O Rungreza ~ Episode 11 Review

Qasim is an unlikely hero. He can barely look people in the eye, can hardly speak to anyone without stuttering and sweating, is unassertive, has difficulty saying no …

BUT

Why do we expect our heroes to posses mythical qualities? If we are not extra-ordinary then why can’t they be just as ordinary? Why can’t they be from us, like us? Ordinary, everyday people with the ability to rise up to face challenges were there to be such a need.

Set aside the burden of expectations and Qasim stands out. He may flounder and flail but is yet to fail. Yes, he was sweating bullets and quivering in his shoes when Khayyam pulled him aside, and yes, he was deliberate in looking away from Mammo pleading eyes, but once he had made up his mind he refused to let his courage falter. It took almost superhuman strength but he did it. And for that moment in time Qasim surprised everyone, including himself. Yes, the man does possess a spine of steel.

For Sassi brought up in a world where heroes are not from among us mere mortals, this was a strange thing to comprehend. Not only had Qasim shocked her – she thought she knew him inside out – but he had also presented before a very different explanation of mardangi. She who had grown up idealizing her father as the epitome of manliness was now faced with a whole other understanding of a true mard and his mardangi. And damn if this new definition wasn’t just that much more appealing!?! But if only for a fleeting moment.

Both of them, Sassi and Qasim, do not realize it now but they have turned a corner in their relationship. Here they are equal – as friends. Love has not yet entered the equation as far as Sassi understands it, but that’s her. She is a person who learns with experience. She appreciates Qasim’s gesture but hasn’t quite absorbed and understood the real depth and meaning of his actions. They might have made a chink in her image of a hero but not really hit home as yet.

After being disappointed big time by her father, Sassi has turned to Wajih. Yet another cruel manipulative man she sees as an embodiment of mardangi. Raised on a steady diet of desi digests, Bollywood films she is still holding out for the quintessential take-charge man, a kind of man she thinks will treat her like a cherished posession. What she does not realize is that cherished or not she would be still a posession to him. Such subtleties are still lost on Sassi. Had she been older, less protectd and and more versed in the ways of the world she would have understood better the dynamics that shaped Khayyam’s very different relationships with the two women in life – Mammo and Sonya.

With the spotlight squarely trained on Sassi and Qasim it is easy to forget the long-suffering Mammo. There is so much to be read in the way Mammo finally breaks down. She tried so hard to keep everybody around her happy that somewhere along the way this woman lost her sense of self. What were her dreams? What did she want out of life? Did she have ambitions? All left by the way side as she effaced herself to please her less than grateful family. Were she ever to take stock I wonder how she would apportion blame?

Whether he takes responsibility for the fiasco that was Sassi’s shaadi is a moot point. Now it is about how he feels now that the shoe is on the other foot. For someone so used to dictating others’ lives it is hard to take dictation, and that too from a mere woman! Yes, Sonya is be the love of his life, but at the end of the day isn’t she just another woman, no? Shouldn’t shaadi, and that too to him, be the be-all and end-all of her existence? That she actually says no, or puts her career before him is a shock. Spoiled for years on end by a pandering Mammo he is gradually waking up to the realization that not all women are his wife, and I don’t think he likes what he’s seeing. I fervently hope that Sonya teaches him a thing or two about what is that women really want.

Wajih is an unexpected thorn in Khayyam’s side. And what a thorn he is turning out to be! Unlike any of the other equations that we have seen here so far, Wajih and Khayyam are a pair made in heaven. Both men blessed with killer good looks, oodles of charm and the ability to make women swoon. Disappointed in her father, Sassi found a subconscious replacement in Wajih. She is pushing for his attention but does not know what she is asking for. One can sense that the carefree times of her youth are coming to an end, and  all the joy she derived out of pushing people around is now thing of the past – gone are those days when she was the apple of her father’s eyes. But then isn’t that what she wants? Whether what she wants is what is good for her depends on perspective – and from Sassi’s perspection they are both the same.

Tipu’s entry is sure to stir things up, but will that be for the good and if so whose purpose will it serve – all are questions I look forward to seeing answered in the weeks to come. For now I’m a happy camper, enjoying this sumptious feast that is O Rungreza, a treat for both, my dil and dimagh.

What about you all?

