This week drama serial Ruswai came to a satisfying end
For those of us who tuned in to follow Sameera’s (Sana Javed) personal and romantic journey in the aftermath of her brutal gang rape, it was frustrating to watch show creators spend valuable air time on Sameera’s parents’ emotions and the problem of watta satta (Sameera’s brother Hamza is married to her ex-husband Salman’s sister Wardah).
However, I think the final three episodes did a good job of pivoting back to Sameera’s story.
So, here’s a look back at how Sameera finally found her voice and justice.
Recall: after surviving her brutal gang rape, Sameera’s parents basically push her into a marriage with Salman (Mikaal Zulfiqar). The marriage is doomed from the start because Salman isn’t supportive of her pursuing a case against her rapists and because Sameera hasn’t mentally healed from what she went through, which means she has frequent nightmares and cringes anytime a man (including Salman) so much as comes near her.
Ultimately, Salman and his mom do a pretty great job of adding to Sameera’s misery with the last straw being Salman cheating and beating her right out of the marriage.
We know Sameera is determined to seek out justice for herself. She wants to see the men who did this to her in jail so that there are no other Sameeras. We also know that she has a bold, badass personality from even before her rape so it comes as no surprise when Sameera files a case with the courts (only to take it back when Salman loses it) and starts to work with other rape survivors who come into the hospital where Sameera is doing her house job.
One night, Sameera even looks up Mukhtar Mai’s story but, overall, without proper support or encouragement to help her get on the hard path to justice, Sameera is mostly stagnant throughout the series.
Near the end, however, that finally changes.
After losing Salman and then her father (who dies a sudden, sad death), Sameera decides she’s done living her life on other people's demands and conditions. She decides to refile her case and take her perpetrators to court. But this time the resistance doesn’t come from her family. It comes from the police.
In the last episode, there is a brutal scene where the IG officer, without warning, shows her a file with the faces of her rapists inside (umm, never a good idea to trigger a survivor without warning) and tells her that her perpetrators are sons of powerful, well-connected men and that filing a case is jazbati and dangerous because the police have attempted to arrest these men before only for them to be released a few hours later.
Sameera -- and her coworker/potential love interest Dr. Feroze (more on him later!) and her brother Hamza who are there with her -- all stand up to the police ineffectiveness and laziness and demand they do something. She ultimately refiles her case and within a day three of the four men are arrested.
The fourth, who is still somewhere out on the streets, heads to the courthouse to shoot Sameera but is shot and killed by the police while Salman, who is consumed with guilt since divorcing Sameera, dies protecting Sameera after he dives in front of the bullet with Sameera’s name on it.
The final episode then ends with a six-month flashforward. Sameera (now happily married to Dr. Feroze) is coming out of the courthouse as the news media is reporting on her victory. Justice has been served and her three surviving rapists are sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Now, let's turn to some folks deserving honorable mentions.
One of the best parts of Sameera’s story has to be, hands down, the love that slowly develops between her and Dr. Feroze (played by the handsome Adnan Jaffar who recently crossed the ocean to Hollywood).
I think we can all agree: Dr. F is great, you guys.
Once he decides he wants to marry Sameera, the good doctor doesn’t waste time dwelling on her history (like her rape or her divorce). Instead of occupying himself with worries over log kya kehengay, he goes straight for the kill, proposing to Sameera with a caveat: you don’t have to say yes because I’m with you in this fight either way.
Several times, we see Dr. F stand up for Sameera. When he spots Salman cornering Sameera in the hospital to tell her not to refile the case, he tells Salman to stop toying with her feelings and to leave her alone.
He tells Salman that although Sameera is perfectly capable of handling Salman herself, he’s in her corner regardless because he loves her.
Similarly, when Dr. F’s dead brother’s widow (who is high key obsessed with him) and his mother try to force him into marrying the ex sister-in-law, he tells them he won’t fall for their emotional blackmail and that he won’t marry someone he doesn’t love.
And when his mother responds by bringing up Sameera’s checkered past (that she’s a rape victim, divorcee, etc.), he bluntly tells her: “do you realise what century we live in? Sometimes you really disappoint me”.
That response, for a desi drama series, is wonderful, shocking and unprecedented.
At no point in his pursuit of Sameera does Dr. F resort to pushiness or pettiness (like we so frequently see happen in dramas). When Sameera tells Dr. F that even if he didn’t exist, she would still exist because she’s enough for herself, he agrees that she’s incredibly strong and self-sufficient.
Later, when Dr. F’s mom and sister-in-law go to Sameera’s with a rishta and wind up insulting her instead, he returns to Sameera’s home with his mother to clear the air and properly apologise. And when Sameera gets called into the IG’s office about her case, he goes with her and her brother to tell the IG that they aren’t there for the police’s opinion on whether or not to pursue a case against Sameera’s rapists. They are there to make sure that it actually happens.
Afterwards, outside the police station, he reminds Sameera he’s with her every step of the way not because she can’t win her own wars but because he has a lot of respect for her in his heart and any attack on her feels like an attack on him.
