Forget the Panama Papers, we have unearthed a very telling document about the current state of television dramas. It is a known fact that dramas are written only to gain TRPs (Television Rating Points), and our investigation has revealed that following this formula is guaranteed to create a TRP haven that channels can continue to use, abuse and re-use.
Driven by profits, TV channels are basing their storylines on regressive ideologies and are laughing all the way to the bank -- possibly in Panama.
Here's the recipe to make a TRP-winning drama:
- Must be tall, fair and handsome.
- Must be incapable of making a cup of chai, picking up a plate, ironing his clothes or anything else that women can do for him.
- Preferably spineless or with a malleable spine that his mother or other relatives can easily bend and shape.
- Current trends portray the hero as a rich man, who is heir to even more riches, with a bleeding liberal heart (See: Diyar-e-dil, Tum Kyon Piya, Tum mere Kya ho).
The most popular trend however, depicts heroes as stalkers and thugs (Watch: Gul-e-Rana, Dil lagi).
- The hero must have a tough veneer pasted over a heart of gold. He can either be impossibly perfect and always dressed impeccably in designer wear; or he can be crafty, slightly threatening and with an askew moral compass. He should also be able to magically walk through closed doors, barge into the heroine’s home to abduct her and of course, he must own a gun.
- Must be fair and lovely.
- Must have the ability to stand with arms akimbo and speak in long threatening sentences to male character.
- Must only show outer strength, which can easily be chipped by a cup of chai.
- She has no need for strong resolve.
- It is preferable if she has the IQ of a raisin. Can be well-educated but must stay at home and make round parathas to fit in square tiffins. (Watch: Mohabbat Subh ka Sitara Hai, Mera Naam Yousuf Hai).
- Also note you need a foil to the heroine. Slightly unhinged characters are a good idea. It is best to make sure they are only shown in western clothing with bright red lipstick, so they are easy for the audience to identify as vamp.
Note: Both hero and heroine should be conventionally good-looking. Their ability to act is desirable but not mandatory.
- One or two parents -- budget permitting. They should be poor or ailing (or both), and must have worry lines from fear of daughters marriage. They must be struggling financially so the hero can help them out by taking one daughter off their hands. (Watch: Tum Kyon Piya, Gul-e-Rana, Dil lagi).
- One saas whose character must be one-dimensional. She must be cunning and have the ability to wrap son around her fingers. She should eat paan or chew on her son’s terrible fate of being married to the heroine who is unable to replicate her haleem.
- Two or three siblings depending on budget. Their purpose is to utilitise the wardrobe and available left over make-up.
- If the heroine is working, she must be moved to the domestic sphere ASAP.
- Assorted phupos/mamis and betis who are constantly fishing for a piece of the jayadaad as well as creating elaborate schemes to hook the eligible heir and cousin.
- One loyal friend who is to be a sounding board for all of the hero’s plans and to be the butt of all jokes. If he has a sister, can add unrequited love angle (Watch: Mera Naam Yousuf Hai).
- Cars, candles and flowers. There should be three different branded cars in order of preference: Mercedes, BMWs and/or Audis. Candles must burn at two ends, and there should be a healthy flower budget, mainly for red roses. (Watch: Tum Mere Kya Ho).
- Must be a moment where the hero and heroine bump into each other (tastefully done with candles and flowers where possible), leading to the realisation that they're in love.
- Rain scene (self-explanatory).
- There must be a 'modern' girl in western clothes and dark red lipstick, to blame for falling morals, rising heat and oil prices - basically the general degradation of society. She is also the ideal candidate to rape as she can be easily blamed. (Watch: Gul-e-Rana).
- Any woman who has a mind of her own must be sidelined. It is best for the heroine to leave everything to kismat and instead, keep busy painting her nails and getting her hair done, but only after cooking, cleaning, ironing and all other domestic work. (Watch: Mera Naam Yousuf Hai).
- The plot must revolve around star-crossed lovers. It should be love at first sight, so that the scriptwriter saves time, energy and any creative thinking that would explain why they're actually are in love.
- The boy and girl go their separate ways since their ‘parents know best’ (Watch: Mann Mayal).
- Boy meets girl. Girl hates boy. Boy loves girl. Boy stalks girl, harasses her, threatens girl, family, relatives, and any man on the planet who dares to come into contact with said girl. Girl loves boy. For differing dimensions and the evolution of heroine’s 'no to yes', watch Mera Naam Yousuf Hai and Dil lagi.
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Every episode must include:
- Nashta and chai – Watch: Diyar-e-Dil (364 references to chai and nashta). At least one character must not have breakfast because of last night’s fight.
- Even if something is clear, it must also be in the script so that the audience doesn’t miss a heartbeat or any chai and nashta moments. If possible, include flashbacks in black and white in slow motion.
Morals of the story
- Women must be shown as helpless. They should have no ambition to be anything other than home makers and parents must be completely uninterested in teaching their daughters anything that may lead to financial independence.
- Women who are studying must not be allowed to make any decisions by themselves. All decisions are to be made by other people -- parents, chachas and mamus, but never the woman.
- Ensure enough glycerin on hand since women will have to go through every struggle imaginable while crying through at least 10 episodes.
- Any woman who tries to lead an independent life or her own train of thought, must be punished mercilessly. If a woman makes her own career decisions or chooses her life partner, she has to suffer for her behavior. (Watch: Preet na Kaiyo Koi, Abro).
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- Parents know best. This is when dialogues such as 'parents know best' and 'Elders always make the right decision for you' are reiterated. Even if the woman is beaten to a pulp after marriage or she and her husband are incompatible, she cannot question her parents' right to control her life.
- Only cousins should marry! It is easier to establish long-term interaction, and saves the writer the headache of creating novel situations, if the couple is related (Watch: Diyar-e-dil, Gul-e-Rana, Tum Kyon Piya).
- Bad men are also good men even if they assault and harass women. It is for their own good, since women apparently don’t know anything. Men must must teach them a lesson, as is their duty in a patriarchal society. Women must always say yes -- no is not a choice.
Follow this simple recipe and you will have a high-rating drama on your hands. Good luck!
'No means yes': Pakistan TV's dangerous trend of celebrating rapists and stalkers as heroes
But keep in mind that if this continues, we will have multiple dramas that are nothing but pale copies of each other, with each one trying to outdo the other in sensationalism...oh wait….I suppose, these directives might help explain why most dramas these days end up looking, sounding and feeling suspiciously similar.
Here’s hoping for better days to come or at least a way to demand our money back!
Sadaf Siddique is a freelance writer, avid reader, film and drama enthusiast and sometime drama queen, not necessarily in that order.