Written by SZ~

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38 replies

  1. Oh SZ I wish I had enjoyed the episode as much as I loved your review, The drama went into slightly weird territory today. The yearning of a daughter to exact revenge from an emotionally absent ans manipulative father– is that the motivation to this grand drama? The need to debase oneself, to take constant abuse from a man in the name of making a career as an actor? It does dis-service to a whole phalanx of working women who make a living but choose dignity over debasement. I am not in show-biz, but I am sure there are other paths that women can take besides pursuing that one abusive person, who apparently holds ALL the keys to the entertainment industry.

    I do not like where this drama is going, and that is why I will respond to your review which forced me to think hard about the concept of mardangi Mardangi really has no parallel in the English language. Manliness or manhood don’t even begin to capture the powerful symbols that come with “mardangi”. Its a stylized ideal our cultures hold up for men to emulate. Boys and men who do not fit in face worse bullying than women who step our of their stereotype. Non conformist men face so much bullying and ridicule. Women as a class have been subjugated for centuries so they at least have some built in resistance; men who don’t conform to the traditional mardangi have no such comfort. There is this popular saying ” Mard ko dard nahi hota”,and there are so many ways in which we support this idea unconsciously. Every time a small boy cries on going to school we say ” come on you are not a girl”, every time a mid-schooler comes home crying he was beaten up, we immediately feel he has to assert himself physically and enroll him in some combat classes. Every time a boy tells us he wants to learn dancing, we ridicule. Every time a teenage boy is upset and wants to sob it out we say, “chin up” or “man up”. Because real men don’t cry. They can die inside but not cry. They can clobber other people and that is okay because it proves they are men, because everything that is said to them is an assault on their mardangi.

    Seems to me, proving that you are a man is a lifelong test. There has to be something terribly wrong with a social construct which makes men so insecure that they have to attack everything that challenges it. Be it a challenge from a man or a woman, the first response has to be attack. And what if the challenge is from within– a man’s own natural gentleness? Just brutally kill it the same way, I guess.
    And that is my desi rant for today.

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    • Fantastic comment, Molly. Your observations about “mardangi” are spot on.

      Fwiw, I think it’s the same concept in westernized society too. Basically, there’s a strong strain of toxic masculinity that informs the way men are raised, the way they engage with women, and the way they engage with each other. There’s violence, dominance, misogyny, the disdain of men who don’t fit the traditional mold, etc., but there’s also an extreme self-reliance that often requires men to suppress their own emotions in order to appear “manly” in the way that society demands. All of this is not only dangerous to those around them, but ultimately to men themselves.

      I wish more people would recognize this, and stop putting men in boxes, just as we often demand that women not be put into boxes.

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      • @RK and and @Molly: And this is what I love abt this forum where we can and do carry our conversations from reel to real, touching on issues and topics that seldom come up otherwise – two thumbs up guys!

        Would love to hear more from the other silent and not so silent readers – please do jump in and contribute your thoughts on this v. imp topic which is worth further exploration.

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      • @RK, great viewpoint. The western society too has its unforgiving mould of the ‘Marlboro man” or the soccer/basketball ideals. But thanks to democracy and the civil society they also have space for the alternatives. If nothing, the political correctness helps in legal acceptance, if not integration, of alternate sexualities and choices. Remember the ongoing debate about whether transgender students should use female or male facilities. You make a really good point about the boxes we place men in. I am so glad that one visual of Qasim twirling with the dupattas ignited so much discomfort in everyone, we ended up having this conv. 🙂

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    • Molly, your observations are so true to life.

      SZ, in the wedding scene, where groom says NO, normally the girl is asked for her consent first.

      Can we assume that Sassi said yes to wedding with Qasim

      I don’t know why but I find all main characters in this drama UNHAPPY

      Going forward, hope characters in drama find happiness unless O Rangreza belongs to tragedy genre 😦

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      • @AS: The scene precedign that wedding scene makes Sassi’s state of mind pretty clear. In any case, bottom line they didn’t get married.

        Happiness is relative.. what I may consider happiness might hold no meaning for someone else .. so my hope from this drama would be that the characters are able to find their own versions of happiness, and therefore stay true to themselves rather than going for a ghissi pitti “.. and they lived happily ever after” type of ending.

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    • @Molly: Ok, so finally here I am responding to your, which I loved reading. Its thoughtful comments like these that make our convos so very real and relevant.

