“Raqeeb Se” is such a difficult show to write about, because it’s simply so beautiful, so meaningful and so impactful with each episode that it becomes difficult to find the words to express oneself. This is the beauty of Bee Gul’s writing, it simply pulls us into her world and leaves the audience spellbound as one “feels” the story washing over them. Starring Noman Eijaz, Sania Saeed, Hadiqa Kiani, Faryal Mehmood, Hadiqa Kiani, Saba Faisal, Salman Shahid, Hamza Sohail, Hassan Mir and Saqib Sumeer, “Raqeeb Se” has been written by Bee Gul and directed by the equally brilliant Kashif Nisar.
In episode 14, Rafiq (Saqib Sumeer) and Sakina (Hadiqa Kiani) meet at the house, something which Hajra (Sania Saeed) does not approve of, asking Sakina why she invited him. Hajra is an interesting character, so besotted and indebted to Maqsood (Noman Eijaz) that she thinks only of him, what makes him happy, what he will think, etc. It’s not lost on the audience when Hajra scolds Sakina by saying she’s living under Maqsood’s roof, which is ironically Hajra’s grandmother’s house. Hajra has low self-esteem and does not deem herself worthy of Maqsood’s love. After realizing that she could never win his love, she made it her life’s mission to support him in his love for Sakina, something which she continues to do. What’s fascinating about this is that Sakina is not as rosy-eyed towards Maqsood as Hajra is. Yes, she loved him once and yes, she continues to love him, but she is also able to see how Hajra is mistreated by him. Sakina is fed up of hearing her own love stories from Hajra’s mouth, horrified at how Hajra has been allowing this to happen instead of putting her foot down and demanding love and respect from her own husband. But Hajra has secrets of her own, secrets which will begin to play out soon enough. There are no words for how powerful Hadiqa Kiani and Sania Saeed’s performances are in this episode, their scene in the kitchen bringing the viewer to tears as Sakina consoles Hajra.
Ameera (Iqra Aziz) calls Maqsood to pick her up from school and then, in her childishness, forces him to spend the day with her on the beach. Later, reminiscing about the day to her mother, Ameera is slapped by Sakina when she crosses the line, Sakina being able to see what others can’t – Ameera’s wayward intentions. What’s frustrating here is how Hajra and Maqsood intervene in Sakina’s parenting. Sakina has lost so much, her own home, her husband, now living under their roof under their rules…..isnt her daughter the one thing she should have full authority over? Ameera is one of the show’s only unlikable characters – but is she unlikable due to her circumstances? Ameera has come from a background where the only thing she has seen is abuse in the marriage of her own parents, coupled with the love stories she has heard about Sakina and Maqsood from her mother. In a miserable household, she has clung to these stories, absorbed their details and made Maqsood her ideal. It’s no wonder then to see how she is laying claim to Maqsood, attracted to this “dream man,” manipulating her way into his life and even sidelining her own mother and Hajra in an effort to get closer to him. Ameera is conniving and someone who wants a better life for herself, something better than what her mother had. But how far will she go to get it? Iqra Aziz is Ameera, making this character her own.
Insha (Faryal Mehmood) is a strong woman and at the present junction, nothing is more evident than how unworthy Abdul (Hamza Sohail) is for her. This is a match made in hell, the match between a self-sufficient woman and an out-and-out user. It’s interesting to witness how Abdul’s entire attitude has changed now that he has a job – a job that Insha is, yet again, responsible for him getting. And yet, even after getting said job, he continues to expect Insha to pay for his food and even for the petrol in his bike. In contrast, Kashif (Hassan Mir) is a breath of fresh air, a man who is not only educated and on par with Insha intellectually, but also a man who cares about Insha’s family and their well-being. The attitudes of Kashif and Abdul towards the Maqsood-Sakina situation are as different as light and day, one being supportive and hands-on while the other encourages Insha to make peace with it, because “that’s how it is.” Faryal Mehmood is such a natural in this role and it’s wonderful to watch her on screen. Of course, as unlikable as Abdul is, Hamza Sohail is doing a great job as Abdul as well, while Hassan Mir is making his presence felt as Kashif. We want to see more of Kashif and Insha, that’s certain.
While the overall feel of the show is heavy, there are some wonderful, lighter moments with Saba Faisal and Salman Shahid, who are both amazing in their roles as Masood and Aatiqa. While Hajra is her own worst enemy, this duo enters as the – ironically – more level headed duo. Yes, Aatiqa and Mansoor may earn in black money and they may have a whole world of faults, but even if they are defending Hajra for their own selfish reasons, they are at least attempting to help her. Any outsider witnessing this scenario play out would feel the need to step in, so it’s only obvious that Masood and Aatiqa would, particularly now that things have reached the point of Hajra encouraging Maqsood and Sakina’s marriage. Saba Faisal is wonderful as Aatiqa simply in the way which she throws out one-liners that come across as so natural (“Chup reh reh ke mujhe sugar ho gayi hai!”) and Salman Shahid has such presence that even as Masood sits in the room silent with his sunglasses on, he creates his own impact.
What’s most difficult about this show is that every character is well-etched, so it becomes very difficult to hate or dislike anyone – well, except Abdul and possibly Ameera. They all have their history, their own struggles, their emotional burdens and these all influence their lives and decisions. Kashif Nisar’s direction is perfect, keeping the story running smoothly while extracting the best out of his actors. Bee Gul is a master with emotional content and she has always been a writer who connects with her audience on that “human” level. While Sakina and Hajra may live very different lives from us, we can put ourselves in their shoes and imagine their predicaments and trauma. That’s the magic of “Raqeeb Se,” a story that is both infuriating and lovable at exactly the same time, a potential masterpiece in the making.