Syed Noor’s latest Chain Aye Na

It’s been a few days since Syed Noor’s latest Chain Aye Na hit the big screen.

Following its release the film was slammed by various mainstream media outlets for glorifying stalking, harassment and violence against women.

Despite this, Chain Aye Na’s stars have continued to promote the film. Shahroz Sabzwari, in particular, has gone on a social media posting spree, defending the film aggressively by justifying its content to critics.

In the course of making his case for Chain Aye Na Sabzwari has made a number of disturbing statements. Here’s why they’re problematic, and here’s why the young star should think twice.

He said “deewangi aur love mai bauhat kuch hota hai” and that “ek innocent se larkay ne jazbaat mai aa ker [ye] kaam kia jiska usko result acha nai mila.” We beg to differ. Being in love doesn’t ever justify violence.

Shahroz’s statements to Images seem to suggest that in love, anything goes. In another interview, he says the same: “In obsession, many lovers end up doing so many things. We’ve all been there!”

Unfortunately, this is the exact same mentality that encourages rampant practices like honour killing and acid attacks.

Is this really the message we want to send to the Pakistani public?

In South Asia perpetrators of crimes like acid attacks will often cite ‘love’ or ‘honour’ as justifications for violence, and if they see the same behaviour being mirrored in a popular film, they might internalise the message that what they’re doing is correct.

This is the very reason why many critics have started speaking out against Bollywood for Romanticism stalking — because no, we haven’t all ‘been there’ and even if we have it’s no justification for continued abuse.

We’re disappointed because this was a great opportunity for Shahroz to decisively condemn the abuse of women, yet instead he chose to implicitly defend abusive relationships by equating love with violent behaviour.

He implied the “people’s verdict” is the only correct verdict. But that’s not true

On Twitter the actor implied that Chain Aye Na was a creatively successful project just because people were going to watch the film.

We’re not denying that the opinion of the public matters. That being said, ticket sales are not the only standard by which a film’s success is judged.

To put things in perspective, think of it this way: we live in a country that is ripe with examples of heinous practices that have the support of a large percentage of the public. From honour killing to mob violence to girls being traded for marriage by jirgas, we can cite a long list of behaviors that are common but ought to be criticized anyway.

The same goes for film. Just because a portion of the population goes to watch a film doesn’t mean its message deserves to be defended. As educated people with a platform, actors and filmmakers are expected to be responsible in their portrayal of society. When you put violence against women up on a silver screen, you’re normalising it further.

If we don’t critique this, things will never change.

He said people don’t condemn onscreen violence in Hollywood and only criticise local films. That’s not true either

Shahroz claimed in a post that “When Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t win the Oscar for Wolf of Wallstreet you were all sad, where he ‘glamourised’ ill treatment towards women in every way possible.”

A little context. First of all, The Wolf of Wallstreet is a biographical film. It’s true that Leo’s character Jordan is a stockbroker who commits fraud and engages in lewd behaviour. However, it’s also true that the film shows us that he is eventually punished for these acts.

In Chain Aye Na, is Rayan punished for his stalking and abusing? No. Instead he is rewarded; he ends up marrying the very girl he slapped. Heck, even Murad isn’t punished for murder! And he was supposed to be the Jordan-like bad guy of the film!

Also, Leo never, ever claimed The Wolf of Wallstreet was a family friendly movie, unlike Sharoz who said “Chain Aye Na is a saaf sutri film.” So this comparison is just not valid.

Second, Hollywood and even Bollywood films have been criticised wherever they’ve glamourised a negative aspect of their society. Even by Pakistani publications.

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. If Chain Aye Na had shown Rayan truly repenting for his stalking, or if Ruba had refused to marry Rayan at all — it wouldn’t have garnered as much criticism.

But it didn’t, so here we are.

He says we shouldn’t take the film seriously because it didn’t intend to portray any message. That’s weird because as we know, every film has an impact on its audience

Defending his film in a post-release interview Shahroz said, “This is storytelling, so, for God’s sake this doesn’t need to be turned political for no reason or to forward one’s own agendas.”

Talking exclusively to Something Haute, Shahroz explained why he felt critics were reading too much into the film.

“It is not about being fair or unfair, everyone is doing their job. However, yes, some publications keep re-sharing the same article again and again, I don’t know why no one is taking a note of that,” the actor told us when asked whether the reviews were justified.

“People will go watch Chain Aye Na, it’s just a romantic film,” he added. “A lot happens in romance! Slapping some one…people need not equate it with me that ‘how can Shahroz do this?’ I am playing a character, and if I am playing it, it’s the demand of the story. It’s a portrayal that actors have to do.”

Shahroz, who plays the role of an obsessed lover in the film, feels that his character is akin to what the reality is and things are not always the most-beautiful or romantic in love.

“In obsession, many lovers end up doing so many things. We’ve all been there! This is storytelling, so, for God’s sake this doesn’t need to be turned political for no reason or to forward one’s own agendas,” the actor reiterated.

The actor seems to be claiming that a film should be viewed purely as ‘entertainment’ — however, if the film did not portray any message then why was the cinema echoing with applause when Ruba was slapped? Why were men heard saying ‘bilkul acha kia’? For them, Rayan’s treatment of Ruba aligned with how they view women and we can all agree that gender relations are political.

What Shahroz fails to understand is that films do actually influence people, which is why many stars such as Mahira Khan, Saba Qamar, Fahad Mustafa and Ahsan Khan are now signing projects which convey positive messages and seek to better society.

Even our dramas (Udaari, Aakhri Station, Sammi) are veering towards progressive storytelling in hopes of bringing about a positive change in Pakistan.

As much as Shahroz wants us to turn a deaf ear to the troubling messages his film conveys, we’re no strangers to audiences adopting ideas from what they see onscreen; the most recent case being of 13 Reasons Why, due to which teenagers have committed suicide leaving behind tapes and notes.

He said Rayan’s slap didn’t promote violence against women because Ruba didn’t hug him afterward. Did he forget she married him in the end?

Speaking to Images about the slap, Shahroz said: “Agar Sarish mujhe hug karti uske baad tu tab ye portray hota kay thappar maarna sahee hai lekin nai yaar she still didnt fall for the guy.”

Here’s the problem with this statement: First, Ruba ultimately marries him anyway, and second, it needs to be understood that many a times victims do not react instantaneously to violence/abuse because a) they fear that the response to their reaction may be even more violent or b) they fear they deserved it.

What is also problematic is how no one in the film raised concern about the slap or even condemned it. Even Ruba didn’t bring the slap up with her parents or with Rayan. The slap was forgotten; no apology was asked of Rayan nor any given.

Similarly, Murad shows an absence of guilt and remorse after murdering Dolly. He faces no legal repercussions either. Problematic? Quite so.

Till the end, we see that there are no consequences to Murad’s murder, except he doesn’t get married to Ruba, which isn’t a result of his crime but because another man manages to woo his fiancé. And neither does Rayan pay for slapping a woman, because, hey, he gets her in the end.

It’s unfortunate that in his defense of Chain Aye Na Shahroz has ended up on the wrong side of how to address social issues.

In the past celebrities have accepted and graciously moved on after mistakes were pointed out to them — we can only hope that Chain Aye Na’s cast takes note.

Thanks: Daily Dawn

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