O Rungreza ~ Episode 10 Review

O Rungreza is a winner not just because of its text but also its subtext. The text, as we all are seeing and enjoying is dazzlingly colored, hues of all kind filled in just so by the gifted director, his talented creatives and the fabulous hand-picked actors, all of whom fit their characters like they were born to play them. It is with its subtext, however, where the play hit the ball out the park. Subversion now has a new name – Saji Gul.

I deliberately delayed the writing of this review because I wanted to see audiences’ reaction to this episode – to Qasim and Sassi’s equation – and the responses make for an interesting read. The call for Qasim to show his other side, to not be so gulible, to stop being a pushover, has been almost universal. This outpouring of hamdardi goes hand in hand with growing condemnation for  Sassi’s inappropriate or unacceptable behavior.

These comments make for a fascinating study, of what we as a people understand and expect of gender roles. Conditioned over generations –  larkiyan aise nahin boltein, larkiyan yeh nahin kartein, larkon kon aisey kaam nahin karney chahiyen, yeh tau larkiyon ke kaam hain, beta mard bano, shohar ho shohar ban kar raho – we as a society have created certain expectations of gendered behaviours. Hence for a man to behave as gently as Qasim does, is as unacceptable as it is uncomfortable. Even female audiences are discomfitted by his seemingly “unmanly” response to Sassi’s growing badtameezi. In recent days every conversation I have had about this character has ended with a variation on: Qasim just needs time to grow up … once he gets more confident he will learn to assert himself….

Likewise for Sassi. She makes us uncomfortable. This is not how “good girls” behave, is the general perception. It is almost as if we are holding our collective breath because clearly no good can come out of such attitude – and that too from a girl! The way she talks down to her mother makes us cringe as does her rudeness with her father. Her boldness with Wajih and her refusal to back down in face of familial pressure has us fearful of repercussions.

Yes, Sassi is pushing boundaries but so what if she does? What makes her wrong and our expectations of her right? What if Qasim doesn’t “man up”? Would that be so wrong? Why is this gentle Qasim not acceptable for us – why are we calling him a bakri?

Mammo and Khayyam represent the other end of the spectrum in terms of gendered desi expectations.  So much of what we hate about Khayyam is precisely what we want Qasim to become – assertive, confident, dominating. We get frustrated with Mammo because she refuses to stand up for herself, allowing Khayyam to bully her. But then isn’t this what we have taught our girls and boys for generations? Biwi ka maqam versus shohar ka ooncha darja, beti shohar ki izzat karo, uski izzat tumhari izzat hai...Isn’t this precisely what Mommo was trying to teach Sassi in this episode?

So if Sassi’s rebellion scares us and Qasim’s unmanly-pan frustrates, then what is it that we are looking for and where do we go looking for “appropriate” role models?

TV is a medium with tremendous reach and influence. Earlier when I used to write this, I was often scolded for reading too much in what was merely a channel of amusement and entertainment, but the recent barrage of social-issue based dramas has proven me right. TV is no longer an idiot box, rather a very useful instrument that if utilized correctly can and does bring about much- needed change in perception. Viewed through this lens of social change, serials like O Rungreza then become very important.

With this serial, Saji Gul and the entire team of O Rungreza deserve a huge round of applause for compelling us to look beyond the text – a rebellious girl hell-bent on breaking the rules – into the subtext – what exactly is she rebelling against. If Mammo is not what we don’t want our daughter to be like then why are we still teaching them antiquated sabaqs, the kind Mammo teaches her daughter? Why aren’t we teaching them to take a leaf out of Sassi’s book and stand up for what they believe is right rather than waiting for someone to take a stand for them?

And it’s not just women, our perceptions of men need to change as well. Why can’t a soft-hearted, kind and gentle man be just as desirable if not more so than the typical alpha male desi hero? Look closely and Qasim walking away from Sassi is the most heroic thing a man can can ever do. Putting his beloved’s desire above that of his own – that’s what true love is all about. Setting love free and keeping faith that if it is meant to be it will eventually return to him of its own accord – Qasim is absolutely on the right track.

