Indo-Pak TV: Where do we stand

Published: December 14, 2011
 Evolution of the Pakistani and Indian television industries. GRAPHIC: JAMAL KHURSHID

Evolution of the Pakistani and Indian television industries. GRAPHIC: JAMAL KHURSHID


In the context of Indian and Pakistani entertainment, soaps have always been a means of catharsis for housewives on both sides of the border. From her struggle to live up to her father’s honour and wishes, to her woes of being answerable to her husband (and in many ‘dramataic’ cases the mother-in-law as well), the housewife looks for her own story in drama serials.

Since their inception, the drama industries of both countries have managed to produce some top class soaps with massive followings.

But the question that arises is: have we been as influential as Indian counterpart? Certainly not, as we haven’t been able to create our own ‘Tulsi’ yet. But the larger, and more important, question remains, can we in Pakistan even do this, considering the line between reality and fiction is very fine when it comes to Pakistani TV? A writer will have a dozen second thoughts before writing about a woman who can single-handedly change the conventional household. Similarly, a producer will also be sceptical in investing in such a project. Tulsi is just an example of the way Indian dramas have penetrated pop culture but has the modern day Pakistani drama managed to create any such icons?

The dish antenna arrives

The Indian and Pakistani TV entertainment race dates back to the 1992 World Cup when the cricket-crazy nation installed dish antennas to get a clear reception of the World Cup. Part and parcel of the package were complementary channels such as Zee TV, Setmax and Sony. As a result Pakistanis, the proud heirs to PTV which had numerous top class dramas such as “Waris”, “Sitara Aur Mehrunnisa”, “Dhoop Kinare”, now had exposure to shows like “Sansui Antakshiri”, “Hum Paanch” and “CID”.

These were the early 90s, the era when private producers jumped onto Pakistani TV for the first time and provided us with some phenomenal programmes. Drama serials like “Jaal” and “Kashkol”, cooking shows like “Potluck” and sitcoms including “Family Front” and “Teen Bata Teen” captivated viewers. Though Indian programmes — particularly “CID” and Ekta Kapoor’s “Hum Paanch” — created a small cult of their own, local channels STN and PTV remained in control. From crime series to sitcoms, Pakistani channels during the 90s gave a tough time to Indian programming primarily because of the quality and cultural relevance of the local dramas and also because easy access to satellite channels wasn’t available in Pakistan and was considered a luxury.

Ekta Kapoor and Pakistani private media 

In the early 2000s, Indus TV laid the basis of the first Pakistani private channel and with it came a revolution in Pakistani TV programming. This was when Star Plus turned into a completely Indian channel and initial popularity in Pakistan was far from impressive as many locals could not relate to the huge and decorated sets shown. The channel was then banned for a few months by former General Pervez Musharraf, which led to Pakistani comedies like “Sab Set Hai” being able to create their own following.

However, slowly and gradually the Ekta Kapoor format of soap operas started infecting Pakistani dramas which led to soaps like “Jo Baat Ghar Mae Hai” and Original Soundtrack (OST) became an essential part of Pakistani dramas.

The remote changes hands

Things started to get ugly post 9-11, with the entertainment industry hitting rock bottom in late 2000s when the art of ‘news making’ became the primary focus of Pakistani media. News anchors got the status that VJ’s once had and for the first time in the history of Pakistani television, the man of the house took over the remote control. However, sitcoms for him were shows talking about current affairs. The news hysteria created by more than 30 channels operating in Pakistan and gave dramas and soaps a tough time to survive. But still, kudos to drama serials like “Humsafar” for creating a massive following in more recent times.

In a nutshell, although the Star Plus monopoly has been broken, Indian dramas are still watched more as compared to Pakistani dramas. Though the acting standards have declined as compared to the PTV days, local drama-producing techniques have progressed, especially in terms of technically sound entertainment.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2011.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (33)

