“Raqeeb Se” has been a show that has won the hearts of viewers, leaving its audience in tears and promoting discussion each week with intelligent, well-written, meaningful episodes each week. Focusing on a broken love story that affects all in its path, “Raqeeb Se” initially seemed to be another show about two women fighting over one man – but left viewers in awe at what transpired. Written by the magnificent Bee Gul and directed by the talented Kashif Nisar, Raqeeb Se stars Nauman Ejaz, Sania Saeed, Hadiqa Kiani, Iqra Aziz and Faryal Mehmood in pivotal roles. Few shows have this sort of impact these days, a show that leaves you speechless long after the finale, left to process the events and parallels drawn between characters. “Raqeeb Se” for many has not simply been a show – it has been an experience, a moment of reflection, a show that offered deeper meaning on a level and, more than anything, a show about the will and spirit of women and how they are the creators of their own destiny.
Ameera is a character who has shown a lot of growth post her suicide attempt, realizing that her behavior was fueled by an illusion, an illusion of love from someone who existed in the past, in a time when she did not exist. And with that understanding, she has also begun to see her mother in a new, more admirable light. But with the acceptance of truth comes another truth, something which Ameera conveys to Sakina – Sakina could have put her foot down, put Rafiq Ali (Saqib Sumeer) in his place and lived her life with her head held high. Instead, she chose to endure Rafiq Ali’s abuse to punish herself for what she did to Maqsood – and in doing so, also subjected Ameera to abuse as well. This is said in praise of Sakina, telling her that she is strong enough to move on and take care of herself; but it’s also a complaint, a complaint that Sakina did not have to be a victim of her fate and could have given both herself, Ameera and even Rafiq Ali a different life had she stopped punishing herself.
This essentially one-sided conversation opens viewers up to the progress Ameera has made and how her way of thinking has changed. The stories move forward, life moves forward with each of our lead characters moving out of the shadow cast over their lives by Maqsood and Sakina’s love story for so long. Insha (Faryal Mehmood) finds her way, realizing she needs a bit of self-discovery herself and takes a job as a doctor in a small village. Insha and Maqsood have had a strange relationship, accepting each other as father and daughter, but never really sharing a loving, emotional bond. However, after recent breakthroughs and revelations, distance may have been exactly what they needed to make their relationship grow – and it does. Maqsood writes to Insha, communicating openly with her with affection, which brings her to tears. All Insha ever wanted was to have her father tell her that he loved her and now she finally has that.
Sakina also finds solace in her new life. She appears to have found a job with Insha, helping her in the clinic, realizing she’s capable of supporting herself, realizing she is not her past. Sakina’s story has been the most tragic, caught up in her own misery, heartbreak and guilt, never truly allowing herself to move forward – much like Maqsood, who had never been able to move past their burdens, Sakina’s being her guilt at sending Maqsood to jail and Maqsood’s being the reason for his brother’s death. It’s tragic to see how much time has been wasted in their lives brooding over this failed love story, but equally wonderful to see both finally picking up the pieces and finding their way to happiness. Maqsood has finally begun to take the steps to make his wife happy, realizing how he had never shown her his appreciation – let alone love. And so, making up for lost time, Maqsood is now seen taking the small steps to win Hajra’s heart, though he doesn’t have to work too hard – Hajra’s heart always belonged to him. Hajra has finally begun to think about herself, resuming her work as a teacher and finding her purpose in life, other than fixating on Maqsood. Hajra and Maqsood have never had a “normal” relationship, but are now working towards that normalcy, that comfort, that love; a love they both deserved to have found in each other decades earlier.
While everyone else has their positive moments of moving on, finding self-peace and realizing their greater purpose, there is one character who suffers unbearable tragedy. Ameera has realized the importance of her education and the desire to have a life different from her mother’s. But nowhere in this growth did she – or viewers – foresee Kashif’s interest in her. While the audience expected a Kashif-Insha romance, it’s amazing how quickly the relationship between Kashif and Ameera manages to win over the audience with their “opposites attract” sort of love story. Kashif respects Ameera and visibly wants the best for her. Kashif is cemented as a perfect match for Ameera simply in the way he asks her if she wants to marry him, giving importance to her voice and her right to reject him. In this moment, not only are viewers smiling, but Ameera is finally at her happiest – and then, in a flash, it’s all taken away from her. The foreshadowing of Masood’s (Salman Shahid) business dealings do give off an ominous feeling, but Kashif’s murder comes as a shock to all, robbing Ameera of her happiness before she was ever able to live it.