Love is not merely about a physical union it is about the meeting of minds- this is what Qasim tries to tell Mammo, but for someone so firmly entrenched in societally prescribed norms this view impossible to understand. And it is not just her, even Khayyam fails at looking beyond the proverbial box. For him love is ownership, an ownership akin to imprisonment. And that is precisely why Soniya Jahan is so fantastic. Like Sassi, Sonya is another woman who does not meet our societal standards of a “good girl,” on account of her profession, but then has being “good” helped Mammo? Similarly, for Sassi Qasim is a non-entity and Mommo berates him for being a pushover, but ask Sonya Jahan and what she would not give to have a sensitive man like Qasim stand by her side and in her life.

Challenging deeply entrenched socio-cultural norms is not easy and to not make it all sound like a long-winded preachy lecture, harder still. And that is why Saji Gul is the real hero of the story here. Every character of his holds up a mirror to society, speaking in a language we all understand, asking us to reflect on what we see staring back. Grotesque as these reflections may be, they need to be engaged with and understood. Mammo’s cultural understanding of womanhood and Khayyam’s internalizing of the socially prescribed mardanapan are the real problems here, not Sassi’s badtameezi and Qasim’s bechargi. The latter are merely behaviors formed as and in response.

We typically see youngsters blamed for all that is wrong in society today, but as seen here, for change in youngsters’ behavior, we the elders, i.e the society at large, have to change. We can teach but only after we have learned the same lesson ourselves. Become the change we want to see – this to me is the takeaway from this serial so far.

Written by SZ~

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29 replies

  1. SZ I cannot praise this review enough. It is just as beautiful as this episode :). You have highlighted precisely all this serial is trying to showcase and I cannot wait to see where this unpredictable tale of these complex individuals takes us. I loved the scene between Sassi and Qasim where Sassi stands almost defeated in her Mayun dress. It touched me to the core and as expected and unfortunate no one not even Mammo understand the depth of feeling Qasim has for Sassi. The promo for next episode was precisely what I felt should happen next and that shows the gift of intelligent writing, which in my opinion is very lacking in our current PK drama industry. The Author stays true to his characters and they all behave logically as one would expect them to. Although Qasim may loose Sassi forever he will not break her spirit, which is very unlike any male lead we have witnessed in drama’s so far. As you described this drama truly challenges the perceived notions of how men and women should be in society. Another highlight in this episode was how not Sassi picking up the piece of wood to hit Qasim but the tears in her eyes really made him understand how severely upset Sassi was. I truly believe Qasim’s walking away from this whole scenario now is crucial if he wants Sassi to be able to respect him. The initial dialogue where she praised him showed she believed he was the only one on her side and he took that equation of trust away. I am very eager to see how this relation evolves. 🙂

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    • Thank you Seher, glad you found this review in accordance with your thoughts and happy to know we are on the same page.
      Whether Mammo understands he daughter or not is immaterial, because even if she did she would never let her daughter know of her empathy. I think most of this is on account of a misguided sense of protection, reflective of the prevailing parental mode in our social set up.

      And yes, absolutely so far the characters have stayed true to their nature and I hope they continue to do so .. I will be very very disappointed if we have to see Sassi turning into a demure meek girl overnight just to please audiences … I like this feisty rebel and the way she is unafraid of taking on challenges. Problems or perceived difficulties both are merely bumps on her journey towards an as yet underfined destination. She is driven by revenge but I dont think she knows what form or shape that will eventually take .. itna ziyada tau kabhi Sassi ne socha hi nahin.. looking fwd to the next installment!

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      • Yes you are right about Mammo but she is the only character who was disappointing in this episode. I thought she was protective of Sassi and Qasim both. In previous episodes she was afraid Qasim would get run over by Sassi if they got involved, but now suddenly agir mein ma ma hi hoti hain and she is preaching Qasim how he needs to be with Sassi. It was very sad, she should have known him better than that. It just shows how wrong Mammo reads every situation, whether it’s her own, her daughter’s or her nephew’s.

