Some of the strongest female drama characters over the years

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: Have you ever wondered what makes for a "good girl" in a Pakistani drama? The equation is very simple. She has to put up with narcissistic husbands, endure physical and verbal abuse, have accusations levied against her and be treated worse than trash. And whilst all of this is happening, she should have no backbone and no voice to defend herself. While we’ve become accustomed to watching damsels in distress bawl their eyes out hopelessly through every episode, once in a blue moon a drama will grace our screens with strong female characters who will fight for her rights and serve as an example of the courage women in our society actually have. These strong female characters have been dealt a bad hand but despite that, they don’t allow themselves to drown in their misery. Here are some of our favourites over the years.

Kiran – Kankar (2013)

Kankar aired back in 2013 and starred some of the best actors in the industry including Sanam Baloch and Fahad Mustafa in lead roles. The story was as simple as can be. Kiran (Sanam Baloch) gets married to the ever charming and wealthy Sikandar (Fahad Mustafa). But all that glitters isn’t gold because while on the surface Kiran seems to have the perfect marriage, behind closed doors she has to suffer at the hands of a narcissistic husband who is physically abusive. But she isn’t one to quietly take the abuse, she stands up for herself and defends herself against her husband which leads to more arguments. The final straw is the physical abuse that leads to a miscarriage and Kiran wastes no time in deciding she wants a divorce.

Despite being the victim in the situation, she has to hear taunts about how she let go of the perfect marriage but she remains steadfast in her decision because she knows she deserved more than the life she was spending with Sikandar. Eventually, she gets married to her cousin who isn’t as well off as her ex and has to endure more taunts from her in laws. She continues to stand up for herself and as difficult as she finds adjusting to the new way of life, she makes it work. 

In the end, one of the most memorable scenes from Kankar is when Sikandar confronts Kiran in a marketplace where he tries to make her feel bad about “downgrading” and offers to leave his wife and child for her. Kiran delivers one of the most powerful dialogues when she slaps him and asks him if it hurt and tells him it hurt her too when he would hit her!

Zaynee – Dar Si Jaati Hai Sila (2017)

Dar Si Jaati Hai Sila was one of the most memorable dramas to hit our screens. With a star studded cast which included Nauman Ijaz and Sakina Samo to name a few, the drama centered around Sila (Yumna Zaidi), a young girl living in a joint family who is keeping a terrible secret that leaves her on edge throughout. Her family doesn’t see the signs of abuse and harassment and instead, paint Sila as a crazy person while her abuser is considered to be one of the most wonderful men that could exist.

But surprisingly enough, the strong female in this drama isn’t our main character but is instead, the side character. While Sila quietly endures the abuse at the hands of Joyee and secondhand abuse by the elders of her family, it seems as though no one can see her mental state or understand why she is the way she is. However, the person who comes to her rescue is her cousin Zaynee played by Aamna Malick. Zaynee is outspoken and is often told off because of her refusal to believe that all decisions taken by elders are correct. While her mother is constantly trying to put Sila down to elevate Zaynee’s status in the family, Zaynee isn’t as selfish. Instead, she recognizes the signs of abuse in Sila, stands up for her and tries to get her the help she so desperately needs! It was so refreshing to watch a strong female character stand up for another woman rather than try to tear her down!

Saba – Khaas (2019)

Sanam Baloch came back with yet another brilliant performance of a strong female character in 2019. Similar to Kankar, she plays the role of Saba in Khaas who, after being perused by Ammar (Ali Rehman), finally gives in and marries him. Everything seems to be going for her. To everyone around her, Ammar is the perfect husband. He’s charming, takes care of her family like his own and gives Saba all that she can ask for. But the truth is, Ammar is a type A narcissist. He only went after Saba because he couldn’t have her and once he gets her, he starts finding faults in her. From the texture of her hair to her cooking, he constantly belittles her. Not just in private but in front of everyone else, who surprisingly laugh it off like it’s a joke.

Saba and Ammar fight over the fact that he can’t stand that she landed a job in his office and that she has a problem with him flirting with just about any other woman to cross paths with him. She refuses to change herself to fit his idea of perfect and is vocal about how she doesn’t like the way he treats her. Her in laws think Saba is uncooperative when she’s just standing up for herself. Eventually, the two divorce and Saba rebuilds her life only for tragedy to strike and her second husband dies while she’s giving birth. Ammar makes a reemergence in her life but she refuses to find comfort in the arms of a man. She instead focuses on herself, on her child and refuses to go back to the man who disrespected her. 

Nargis – Pehli Si Mohabbat (2021)

Pehli Si Mohabbat is a drama that lives rent free in our minds and one major reason was the specular performance by Rabia Butt. Although she was part of an incredible, ensemble cast in the drama, she ruled our screens and our hearts. She played Rakshi’s (Maya Ali) stepmother and for once, there was no conflict between the stepmother and stepdaughter. Rather, there was nothing but support and unconditional love. The interactions between Rakshi and Nargis were always heartwarming. She fought hard for Rakshi, looked out for her best interests even if it meant creating issues for herself.

And while Nargis didn’t have a background many would approve of, she was still trying to live a respectable life, no matter how many times her past was thrown in her face. But when it came to throwing shade at those who were in the wrong (especially her husband) or when it came to defending the people she loves, her old self resurfaced and it was a treat to watch an unapologetic, strong woman. 

Raania – Sar-e-Rah (2023)

A list of strong female characters that doesn’t include Saba Qamar? Not possible! Saba Qamar has a penchant for choosing to portray strong, fearless, independent women who will break any and all stereotypes and it is always a treat to watch her do so. In her most recent drama,Sar-e-Rah, she did just that.

She played the role of a woman who had to step up to support her family. When Raania’s father, a taxi driver, falls sick and racks up a hospital bill they simply cannot pay, she decides to stop worrying about what will happen and take action. She does what no one could imagine and decides to driver her father’s taxi. Naturally, no one supports her. Her brother, who can but doesn’t work, starts trying to control her and she shuts him up wonderfully. Her future mother-in-law tries blackmailing her into stopping, but she stands up to her toxic in laws and fiancé. And she drives the taxi and helps people who would have never gotten help. Raania’s character proves that women have the ability to be breadwinners and they can do the job a man does as long as they raise their voice and stand their grounds. 

These women and their characters have proven that strong female characters can and do make for wonderful dramas and we need more characters like them!

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