What steps should you take if you find yourself married to a man experiencing severe mental health crises? What if you're a newlywed and didn't anticipate the challenges you'd face? You've always excelled and achieved the best in life, but what occurs when one of life's major milestones, like marriage, becomes your greatest challenge? Mawra Hocane's character in the Pakistani TV show, Jafaa (loosely translated as rudeness or betrayal, in a more poetic sense), embodies these struggles and more.

The renowned Pakistani actress is known for selecting scripts with powerful themes and messages that highlight women's issues. Hocane has previously starred in Nauroz and Neem, both of which heavily focused on women's issues, and she has extensively discussed her increased mindfulness regarding the scripts she chooses. Being self-aware, Hocane recalls, "I remember promoting some of my work in 2018 and meeting very young girls who told me they looked up to me and it really struck me. I was just doing my own thing, but I realized that it's not just about the producer's money that you have to be responsible for. It's also about who I am, how I am on social media, and the work that I do."

In Jafaa, Mawra plays a young woman who is frequently gaslighted by her husband. Her husband, Hassan (played by Mohib Mirza), struggles with mental health issues but is not entirely open about them. The show has many nuances that Hocane felt drawn to. "I've seen so many people going through this," she says about her character, Dr. Zara, in Jafaa. "There are certain things that happen between the privacy of two people, and if you go out and tell someone, this is what happened to me, they will probably call you crazy. Or they'd say, 'but what’s the big deal?' Jafaa has those kinds of scenes."

Pakistani dramas often address social messages and 'lessons'. Jafaa does so as well, but without being preachy. Dr Zara is a medical doctor to whom many young women can relate. "Sometimes women want to believe they have no clue what’s going on because pointing it [out] would create even bigger problems," Hocane says, offering insight into her character. "Especially girls who have topped their school, their medical studies, who are high achievers, they cannot imagine that they will fail at their marriage. They are in denial because accepting this would mean looking for a solution, and sometimes you don’t even have a solution. I spoke to someone who is a gynaecologist, my director Danish (Nawaz) got me to speak to them, and I realized that these doctors who go through such high-pressure situations, the way that they cope with everything is … okay how can I fix it? I think that is what Dr Zara does too."

Jafaa, written by Sarwat Nazir and directed by Danish Nawaz, has become a major hit with audiences, with their episodes garnering millions of views on YouTube. The show also stars Usman Mukhtar, Sehar Khan, and Anam Gohar. Hocane’s storyline follows Dr Zara as she navigates a troubled marriage. Her husband (Mirza) has severe anger issues and lashes out at the smallest of instances, such as her working at odd hours (she’s a gynaecologist on duty) or spending too much time with her own family. The show is receiving widespread acclaim for highlighting 'red flag' characters who often go unnoticed. "When you’re starting a project, you don’t know how [the] public will receive it, but I’m glad that people are picking up on the nuances," she says.

Hocane has spent 11 years in the entertainment industry; she began her career at just 19. Is choosing scripts wisely a greater challenge now for her? "Ignorance is bliss," she laughs, "When you know nothing, you think you know everything. I used to be this over excited, hyper child on each set. With time, I’ve started feeling that I need to prepare more. I’m more nervous now. This is why I’m not able to do too many projects. I used to just consider dates, before. Now I look at my own capacity and I make sure I read the whole script as many times as possible."

Her choices are well-considered, as evidenced by her career trajectory. She also emphasizes her dedication to her work. "There could be better actors, but I work really hard," she says. "I don’t pick other projects when I’m working on one project. I’m always reading and re-reading my scripts. I’m also a nervous student now, a lot more than before. With time I’m becoming this person who is very honest and sincere to her job."