      If I may, I would like to offer my own pop psycho analysis of Sassi’s character – I am but of course shooting in the dark so bear with me 😀

      Ok, so for me, yes, Sassi’s current course of actions might have been precipitated by her father’s slap, etc, but to say that everything she os doing or will do is driven by the single motive of avenging her insult is to take agency away from this girl. If we think back to the beginning, Sassi grew up with Sonya Jahan’s pictures plastered all over her father’s room, she also saw her mother’s weakness and perhaps subconsciously compared it to the power exerted by a woman like Sonya Jahan, enough to make an otherwise well-respected man lose his senses every time he sees her. For me Sassi’s desire to become an actress – i.e. another Sonya Jahan – is motivated by the need to posses that power. Remember she is a girl who likes men (loosely translated as people in general) who are in charge – and so this all about the need to become powerful. Now given her limited life experience, she has barely seen what lies outside the haveli, she sees becoming an actress as the way to being powerful. Sonya had always been her ideal and then to see her at that studio where an entire crowd of people was staring at Soniya Jahan with awe (as she read their glances) only crystallized that desire, to become like her —

      Ab how does a girl like Sassi become an actress of Soniya’s stature? She went to Soniya where she was politely swatted off, and then she met Wajih, the man behind Soniya and ergo … 2+2=5 and Sassi decided he was going to be her mentor.

      What we may see as Sassi debasing herself may not be quite so for Sassi. From her viewpoint this may well be an important step in her journey to become Sassi Jahan ..

      And so, for me if I read it this way it is actually a pretty interesting story of a girl who chooses her own path, sets her own goal and then determinedly goes about achieving it .. we may not agree with her path or her goal but it is what she wants to do and the world be damned and for that I am firmly in Sassi’s corner.

      In many ways, watching Sassi’s journey makes me think of Baaghi and how the makers have stripped off all her agency, turning her into a woman who did what she did merely on account of the zulm and poverty she faced .. yes, those were the harsh realities of her life, but not every poor abused woman goes on to become a Qandeel Baloch .. there has to be something else, a spark of something that sets someone like her apart from all others like her .. so yeah, to bring it back to Sassi, I do see her actions as being as much abt rebellion as much as it is about what Sassi wants for herself — hers goals her desires and her ambitions … the rest of the world be damned..

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  2. SZ your review is amazing. I loved the episode. Qasim did exactly what I was hoping and you are right this is a turning point in their relationship, but my question is how long will he be able to watch Sassi soar before she starts to plummet in finding her own answers. I have heard that there are people who learn things the easy way and some learn the hard way. Seems like Sassi is going to be the latter, only will Qasim as the hero of this tale safe her from falling? I am enjoying this unpredictable ride immensely I am very very curious what role Sonia Mishaal will be playing too.

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  3. Hello hello! Sorry guys for having gone AWOL the past few days .. .abhi aati hoon in a bit … but,
    @Molly – loved reading your comment.

    @Seher: Exactly, I too am wondering how Sonia fits in .. also what did you think of Hamza’s snippet? Im yet to be impressed from whatever we’ve seen of him..

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  4. SZ I am enjoying the unpredictable ride. I like what Qausim did .after long time very interesting and captivating drama . And l love the OST too.

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    • @Ranjan: Glad you took the plunge and joined us on this as-yet fantastic O Rungreza ride.. ab lets hope and pray it stays the path … I hear around 26 eps.. so bas ab sab mil kar duayen karna shuru kar dein

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  5. Not all heroes wear capes. There, I finally got to use that meme somewhere. 🙂

    My favorite part of the episode was the letter that Sassi writes to Qasim and tells him that she’s never loved him because he’s never broken her heart. Sassi likes a challenge, and Qasim–even when she recognizes his courage and admires him for it–doesn’t present a challenge.

    I think she’s so desperate not to end up like Mammo–a woman completely subjugated by her husband and her family–that she’s failed to see that this happens because of men like Khayyam and Wajih, for whom being with a woman implicitly means owning her and all her choices. By admitting that he loves her, but also that he doesn’t want to own her, Qasim has proved himself to be a completely different type of man. I think the rest of the story will be very much about how Sassi finds her way back to Qasim, not because he’s finally worthy of her, but because she’s finally worthy of him. I think this episode was the tipping point. In Sassi’s eyes, Qasim has gone from doormat to the kind of treasured friend she’s put on a pedestal.