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  2. Wow, SZ! Kya kehne aapke! This review was perfect. Maybe because we’ve been discussing this recently, but I had similar thoughts in my mind as I was watching this episode, though I probably couldn’t have articulated them as well as you have here. Khub saari taaliyaan!

    For me, two things in this episode stood out. The first was the brief scene with Sassi and Qasim where she looks him in the eye with sincerity for almost the first time, and in that moment, you can see in Qasim what Sassi sees in him: that solitary man who has been good to her, and who has been worthy of her trust. In that moment too, when she deigns to see him properly for the first time, Qasim has the courage to return her gaze and–even if only for a tiny moment–he knows he is absolutely her equal (without having to ever be the traditional entitled arrogant male). It’s in these small moments that O Rungreza really wins me over.

    The other thing that stood out in this episode for me was Wajih Kamal. I want to give Omair Rana a healthy round of applause for his portrayal of the suave and manipulative Wajih here. Just a few lines and I’d forgotten all about poor Safiullah from SeMM. 😀

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    • @RK: Thank you. Glad it made sense. When writing I was afraid I was going off on a tangent and would surely lose all of you with my rambling, so it was a huge relief to read Seher and your comments – thanks for the reassurance 🙂

      Yes, those were fab scenes! I watched this ep twice and I have to say in each viewing I picked on very different things. I love how packed and layered the story telling is here, where every scene, every line needs to be decoded and appreciated. Truly fab writing.

      Yes, thank you for bringing up Omair Rana. This review was already over-long so had to set aside Wajih Kamal for the next week. But wah! what an actor and how natural and effortless is he! He is also appearing in Mujhey Jeenay Doh as Nadia J’s hubby, and I tell you they are an absolute delight and the most real and relatable in an otherwise OTT-ly melodramatic serial.

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      • RK love your comments…I keep comparing Omair Rana here with his character in UBFN….there are some similarities as he plays kind of like a mentor to Sajal now and Yumna then….I really have a feeling Waji is going to exploit Sassi big time…Omair Rana is one actor who seems to get better with each play. SZ is MJD worth a watch? I still haven’t been able to tune in on Dhund are you still watching it?

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        • @Seher: MJD started off nicely enough in the first ep, but it flat-lined pretty badly from the second ep. Like Sammi this one too has a very big star cast and like that one this too really hammers you on the head with the “messages” … basically not m cup of tea so far.. I am keeping an eye on it though and might write up an overview after a few weeks … I have reviewed the first two eps if you want to check those out..

          Dhund I am watching, just havent had the time to write .. I have reviewed up till 7 or 8 I think … there are some really quality eps that are worth watching..

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  3. Hey SZ
    Great review as always.
    Kya lajawab acting by Sassi and Qasim .
    I just love Sassi , she’s amazing , that spunk is what every girl should have.

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    • Hello Hello Deeba,

      Thank you 🙂 Yes, I too love how natural and real these two are and yes, Sassi is precisely the role model I want all young girls to have, and more than that she needs to start a coaching center for drama heroines … Zubiya, for one, would benefit a lot from her brand of spunk!

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      • So I started watching YKS from episode 19 just because I was only interested in the Dr’s love story and you’re right Zubiya and Sassi are poles apart. I truly like Sajal in roles such as Sassi, being the silent type curbs her talent lol 😀

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  4. SZ

    Take a bow for this review. I wish it reaches a much larger audience through Dawn / Tribune etc

    Though I can’t read Urdu, it must be translated in Urdu and should be published by Urdu media as well in PK

    Anyone here who is currently living in PK. Is it ok to assume that conventional rules of society are being challenged in real life too by real life Sassi and Qasim

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    • Thank you, @AS.

      Re: challenging rules of society in PK, I would argue that this is not just abt one country or the other .. we are surrounded by similar debates all around irrespective of residence ..

