Seventeen episodes of Sana Javed and Mikaal Zulfiqar’s Ruswai, based on the story of a rape victim, have been aired so far and recent episodes just make you want to pull your hair out. What irks you further is the fact that the drama has been written and directed by women – namely Naila Ansari and Rubina Ashraf.
The premise of the drama is fairly simple – Sameera (Sana) and Salman (Mikaal) are family friends and are in love. Their parents are also well-acquainted though Salman’s mother looks down upon Sameera’s family because she considers herself to be above them. At the same time, Sameera’s brother, Hamza is hitched to Salman’s sister, Wardah. Its a perfectly normal case of watta satta. Though Salman’s mother is okay with Wardah marrying Hamza, she doesn’t want Sameera as her bahu. But Salman is insistent about marrying Sameera. So she is left with no choice.
However, one evening when the family is walking out of a restaurant after dinner, a group of men abduct Sameera and rape her before dumping her back on the road. The intentions behind their actions are not yet known. Sameera’s father ends up saving his bahu, Wardah instead of his daughter. After the incident, life goes on and the weddings take place as planned though Salman is now disgusted with his wife because she is no longer the pure virgin he wanted to marry. Soon after the wedding while Hamza and his wife enjoy marital bliss, Sameera is miserable at Salman’s house. He starts mistreating her and with each passing episode his actions get worse. He also starts having an affair with another girl who his mother had wanted him to marry. Meanwhile his parents especially his mother doesn’t care about Sameera and in the latest episode even commented that she deserves to die.
This is where the drama starts getting frustrating. Sameera is a qualified, well-educated doctor who has been working in the hospital well before her marriage. However, she chooses to give into her husband’s demands while her parents encourage her to stay in an abusive marriage just for the sake of marriage and because Salman “nay usko apna naam aur izzat di“. She doesn’t pursue a case against her rapists because of her husband and father who want the matter brushed under the carpet and erased from their memories. On the other hand, Hamza who initially appeared to be a level-headed character chooses to ignore his sister’s misery and focus on his own marriage.
Why are we time and time again shown miserable women? Showing Sameera’s miseries were fine in one or two episodes but extending it is making the whole drama, which was probably an honest attempt to depict the ordeal of a rape victim, a drag. The only glimmer of hope appears to be Sameera’s senior at the hospital Dr Feroze. He seems to genuinely care about Sameera and is trying to ensure that she does not go down the rabbit hole which she is going.
At the same time, what sends a chill down your spine is the fact that the drama, if not 100 percent, does depict reality. Rape victims are often ostracised and shunned for something that is not even their fault. Instead of being handled with care and dealt with gently, they are shunned and seen as impure.
Sana has done a great job as Sameera. Osama Tahir as Hamza and Irsa Ghazal as Salman’s mother stand out among the rest of the cast with their brilliant performances. However, Mikaal falls short as Salman – his body language is too stiff and his expressions wooden.
While Ruswai does a decent job in sensitising us towards the plight of a rape survivor, it also chooses to lean on the typical saas-bahu drama and meek, helpless larki to garner ratings.