    I can’t quite wrap my mind around Khayyam’s cruelty to Mammo. I understand that he doesn’t love her, and that he feels the women of the household have humiliated him. But how he can he just abandon her? He’s a writer. He’s supposed to be see beyond what is put in front of him. Does he not see her pain? Does it evoke no compassion in him?

    Anyway, I suspect both Sonya and Wajih are using Khayyam and Sassi as tools to work out their own relationship, and both father and daughter are just in the way. We’ll see.

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    • @RK: Loved reading your comment(s). Sorry for the delayed response, I wanted to reply araam se and then bas itney din hogaye – my bad!

      Your comment abt Khayyam being a writer and therefore the unsaid expectation of him being more astute and aware and sensitive, made me smile. To me he reminds me of those poets who write songs for films, as in write for money, where the emotions are all fake and made to order. Were he a real writer he would be all that you and I would expect him to be but unfortunately he’s just a pretender …

      ab dekhtey hain what happens next ..

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  6. @SZ and DRNRs friends
    I did enjoy this episode. Of course Qasim emerged as the real hero. BAK’s acting is worthy of mention. Understated, yet potent and moving. I agree the quiet strength of his love will bring Sassi back eventually after her wings have been seared by this berehem filmi duniya.
    Cringeworthy Award of this Episode: (drum roll) to Mammo. I cringed and then hit FF because all the lines she screached and sobbed we have heard before; nothing innovative there. I couldn’t stand what someone aptly called the “debasement.” Yaar, writers give her some self respect! From the promos Looks like Khayaam will come running back to her when Sonia rejects marriage. Which again will conform to many other dramas where the long suffering, good Biwi/female takes all the abuse quietly but wins the guy in the end. That is marketed as a woman’s moral economy I guess. Like Sassi I have no sympathy for Mammo who facilitates her husband and his mistress’s shenanigans in her own home.
    Wajid is treating Sassi like crap, and she’s taking it. I suspect she is willing to in order to get what she wants. She has chosen Wajid. She is not that naive. Recall she asks Qasim what is he getting from all this and what does he expect from her in return?
    I like Sonia; she knows what she wants – a good project for the come back of an aging heroine – and Khayaam’s poetic words/ story is her ticket. That she rejects Khayaam’s proposal of marriage makes sense. I mean how many of you really think Khayaam is a good partner/husband?
    Ok I’ll stop now.
    JR

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    • @JR: I like your read on Sassi using Wajih as much as he will/is using her .. I’m with you on that, except that I think that though Sassi is not naive, she is not as worldly wise as she lets on either. She is a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, as yet unsure of her sexuality and power that she has within her to make men do her bidding. It will be really interesting if the writer explores Sassi’s coming of age and how she learns to harness her feminine wiles – an art Sonya Jahan has perfected.

      Lets see what happens next 🙂

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    • Beautiful lyrics and they both have sang beautifully..
      Yesterday was watching Mahreen jabbar 2005 New York series , Rehmat , coffee shop, and shear houni tuk”. After long time saw this, was thinking about you . Sorry for side track.

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  7. Fabulous review SZ.. and what a striking points on man and mardangi.. as much as i enjoyed reading all this and @Molly and @RK amazing comments .. i too somewhere go along the lines of ‘be a man ‘ to my hubby father or brother sometimes.. which now i realized after reading u guys that this tag has been attached to them so badly that without even knowing we just have such huge expectations of them for not being vulnerable and ye k bus sab kuch sehte jao..

    So coming to epi.. wow now this was jaw dropping epi.. specially when we see Qasim saying no first to moulvi then to khalu.. for a sec ab tou ye maan jayega but mayn he was just too good.. and too bad Sassi still dont find him as yet challenging person .. lets ser what Tippu brings with himself..

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    • @Rehmat: Always great to hear from you .. so glad our conversations about dramas resonate with real life situations as well ..

      Haina! All those times we use labels and tags without thinking that we are all being complicit in perpetuating problematic ideas and ideals .. hopefully ongoing convos like this will help sensitize us to nuances of language and behavior that often go unchecked otherwise.

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  8. @All: What I find interesting in comments here and elsewhere is the implicit agreement that Qasim and Sassi belong together and that a “happy ending” can only be had if they end up together .. would an alternate “happy ending” scenario be acceptable to us desi audiences? Surely an unusual, out of the box story like this deserves an out of the box ending as well, no? Would love to read your take on this ..