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  5. Love this drama, and your review is thought provoking. I would love to have a Qasim in my life 😉
    Sajal is perfect as Sassi but we are used to Sajal acting well, I am though overbowled by relatively new-to-acting Bilal Abbas.. He’s got Qasim down flat! Great job by all!

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    • Thanks, Afia 🙂
      Yes, Bilal has really done well here, but I wonder abt the effort it will require to move on from this character … I hope he doesnt get stuck in this mold …

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  6. Great art inspires great writing. Your review is so thought provoking and so nuanced that it merits its own space. I am particularly struck by the way you write about gender roles. Yes we have over-exaggerated gender stereotypes to such an extent where a gentle boy and an assertive girl both appear incongruous to us.
    Possibly when all boys become gentle and all girls become assertive, a story like O Rangreza would not be written. Many years ago, a transgender politician in India said if men could learn the compassion of women and women could be more assertive, then transgenders like her/him would win elections. She did win many elections. I am thankful to live in these times where there are choices available and alternative realities are acceptable.
    I think the reason why everyone wants Qasim to grow a spine is not always because of gender stereotypes. It may also be because of the unprotesting acceptance of injustice that Qasim and Mammo succumb to. We all believe that to accept injustice is as big a crime as doing injustice. May be that is why we want the sole character in the dark play who still appears incorrupted by his circumstances, to rebel against the injustice.

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    • Thank you @Molly, you are very generous and kind with your words. I am so glad that you all have accepted and enjoyed this off-on-a-tangent review.

      Absolutely, you ar spot on in that a significant portion of the audience are rooting for Qasim to come into his own for his own sake, it is hard to see a good guy getting pushed around like a useless piece of furniture, and I think/hope we will get to see the character evolve in that direction.

      My comment on gendered stereotypes was more directed towards the awami perception of this character and Sassi’s. I usually dont bother going through various fora to read responses, but this time I did, and the comments there were quite enlightening to say the least .. mard bano, why is he behaving like a girl, were he a real man he wouldnt be letting Sassi get away with such attitude. Similarly for Sassi there are comments galore abt achey gharon ki larkiyan aise nahin kartein, she deserves the blows that are sure to come her way, she is very revellious, not a good role model for girls, this is not what they should be showing in TV, this is not setting a good example etc .. ..
      One could dismiss these as being immaterial and unimportant but the numbers make it impossible to brush these aside. Also if you notice in the above examples even the slurs are gendered. The role played by mainstream media in preserving and perpetuating such problematic stereotypes is a topic that I plan on addressing in a future post.

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  7. SZ what a wonderful review . You are amazing !!! Qasim walking away from Sassi that scene gives me the chill. Qasim love for Sassi is pure and when Sassi realized that, I hope it won’t be too late .i am enjoying reading your review as well as everyone’s comments.
    @Molly I love your comments .

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    • Thanks Ranjan. Glad my writing made sense in the context of this drama. I too hope that Sassi doesnt take too much time to understand and appreciate the depth of Qasim’s love for her ..
      Glad to have you on board for this drama 🙂

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  8. excellent review ! i am really enjoying orangeza and honestly i find it better than yks .imo i feel i feel i have seen such kind of stories but oangeza is something different and fresh with fabulous actors . I am excited to see where the story leads after qasim goes to university, entry of meena and tipu and wajih kamal angle . Also any idea how are the trps of this show? i hope its ruling the charts coz it deserves it and the quality content its offering.

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    • @sarah ahmed: Hello! Lovely to hear from you – welcome 🙂

      High five! Exactly my thoughts re: comparisons and future hopes and anticipations.

      Not exactly sure about TRPs because every drama around has a bar chart graphic proudly proclaiming their high TRPs .. so ab who knows sach kya jhoot kya … according to my own viewer sampling (via fb and twitter) YKS has surged ahead in the past couple of weeks because of the romance factor. Also remember, YKS is on ep 24 this is still at ep 10.. a more realistic comparison is between Baghi and ORungreza .. and there it is tought because Baghi is surviving purely on Saba’s star power and this one has a strong story which is being told beautifully.. .will be interesting to see how these two compare once OKB enters the scene in Baghi ..

