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Sammi -episodes 1-2 review

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Hum TV’s new drama Sammi starts off with a bang, turning what should have been the beginning of a fairytale romance into a nightmare scenario of tragedy and loss.

After Rehaii and the recent hit Udaari, Hum Tv has found a new partner in Johns Hopkins University for this project. Sammi marks the return of one of Pakistan’s most eminent writers, Noor Ul Huda Shah, from channel executive to drama writing. Like the other serials mentioned Sammi is also about female empowerment, focusing on the way women are forced to continuously bear children till they produce a male heir. The author has said in a recent interview for Hum Tv that her story will show the psychological damage this does to the daughters who are considered “duds” till a child of the desired male gender is born, the financial strains and the health risks faced by mothers and children.

From the first episode it’s clear that Sammi (Mawra Hocaine) idolizes her older brother Waqas (Haris Waheed), and in his own way he is kind to her. He is an obvious replacement for her manipulative and greedy father Riaz Jutt played with relish by the incredible Irfan Khoosat, a father who refuses to attend the Nikkah unless his son demands a hefty Meher from the wealthy Chaudhry family.

There is a battle of wills raging behind all the negotiations, who “own” Sammi? Is it her brother who, would marry her off without consulting her (except for groom’s insistence on her consent), or is it her father who feels it’s a matter of prestige to extort money from the grooms side? Sammi’s value is ultimately decided by a twist of fate as the innocent girl pays for her father’s avarice and her brother’s hot temper. Chaudhry Nawaz Baksh (Rehan Sheikh) demands the Jutt family give their daughter to Paa Fazal (The groom’s father) as compensation for the murder of his son Pervez, as a Vani or exchange bride. Such stories are familiar news headlines and a sad illustration of the way women are used as commodities to pay off debts and resolve feuds between men in such rural societies.

Despite having the same director (Saife Hassan), Sammi lacks the raw , restrained authenticity of Sange Mar Mar (another Hum Tv serial dealing with this issue) nor do the characters jump out to make the instant connection with the audience that those in Udaari did. This is a very different serial and so far there is no attempt at addressing the root causes of which allow practices such as Vanni or the push for a male child to continue. The preference for male children is not just historical or an arbitrary whim, it is about economic survival for many. Hopefully writer Noor Ul Huda Shah will address these issues in later episodes.  However one point on which Shah should be congratulated is the eloquent way she has pointed out the importance of true consent for a Nikkah to be valid, an important fact that is often brushed aside.

The strangest part of this story is the complete lack of feeling for Sammi from either her father or mother. In episode two her mother is heard congratulating herself for winning back her murderous son and declaring she would sacrifice seven more daughters for him if need be. The lack of nuance made their abandonment seem contrived and hollow. Parents in such cases are often forced into compliance by the Jirga or local council, and yet these two don’t care what happens to their daughter whether she is raped, murdered or sold into slavery. While a mother maybe happy to save her son, the lack of regret or reflection made both parents look cartoonish and implausible, detracting from an otherwise compelling story .

What might be this serials strongest recommendation are the solid performances from the actors. Though a little filmi in parts, both Mawra Hocaine and Noor Ul Hassan give the audience convincing portrayals of the shock and misery suffered by their characters, especially in episode two. Humera Ali is fantastic as the mother so deranged with grief; she throws all convention aside and eventually manages to infuse her gentle husband with the courage his son’s death leached out of him. There were also some good performances from Madiha Rizvi, Rehan Sheikh, and Seemi Raheel.

Adnan Siddiqui gives the opening shots in what promises to be a memorable performance as the Chaudhry’s enforcer and loyal retainer Rashid, who is married to Salima. Played by Saman Ansari, Salima conveys all the pain and misery that the unending cycle of pregnancies women are obliged to endure for a son can cause. Saman and Rashid’s relationship and Saman’s dynamic with their eldest daughter, robbed of her childhood , forced to take care for an unending line of siblings, were some of most engaging parts of the story. Another standout was Haris Waheed who is definitely an actor to watch out for; his portrayal of the ignorant, confused, weak brother Waqas Jutt was one of the anchors of the show. Mirza Baig’s guest appearance as the more progressive and kind Pervez also provided a fine contrast to the regressive Waqas. According to the promos, the cast will also include Sania Saeed and the exciting addition of fresh new face; Ahad Mir son of iconic actor and perennial favourite Asif Raza Mir.

Overall Sammi has gotten off to a good start, capturing the audience’s interest from the first episode and not wasting time on a winding build up to the pivotal events.  This serial has all the potential of being an entertaining and compelling watch for viewers if it can achieve the nuance and layered storytelling that makes  social commentary such a popular genre among Pakistani drama audiences.

Sadaf Haider

An edited version of this review  appears in Dawn Images

 

 

 

 

 

8 Comments »

  1. Kia kamal baat ki hai ap ne!!! Literally it was a treat to read your answer and so I read it twice! 🙂 Yes, you are very right. One-dimensional characters, whether good or bad, are very hard to relate to. It is such nuanced characters that immediately appeal to our heart because we can see a little of ourselves in them.