Guys, at this point let me remind you: I came for Sameera’s journey but totally stayed for Dr. F and Sameera’s love story.
Another person who proves to be surprisingly interesting (simply because of how terrible she is) is Salman’s second wife Pinky (recall: Salman cheats on Sameera with Pinky who is his airline colleague).
From the get-go we know Pinky and Salman aren’t built to last so it’s no surprise when Pinky starts showing her true, terrible colors.
She yells at the house help. She talks back to Salman’s parents (going so far as to call Salman’s mother a “makar aurat” and “jaahil” in the final episode). She reminds everyone regularly she has no time for their family drama because she’s a working woman living her best life. She makes Wardah feel like the scum of the earth when Wardah returns home following her and Hamza’s separation (more on that later!).
She refuses to help take care of Wardah’s baby (which, to be fair, isn’t really her job). She accuses Salman of cheating on her with Sameera after she finds a text on Salman’s phone in which he’s apologising to Sameera for ruining her life.
What makes Pinky a character worthy of mention is how she single handedly brings Salman and his annoying mother back down to earth. She holds a mirror up to them showing them how they are truly a parhay-likhay jaahil family. And, best of all, when Salman tries to hit her, Pinky tells him not to even think about it because she’s not going to just take his beatings like poor Sameera.
She then tells Salman and his parents they aren’t worthy of her time or an apology, peaces out back to her mother’s house and, a few days later, sends Salman divorce papers. Minus the badtameezi, Pinky is a lesson in self-assertiveness for us all because later on, when Salman goes to see her about the divorce, she savagely drops some truth bombs on him for being one of those weak men who only know how to use women as their emotional crutch.
Why, she rightly points out, does he need to find another woman before he’s able to exit a relationship? And why, she asks him, does he only know how to treat others badly or be treated badly himself?
It’s all pretty fantastic considering Salman’s character is one of those insufferable, intolerable dudes who feel entitled to cheating and beating their way through life. It was nice to have Pinky as Salman’s foil -- someone to set him straight and to call both him and his mom out for their consistently horrendous behavior.
While on the subject of horrendous behavior, honorable mention to Sameera’s mom who, after her husband’s death, becomes a saas from hell.
She basically forces her son Hamza to dump his pregnant wife Wardah and marry her niece (what on earth?). The show spends too much time on the thorny subject of watta satta but ultimately, the whole situation between Hamza and Wardah resolves itself when Hamza goes into a mysterious six-hour coma.
When he wakes up, everyone’s hearts have softened and Hamza’s mom warmly welcomes Wardah back into their lives. No mention is ever made of how Hamza basically went along with his mom’s bad behaviour and how he, at one point, even kidnapped the son.
After so much back and forth on Hamza and Wardah’s love story, by the time the two finally reunite, I’m beyond caring… not to say that I am ever beyond caring for Osama Tahir as Hamza. I think he’s fantastic and the last time I spoke to him (at the Hum TV awards) he told me his first love is and always will be theater.
But after seeing him as the levelheaded, supportive brother and son in Ruswai, I hope he stays on the small screen for a long, long time.
Anyway, by the time we reach the final few episodes, the only thing I really care about is Sameera’s story. Will she find justice? Will she find love?
Spoiler alert: the answer to both questions is yes, yes, yesss.
Even though the police and Salman work really hard to convince Sameera not to pursue her rapists, Sameera goes into the final episode guns ablazing. At one point, the IG officer cuts Sameera off mid-sentence and says to her brother Hamza that women are emotional creatures and that Hamza is smarter so why doesn’t he try to explain to her sister to drop the case.
The officer also shows Sameera photos of her rapists, telling her that they’ve been arrested before but released within hours because of how powerful their families are. It’s all pretty infuriating but, sadly, pretty realistic.
At one point, Dr. F points out to the police that if the law weren’t so weak, no one in this country would dare do what they did to Sameera. It’s because people know they can get away with the worst of the worst that crimes like this continue to take place.
Dr. F then tells the IG officer: “you better fix these legal loopholes -- fast” reminding him that, as an officer appointed to serve the public’s interest (not the interest of the powerful), he’s ultimately replaceable.
The final few episodes had quite a few moments that made me want to sit up, pump my fist in the air and do a little victory dance. Sameera taking her case to court and winning is one of those moments.
The pretty iconic Mukhtar Mai cameo is another one! There was something so strangely reassuring of seeing two powerful women (even if one of them is fictional) come together in support of one another.
Surprisingly, I also didn’t mind Salman dying a heroic death trying to save Sameera from one of the rapists who, before his arrest, tries to shoot Sameera but ultimately ends up killing Salman who dives in front of her. Although I don’t think he deserved to die a hero, the show doesn’t memorialise him too much, so all things considered, I was fine with it.
The drama ends with one rapist dead, Salman dead, dad dead and Sameera’s surviving rapists sentenced to twenty five years in prison and fined five lakh rupees. In the six month flashforward, Dr. F tells Sameera: “your story has many more layers to unfold” -- really, the perfect reminder and an uplifting note to end a heavy drama on.