming to our two main actors – Sohai Ali Abro is always a treat to watch on screen.  She has a natural flair about her, as though she’s just a normal girl and isn’t acting at all.  This show is so intriguing partly because of her performance – had it been any other actress, this show may not have had the same pull.  Sohai looks beautiful and her character has personality, so the idea of two men being in love with her isn’t at all unbelievable.

Azfar Rehman’s role is much more difficult for the viewer to wrap their head around.  Here’s why:  Azfar Rehman is supposed to be our “villain.”  He’s rude, he’s blunt, he’s insensitive, he’s a male chauvinist.  He forces the heroine to marry him under false pretenses, tries to control her life, physically threatens her family members, is rude to her mother……he should not be appealing to ANYONE.  The problem?  He’s played by Azfar Rehman, who is a bigger actor than any of the other males in the show.  He’s great looking.  Add to that, how Bollywood and Pakistani shows have played on our hearts and brains for decades – the “bad boy” chases the girl and the girl eventually gives in.  The “bad boy” will eventually reform and become a good guy…..no matter how he has gone about getting his way and forcing himself on the girl, depriving her of her own basic rights.  Unfortunately, I see that at play with this show as well in the viewers, myself included.  I find myself thinking “They look so sweet together” or finding Hamdan’s behavior appealing in a strange way.

It’s pitiful and I do wonder how the show intends to wrap up.  Will Hamdan change his ways and we, once again, be forced to lap up this idea of “Aggressive force is OK, because she will change him for the better” or will Hamdan actually be held accountable for his bad behavior?

I will be honest.  Despite this show’s lack of logic, despite the insane characters and the ludicrous situations, there is still something almost addictive about this show.  I find myself looking forward to every episode, despite it moving at a snail’s pace and being almost Indian soap-like in its presentation.  The chemistry between Sohai & Azfar definitely helps things.  All things considered, I do agree that the subject of how Nikkahs are meant to be conducted is something our society needs to be made aware of and educated on.  I hope this show holds true to its claims and actually goes on to address the problematic things being depicted so far.