Several parallels have been drawn between Insha and Hajra’s lives, along with Sakina and Ameera’s lives. While Hajra took her divorce as a black mark on her character, something which tarnished her and forced her to live a life of subservience and insecurity, Insha takes it as a strengthening exercise, something which has helped shape her as an individual. Like Sakina, Ameera also loses her lose, her love story ending with her covered in blood. But in Ameera’s case, she is now armed with an education and the tools to overcome her grief, taking her on a path much different from her mother’s. Ameera is seen visibly grieving Kashif’s death, but finding purpose not only in her education, but also in caring for her father, Rafiq Ali, and giving him something to live for with her support. These girls are the new-age version of their mothers, girls proving that their educations have given them an independence and confidence that the previous generation may not have had.
It wouldn’t be a review without discussing the performances – and it’s difficult to decide where to begin? Let’s start with the hero of the show, the man of the house, the man who binds all these women together – Nauman Ejaz as Maqsood. When “Raqeeb Se” first began, one felt as though he may be the true “enemy” of the show, the man who holds all the cards and strings, the women simply puppets in his hands. And yet, as the show progresses, Maqsood is shown to be this kind, flawed, yet lovable man who has lived a difficult life, grappled with tragedies that have left deep scars. Nauman Ijaz has simply been the perfect casting for this role, making Maqsood his own, getting into the skin of this character and not only commanding the respect of the female characters, but also winning the hearts of the audience.
Of course, then we come to the women of the show – Sania Saeed, Hadiqa Kiani, Faryal Mehmood and Iqra Aziz. Sania Saeed has been perfect as Hajra, a wife who has never felt herself worthy, keeping the memory of her husband’s past love alive out of respect and never wishing to “overstep.” Had Hajra been played by any other actress, this would have been a very tough role to balance, toeing the line between playing a smart woman and a doormat. But Sania Saeed not only manages to do this, but makes Hajra a woman the viewer wants to protect and make her realize her own worth. Sania Saeed is a brilliant actress and she is a revelation each and every time. Of course, Hadiqa Kiani is worthy of praise as Sakina. It’s almost unfathomable that this is Hadiqa’s first acting role, as she has portrayed Sakina with such sincerity, truly becoming the character. Sakina has been such a complex role and Hadiqa deserves a round of applause. Who can forget Faryal Mehmood as Insha? Faryal Mehmood has always been a wonderful actress, but has been highly underrated and underutilized. Insha is a breakthrough performance for her, her moment of “I have arrived.” Insha is a woman of today, a confident, intelligent, independent woman who has been raised to be strong like a man – and yet, even strong women have insecurities and the need for support. Insha’s love story played out as a young girl chasing an undeserving man in an effort to receive the sort of love and appreciation she wanted from her own father. Like every other role in “Raqeeb Se,” Insha has been written with many layers, Faryal’s portrayal bringing her to life – absolutely brilliant. Last, but not least, Iqra Aziz proves herself as an actress yet again in her role as Ameera. Ameera started off as a villain, callous, ruthless, manipulative and even crossing all moral boundaries. And yet, as the show progressed, we could see how her life had affected her way of thinking. Ameera has one of the greatest arcs of change, progressing as an individual towards maturity. And by the end, Iqra Aziz’s performance brings viewers to tears as they grapple with what she has faced. Iqra Aziz has yet another stellar performance to add to her resume.
Of course, the supporting cast is wonderful too. Hassan Mir as Kashif leaves his haunting effect over the finale, but has always been appreciated by the audience in his earlier scenes as well. Saba Faisal and Salman Shahid as Masood and Atiqa have won the hearts – and laughter – of the audience time and time again, which only makes it more difficult to hear about the outcome of their characters. And, of course, who can forget the manipulative Abdul? Hamza Sohail gives a very natural performance as Abdul, making the audience truly hate this character by the end of his relationship with Insha – and yet his performance was so gradual and nuanced that one could imagine themselves in Insha’s place. This entire cast has been a dream cast of sorts, each actor equally as great as the next.
It’s so difficult to say goodbye to this show. This is a finale that leaves the viewer wanting more. This finale could have easily been three episodes in itself. And yet, one can’t help appreciating Bee Gul, Kashif Nisar and even Hum TV for recognizing that this story should end on a high note, retaining its hard-hitting effect by not allowing for even one dragged-out episode. The finale gives the audience several moments of much-deserved happiness, giving these long-burdened characters the peace they’ve been longing for – and then there’s that last tragic blow, which is life-changing not only for Ameera, but also Masood and Atiqa, who lose their one and only son. There’s so much to unpack even within this finale and yet, it’s beautiful. It’s beautifully heartbreaking, bittersweet and, in essence, exactly what “Raqeeb Se” has been from the very beginning: Perfect.