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    • It’s true that Qasim and Sassi ending up together isn’t the only option for a “happy ending,” but there are hardly any shows that can resist tying up all the loose ends with a pretty bow. Apparently, drama writers can’t resist the neatly resolved epilogue any more than JK Rowling could.

      So I’m willing to make a friendly wager that Qasim and Sassi will end up together. Now whether that’s actually a happy ending, I don’t know.

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      • True, the impulse of happy endings does preclude other kinds of endings but wouldnt it be nice if it were to be so ..I think Sajal, in one of her recent interviews, hinted at a diff kind of ending so lets see ..

        Speaking of hapy endings, if you haven’t, you should try and watch Mastana Mahi – HUM TV, c. 2011/2012 (?) It was probably Sajal’s first drama serial and she was so good! Fahad Mustafa and Mehreen Raheal were the lead pair. It starts off well then veers veers off into an unnecessary detour with Mehreen’s track but with judicious use of the ffwd button it makes for an interesting watch .. but then the last two eps were a disappointing cop out in a weird attempt for a happy ending .. but I remember being very into it and unable to guess where it was headed..

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        • SZ you raised a very good point, but looking at the characters now I almost certainly feel that Qazim and Sassi are not meant to be. I truly feel they both will be doing a lot of growing up in the next few episodes and their views on live and love will evolve. And to be honest I as an audience would place much more value on the characters staying true to themselves than to just have a convenient ending.

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          • Chalo, great! atleast one takder in the not-shaadi-wali-happy-ending corner with me – yay!!!

            So where do the rest stand? Mere saath ya @RK ke saath ?

            @RK: Looks like our wager is on! 😉

            So starting this week i will put a poll at the end of every coming review as to whether we think Sassi and Qasim will end up togetheror not ..
            will be interesting to see how opinions shift from week to week!

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  9. Aoa SZ… thanks for another beautiful review… and thank u all who r commenting here….
    I just wanted to tell that Mammo took a stand in this ep today.. but unfortunately the scene i wrote wasnot there on screen… if u listen carefully to the conversation between mammo n khayam when he is leaving he says “TUM NE KAHA THA NA KEH BAKHSH DOA MERAY BACHON KO”… This line she says when Khayam is beating Qasim… confronting him for the first time… but breaks down again watching Khayam leave… khayam’s decission is reaction of Mammo’s Stand

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    • @Saji Gul: Waslam… first off, congratulations in breaking off the typical drama hero and heroine mold and giving us a lead pair like Sassi and Qasim. As you can see we are having a great time discussing these very rich characters.

      Aah! Thank you for sharing this bit about Mammo – as you know I am very much in Mammo’s corner so it is good to know that there was resistance from her side. I hope she doesn’t get sidelined now that both Khayyam and Sassi are out of the house .. I am very keen to see how her character evolves ..

      Looking forward to seeing more of this story unfold!

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    • Hello Saji, lovely to see you here.

      Good to know that Mammo took a stand even if scene was edited later. Her plight has been making me both angry and sorry.

      Just a friendly caution, I hope revealing such details don’t offend any one in drama / channel management team.

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  10. @SZ &RK– re your wager— In a chemical equation, a catalyst is as significant as the reactants. Some people act as catalyst to the growth arc of others, and I think Qasim is the catalyst here. It is not necessary for people to end up together to appreciate how much they have changed. Every path does not bring us back to the point we started from. Realistically speaking, ending up together does not happen in real life because people grow up and grow away; but I do agree with RK that it is too much to expect the makers to resist the lure of packaging things nicely and bring closure.

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  11. I’m here now, SZ; running behind on my Rangreza episodes cause it’s on the weekend.
    Haven’t watched yesterdays’s live either. So will be catching up later on your review. 🙂

    A lot of good points have been so articulately and eloquently presented in the review and comments that I agree with as well.
    To quickly try and answer the question asked – yes, as an audience we can accept that not all serials have to end in ‘shaadi’ type scenarios (as long as it’s true to the story being told not just for the sake of it, you know?).
    On the other hand it is a fact that some part of the audiences viewing these do see it as some form of entertainment and escape from their own daily trials and troubles, so the ‘not so happy’ ending, even artistically done may not hold much attraction to them. It could feel too close to home and perhaps because of this are not drawn towards such projects.
    It is funny how the mind works; trying to live vicariously through these characters on screen.
    Many, if not most of the times, this alone could be the deciding factor in the success of a project.

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