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      • @SZ since YKS is very popular these days, I urge you to consider reviewing it as well 🙂 Last 4-5 episodes may be covered in a single review

        On vegas shooting, how are conversations going on with people in your neighbourhood.. Looks like we are all unsafe no matter where we live 😦

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  9. Your (past) reviews were exactly what I was thinking of, when I came across THAT scene – thinking to myself, how interesting; what shall be the commentary now – as it displayed, not exactly role reversals but behaviour reversals, we can say.

    You raise a very important point.

    “Women like men who are in control, not who are controlling.”
    Came across this somewhere, recently.

    Could this be the key to a part of the debate in your review on the latest episode?
    If we skip the gender component in the above quote and just say, this quality of wanting to be controlling isn’t really attractive in either sex, perhaps that might answer why we react as to the way we react when roles are/were reversed?

    Mammo has been the recipient of Khayyam’s dismissive behaviour towards her in that he has neglected her all her married life (?) and never acknowledged her presence let alone her efforts on keeping the house in order. But she is subconsciously (or not) expecting the same from Qasim now, as if it is the most natural way to behave – almost like something you need to exhibit – once you get the title of a husband. Is it because she believes in this formula/equation to be true (surely not, we hope/wish) or is it an automatic reaction that has become ingrained in her due to her own past with Khayyam?

    To speak about all this is an enormous task – cannot be summed up in a few lines or comments – that requires a much deeper understanding of human psychology, maybe.
    Darya ko koozay Mai bund kernay ke mutaradif.

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    • As usual though, I have come back and re read your review as I posted my comments and should have just simply written “I agree with the assessments on the latest episode.” 🙂

      To try and evaluate the evaluation, shouldn’t be attempted.

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    • @Arisha: Apologies – could not reply earlier

      Yes! you add am important dimension to this ongoing discussion – irregardless of gender, controlling behavior is always unattractive… would love to hear more from you on the part 2 of this convo, on the OR ep 11 thread where we are talking abt desi and foran constructs of masculinity.. aajayen udhar 🙂

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  10. Absouletly brilliant review.. your reviews do fully justice to dramas we see… specially loved what you wrote in 2nd last para.. just amazing and thought provoking.. 👏👏

    This was an interesting episode.. i was deeply touched how Sassi acknowledged Qasim.. something he had craved for .. i was all going ‘how sweet of him ‘ till the part where she says you can’t stand for yourself how would u do for me.. exactly that moment i so wished for him to be strong enough to talk with any one straight into eyes.. and thats the reason his saying no in promo made me happy.. you go boy .

    After ages we have come across such a fierce lead Sassi.. whatever she is doing its all reaction we know but the way she portrays herself is admirable..next epi would be fireworks seriously..

    Bhayee Wajih Kamal ko tou 21 topon ki Salaami.. Koi tou mard he jo can so easily shut Khayaam.. and makes awkward too.. what an interesting character.. so so looking forward to see him more..

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    • @Rehmat: Aadab! It is the drama that inspires the writing – cant write if there is nothing but fluff 🙂

      LOL @ Wjih ko 21topon ki salami … dont know if youve seen the latest ep as yet but he’s surely gonna give Sassi a run for her money … love how this one is keeping us on our toes!

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  11. This is by far the most beautiful justification I have come across for the phenomenon that is O Rangreza. Hats off to the cast and everyone who made it so attractive and understandable to all. And I commend you on appreciating this profound work of art so articulately.

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    • @Zainab Shah Khan: Hello! Lovely to hear from you and thank you for reading and commenting – glad my writing resonated with you – appreciate your generous compliment. I totally agree – O Rungreza is a one off serial that is opening doors to conversations that we perhaps would not be having otherwise. I hope you will join us on the ep 11 thread as well … would love to heat more from you 🙂
      Welcome aboard!

      Liked by 1 person

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