    But having said that – and just for the sake of discussion – where do you think the characters like Imtiaz (Udaari) stand? They are too shown as merely dark souls without any humanity in them?

    Also, are you following Muqabil on ARY? I am and I so feel like discussing it with you. It also shows a child abuser but depicts him in a less menacing way than Imtiaz.

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    • I think Imtiaz was shown to have lots of nuance . He knew how to get along with people . He fitted the profile of many a pedophile who are experts in charming people to gain their trust . If you watch the first few episodes of Udaari and don’t know the end you would never guess what he would eventually do .
      Sammi’s parents are not pysychopathic criminals or child abusers. They are ordinary poor people who got a bit greedy and that is why their complete lack of reflection makes no sense . Again they may not attach a lot of value to their daughter that is why they gave her away for their son , but it would have made sense for them to remember her with the minuscule amount they did feel for her .
      Yes I am watching Muqabil and I disagree that it isnt menacing . Asif Raza Mir’s character is incredibly menacing he is a man who raped a small child and he is not in control of his physical urges . I am not a big fan of the writer of Muqabil because of Sangat . Child predators are very different . If you do any research on them you will see they are often incredibly charming and manipulative . That is how they get into positions of power. Pedophilia is a mental disease which is not the same as normal people who have a mindset that devalues women .

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      • Thanks for making that clear. I see the difference now.

        Sangat was garbage and you are very right in begrudging the writer for it. He should lost his credibility after that even if he is a senior writer. But Muqabil seems better. I wish you could write a review for it so that I could discuss Asif Raza Mir’s character with you in detail. I have some doubts about how his character is portrayed. Is he shown to be actually regretting? If so, does that go with the same frustrating notion our drams are projecting nowadays that a man can make a “mistake” and then regret afterwards? I know very well that pedophiles or rapists are no ordinary criminals. One has to be completely SICK to commit something like that.

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  2. Sadaf! I am so glad you started reviewing this serial. I agree with you on everything. Although I am hooked to this drama already, I was too missing the feel that Sang-e-marmar gives. Can you please point out exactly what makes it lack that raw authenticity? I wondered but couldn’t put my finger on it. Is it because the events were too rushed?

    You are very right about the actors. They are all performing wonderfully and it was refreshing for me to see some unusual faces like Noor Hassan. Humera Ali was totally believable as the grieving mother. I like Seemi Raheel’s character too but missed the incisive humour Sheedan’s character possessed in Udaari.

    Nevertheless, I am definitely following this one. Hope I get to read more of your reviews 🙂

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    • let me say this , being a lover of the English language , I don’t sprinkle adjectives into my writing the way others put Shaan masala in their handi . There is a very restrained feeling about Sange Mar Mar which counteracts the melodrama of decades of simmering revenge and hate . Normally three deaths and such an exchange marriage would be considered high melodrama but because writer Mustafa Afridi knows his subjects and has treated even the worst of them with respect , it does not . For example take Tora , who is the prime mover in this revenge story . Yes , Tora is a villain but he is also human , Afridi shows us the logic Tora follows without validating it . In fact he actually shows us there are better ways to resolve issues . Then there is Saif ur Rehman he is a complete idiot and chauvanist for killing Gohar because of rumour and no proof . Even if his sister did something it did not give him the right to murder Gohar . Then he gives his sister away to save himself , again a terrible act . He is guilty as hell and his conscience prickles him all the time , becuase however little he thought of Shireen , he did think of her . He did have some affection for her but not enough to overcome his own regressive thinking and prejudices .He is the man we often see in the headlines .. an ordinary man not a super villain who has the wrong values . Afridi points it out very subtly . These are all normal people not archetypes of good and evil .
      Turning to Udaari , compare Sajjo to the idiot mother in Chup Raho. Sajjo also wants to protect her daughter from dishonour , she also tells her to be quiet…. so why do we prefer her to the Chup raho mother ? Now back to Sammi , the parents may well value their son above their daughter , it maybe that this was a an easy decision for them , but surely some of the small amount of affection they felt for their daughter before the tragedy should have given them at least pause for thought . If Sammi had been perpetually neglected I could understand that these people are unfeeling villains , however that same mother was asking Sammi who Sammi loved more ,…. her mother or her brother ? This means these parents actually had some affection for her even if it wasn’t at the same level as their son . When you cast people as unthinking clods it doesn’t do anything to change minds . You have to allow the audience to connect with the person on screen so even a person like me says … “There ,but for the grace of God go I … maybe I should consider my own behavior …” That is the powerful writing .
      For a message based serial you have to understand your villains , their motivations and problems not just show them up . You and I know what sammi’s parents are doing is wrong , but to wake up certain sections of society it would be better to understand their thinking ……

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