Despite having women at the center of everything, Pakistani dramas are notorious for representing a rather miserable side of womanhood. Women in Pakistani dramas are often shown as the repressed victims whose entire lives are dictated by factors beyond their control. The factors can be spotted in the form of a toxic family, abusive in-laws, or just the society in general which thrives on making the life of a woman as miserable as it can be.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
When Pakistani dramas are hell-bent on perpetuating the idea that a woman is a woman’s biggest enemy, there is no respite for women that can be found in them. So, when the latest episode of Sabaat showed the positive, uplifting, and a more realistic side of what it means to be an educated and empowered woman of today’s time, we could not help but give the drama and its team a standing ovation!
The strength to move on
To those unaware of what has been happening in the drama, here is a quick recap. Anaya chose to walk out of her marriage when her husband accused her of infidelity. Back at her parents’ house, Anaya had to deal with the shock of her once-loving husband accusing her of being dishonest all the while hiding this truth from her dying father. When Anaya’s father passes away, a pregnant Anaya and her now widowed mother are the only ones left to support each other.
To make matters worse, a couple of frauds scam Anaya’s mother into given them all her bank details. Now, the pair of women don’t even have any money left in the bank account to respectfully continue on in their lives.
In any other drama, the narrative would’ve spent episodes just portraying the tragic circumstances of these, now alone and seemingly helpless, women. But this is where Sabaat proved why it is one of the better-written shows on Pakistani television. Because instead of long montages of women crying, Sabaat showed the two women dealing with their grief together and finding the strength to move on in their lives.
The episode started with Anaya lamenting the sad incidents of her life and even wished that she could’ve died with her father instead of having to face these difficulties on her own. That was a person’s grief-induced depression speaking and Sabaat dealt with it very sensitively. Anaya’s mother doesn’t scold her for having such thoughts and instead encourages her to find the strength to look forward to her own happiness in life especially when she was so close to being a mother.
And it is done not just with empty words. A beautiful scene between the mother and daughter shows how the mother is making efforts to go back to her normal routine of dressing up and taking care of her appearance, so the daughter can take courage from her to do the same. Very rarely has a Pakistani drama shown the reality of a mother and daughter being each other’s support system in such a nuanced manner.
The power of women supporting women
Pakistani dramas can show a million and one ways that a woman’s life becomes miserable but it doesn’t bother to show any practical solutions to those miseries. Sabaat thankfully didn’t go the same route. The drama showed Anaya taking charge of her life by choosing to start a home-based business to support her family during their financial crisis. And the best bit? She had the support of her friends and mother in doing so!
Supportive female friendships done right can make the best of the stories. And Sabaat proved it. Anaya’s loyal and supportive friends start by offering her financial help but when Anaya refuses to take their charity and instead asks them to support her baking business, her friends readily agree to do so. In a beautiful montage, the episode shows Anaya being helped by her friends in the kitchen as she bakes as well as helping her take care of the orders she receives. The message this montage delivers is profound and empowering.
And when Anaya is rushed to the hospital to give birth, her friends are there with her mother to lend her their support. Her friends are there when Anaya is holding her baby and are proudly introducing themselves to the little baby as being his khalas.
Self respect above all
Through Anaya, Sabaat made a very strong case of how a woman’s self-respect should be her first priority. If a woman takes a stand for herself and her self-respect, no matter how badly the man in her life ends up treating her, the woman wouldn’t fail.
Anaya sticks by her decision of completely kicking her husband out of her life when he insulted her character. While she is sorrowful that her child would not have a father figure in his life, Anaya knows that her child deserves more than having a father who didn’t trust his mother. Anaya even chooses to not name her child after his father and ends up giving it the name that Anaya has lived with all her.
These are small but empowering messages that Pakistani dramas need to show more of. A woman’s existence is for more than just being the miserable character in a story. Women are complex creatures capable of being both gentle and hard when the situation demands. Anaya, her mother, and her friends have shown the Pakistani drama audience how the real women of today’s time and age act. And we can only hope more and more dramas will now start to explore the complexities of female characters instead of the standard one-dimensional portrayal they have normalized.