The year 2016 started on a high note as we were introduced to a heroine, Anmol, who could shout expletives and run not-so-gracefully after thieves, and we were promised a masterpiece from the director of Diyar-e-Dil. While Dil Lagi exceeded our expectations, Mann Mayal turned out to be more of madness than masterwork.
The year progressed and we saw serials like Tum Kon Piya coming our way and as we dodged it and laughed and cried with Meeran in Udaari, we came face to face with Sanam and had to run towards the safety of Khuda Mera Bhi Hai and Sang-e-Mar Mar lest the snooze fest killed us of boredom.
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This year may have witnessed a lot of mediocre scripts and performances thrown at the drama-watching audiences, but it also gave us groundbreaking shows like Udaari and Khuda Mera Bhi Hai. Here we take a look at the best and the worst of the television this year.
What TV got right…
Case in point: Anmol (Mehwish Hayat) from Dil Lagi, all the leading ladies from Udaari, and Mahi (Ayesha Khan) in Khuda Mera Bhi Hai. Farhat Ishtiaq – writer of Udaari -, Asma Nabeel – who wrote Khuda Mera Bhi Hai - and Faiza Iftikhar – who penned Dil Lagi – outdid themselves by giving us woman protagonists that inspire us instead of making us feel hopeless about the entire women race. These characters stood their ground in the face of adversity.
Udaari, however, wins hands down because Meeran, Zaibo and Sajida AKA Sajjo weren’t essentially outspoken, confident ladies but they grew with time, became stronger and ended up taking major life decisions such as fighting cases against sexual harassment.
A master class collaboration between MD Productions and NGO Kashf Foundation, this drama serial brought forth the very important issue of child sexual abuse. The show is etched into our minds because of how it handled the problem; earlier serials like Chup Raho, Sangat and Mijaazi Khuda tried to highlight similar topics but failed miserably. Some ended up glorifying heinous crimes like rape while others tried to justify it – the rapist’s character (essayed by Zahid Ahmed) in Sangat was actually shown repenting his act and suddenly becoming this normal truthful person and some even romanticised the act!
The most recent example can be seen in drama serial Bekhudi where a man rapes his cousin (Sara Khan) because he supposedly loves her and his proposal is rejected which he obviously cannot come to terms with.
While the makers of Bekhudi – Sana Shahnawaz and co – got it wrong in the Sara Khan and Noor Hassan-starrer, they did all things right with Khuda Mera Bhi Hai – a drama serial that highlights the plight of transsexual persons and their parents. We see Ayesha Khan delivering the performance of her lifetime as she plays the character of a distraught mother - who is forced to abandon her child - with perfection.
Similarly Adnan Siddiqui’s debut venture as a producer, Seeta Bagri, gives us a sneak peek into the lives of the Hindu community residing in Pakistan. It is the story of a Hindu girl, Seeta (Sarwat Gilani), and it makes us realise that our country is not all about elderly women sitting on their prayer mats and saying “Eid Mubarak”; we have our set of “holi hai” too.
What TV got wrong…
Damsels in distress
The woman protagonists broth was sprinkled with a fair share of pointless characters like Jeena (Ayesha Khan in Mann Mayal), who couldn’t get over the fact that she has no ‘maa baap’, and Ushna Shah in Bheegi Palkien, who resorted to wearing black clothes and waiting for a knight in shining armour to rescue her from her sister-in-law.
Similarly, Mannu (Maya Ali) lived a pointless life up until the last episode where she’s suddenly struck by lightning and her brain finally starts to function making her realise the importance of education. But this only happens after she has pined all her life for Salahuddin and went on a Usain Bolt-ish spree of producing multiple babies in a single year (or so it seemed).
Similarly, Tum Kon Piya was so miserable that the writer, Maha Malik, decided to put the female lead (Ayeza Khan) to eternal sleep instead of even trying to retrieve her from the virtual mess.
On a side note, while Tum Kon Piya was a comeback of sorts for Ayeza Khan after Pyaray Afzal, Mann Mayal was Hamza Ali Abbasi’s first small screen appearance after the hit show and unfortunately, both the stars won the ratings race but lost their fans’ admiration for taking up meaningless roles.
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Shaista Lodhi made her big acting debut this year with Waada. Many congratulations to the celebrated morning show host but why did she have to weep her way into a drama serial? And while she wept, her husband (played by Faysal Qureshi) was busy getting wooed by the young little thing (Saboor Ali), who prances about their house freely. Instead of looking like a long lost relative of Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter, Lodhi’s character could’ve tried her hand at confronting her husband and at least made him realise that she was being wronged.
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Meanwhile, the makers of the hit show Diyar-e-Dil also played on similar lines with Sanam which not only failed to grab our attention but seemed like a long quest to justify the need for a second wife for Aarib (Osman Khalid Butt).
Cousin marriages FTW!
Bin Roye, Bekhudi and numerous other TV shows airing on our channels continue to conveniently make cousins fall in love with their…wait for it…cousins. A Twitter user very intelligently questioned why Mahira Khan’s characters fall in love with ‘the hot cousin’ in majority of her drama serials? In Humsafar, it was Asher, in Sadqay Tumhare it was Khalil and now in Bin Roye it is Irtiza.
It looks like the trend isn’t going to die any time soon because many shows like Be Aib and Khoobsurat advocate convenience over realism because let’s face it, when was the last time you had the hots for any of your cousins?
Stalking is the way to go
That is one life lesson every drama serial seems to be giving these days. Be it the ever popular Dil Lagi, Gul-e-Rana or the most recent Dil Banjara; writers seem to be obsessed with the idea of showing the heroes as stalkers. Mohid (Humayun Saeed) stalks his heart out and even cat-calls, but his being ‘in love’ justifies the act. Sikander (Adnan Malik) follows Sanam Saeed in Nepal and even forcefully puts food on her plate but instead of getting weirded out, the girl sees him as her ticket to freedom.
Hello! Women do not like to be followed by strange men even if they’re insanely good looking or move around in fancy cars. Period. Writers should quit trying to drill the whole Oh-she’s-playing-hard-to-get belief into our heads. For a change, let’s assume that when a girl says no she actually means it and kidnapping or forcing her into marriage is not romantic. It is a crime.
As 2016 comes to an end, it is safe to say that while Pakistani drama fanatics were treated to absolute gems like Udaari, Dil Lagi, and Sang-e-Mar Mar, shows like Mann Mayal, Bekhudi, Be Aib and Faltu Larki tested their patience.
Rozina Bhutto is a freelance journalist who writes about the entertainment industry
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