“Mayi Ri,” a 66-episode drama that aired daily on ARY Digital, has challenged cultural stereotypes like no other drama before it. The series revolves around the life of Annie, a fifteen-year-old girl born into a strict, typical Pakistani household. Like many Pakistanis, she lives in a joint family with her uncle and his family.
Raised traditionally and witnessing the hardships faced by her mother and aunt, Annie makes a promise to herself to study hard and become a different kind of woman when she grows up. However, her life takes a dramatic turn when her uncle arranges her marriage to her cousin, Fakhir, who is also sixteen years old.
Needless to say, Annie’s forced marriage to Fakhir leads to immense suffering, but her spirit remains unbroken. Annie not only takes control of her life but also inspires the women around her to do the same. She becomes a mother at a young age, and when her husband decides to go abroad to pursue his dreams, leaving their daughter in Annie’s care, she takes a stand for herself and asks Fakhir for a divorce.
This was a pivotal moment in the drama, as many in the audience who had romanticized a forced marriage between young teenagers were left disappointed. The writers beautifully portrayed how ending a dysfunctional marriage was better for both teenagers, breaking the expectation that a woman is supposed to sacrifice her life for a man. Furthermore, the drama vividly depicted how Fakhir, also burdened and frustrated by the forced relationship, had friends and a social life where he could vent, whereas Annie was confined and had very limited options.
The Pakistani audience needs more dramas like “Mayi Ri” with strong characters like Annie, her mother, and her aunt. The drama emphasized that women can and should pursue higher education and have full control over their lives. Most importantly, it highlighted how early and forced marriages can unnecessarily ruin people’s lives.
While the ending may have disappointed some fans, it serves as a testament to the fact that the media industry often falls short in educating the audience. Many dramas with problematic and disturbing storylines continue to trend, perpetuating toxic narratives that have already harmed our society.
Sana Fahad deserves praise for creating such strong characters that some viewers could not bear to watch. Aina Asif and Samar Abbass also delivered outstanding performances. However, Maya Khan stunned viewers with her portrayal of Ayesha, Annie’s mother, who plays a crucial role in helping her daughter break free from the generational cycle of suffering. Nouman Ijaz, Maria Wasti and the rest of the cast did a great job too.
The series focused more on educating and less on entertaining and ratings. In an industry where everything revolves around romanticizing abusive men, making toxic marriages work, forgiving extra marital affairs, and getting into fights with your mother-in-law, Mayi Ri was a breath of fresh air.
Although there is demand for a season 2, for now, the ending is complete and perfect. It reminds us that “happy” is not necessarily synonymous with “perfect,” a valuable lesson that all Pakistani audiences should learn.