  • Indi-Pop
    Dec 14, 2011 - 11:34PM

    In India the trend is towards reality tv rather than dramas. All top channels are focusing on them. Be it Bigg Boss and Khatron ke Khiladi (Fear Factor) on Colors to Emotional Atyachar and Khan Sisters (India’s take on Keeping up with the Kardashians) on Bindaas. Sony also invests mainly on KBC and Indian Idol. Basically dramas are not bringing as many TRP’s as these reality shows. After Tulsi , the next big thing was Balika Vadhu which subsequently lost its charm. The target audiences for drama serials is mainly the hindi speaking heartland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar hence themes of such shows are so regressive like in Pratigya and Saathiya. Even Yash Raj banner which brought serials like Mahi Way, Powder, etc did not bring in the TRP’s as expected because they did not cater to audiences in the interiors of the country and only to urban areas. Nowadays shows like Bade Ache Lagte Hai on Sony is doing well but i don’t expect it to last for too long. What Indian dramas lack most are good scriptwriters and face stiff competition from channels showing American shows like Star World,Zee Cafe etc


  • Sharjeel
    Dec 15, 2011 - 2:07AM

    i agree with to some extent with the writer, but i doubt that more Indian dramas are watched these days cuz we’ve got giants like GEO and ARY coming up with so many dramas and then likes of Hum TV coming up with Humsafar. At least the Pakistani dramas have a story and a concept and are bound to end unlike those Indian which go on for generations pointlessly. i would say that we are as much ahead in dramas of india as they are in Films.


  • Shah Hayat Ahmad
    Dec 15, 2011 - 2:58AM

    Whilst I haven’t seen it yet, but I would like to mention the drama Humsafar which I have been asked by nearly everyone to watch – not to mention the endless number of times the OST Title Track by Qurat-ul-Ain Baloch has been shared with me by friends. At the same time I just read that the facebook fan page has nearly 100,000 likes which is a huge number ( Some dramas that I really did see were Noor Pur Ki Rani, Jhoomka Jaan, and on a lighter note some excellent comedy sitcoms that appear another special mention to Chand Pe Dastak that came about last year.

    Not being jingoistic at all but these productions really could give Indian Television especially the slow-death Star-Plus that Ekta Kapoor is often blamed for a real run for their money.


  • pakistani baloch
    Dec 15, 2011 - 7:33AM

    our dramas are better than indian ..indians drama should be banned in pakistan…….we like our dramas ……..


  • antanu
    Dec 15, 2011 - 8:36AM

    Indian Drmas..mean “SAAS- BAHU” rivalry only, continued since eternity….it takes. Its nonsense..Indian Soaps are nonsensical with characters from out of this world. In many serials the characters keep ranting..KHANDANI PARAMPARA and go on having illicit relationships, illicit children.


  • antanu
    Dec 15, 2011 - 8:44AM

    Mr.Gavaskar…you may be the greatest batsman India ever produced but you are not minting money for BCCI….Sachin, Dhoni & Co. are doing it and BCCI has greatest respect for money and its sources.


  • Malatesh
    Dec 15, 2011 - 9:35AM

    I never seen any serial in my life but I hate TV serials. Because even though I own a TV at home but I couldnt yet got access to TVremote, My wife is the owner of TVremote. This is the same situation in every home.


  • Dec 15, 2011 - 10:34AM

    Why did the writer forgot
    PTV – Aik Muhabbat So Afsanay
    ARY TV – Bulbulay
    GEO TV – Baarish Kai Ansoo
    HUM TV – Mera Saaien
    HUM TV – Akbari Asghari
    PTV – Rangeelpur

    One thing is to be appreciated….we do not project “Saas Bahu” stories.


  • Indian
    Dec 15, 2011 - 10:44AM

    And yet you know the name of the characters so well!!! LOL….


  • Cynic
    Dec 15, 2011 - 10:56AM

    Pakitani dramas are much better, because they really focus on the problems in society and try to find solutions and educate ppl..and finally end, unlike Indian counterparts :)


  • Saurav
    Dec 15, 2011 - 10:59AM

    Don’t know much about Pakistani dramas, but I guess nothing can be worse than ‘Rakhi ka swyambar’ or the other countless soaps on Colours, Imagine, SAB, Sahara, Sony, Star and Zee. The same constipated acting, gibberish dialogues, multi-layered makeup and gigantic ostentatious sets everywhere. Believe me Pakistanis are lucky in this regard and are missing nothing.


  • Saurav
    Dec 15, 2011 - 11:02AM

    Don’t know much about Pakistani dramas, but I guess nothing can be worse than ‘Rakhi ka swyamvar’ or the other countless soaps on Colours, Imagine, SAB, Sahara, Sony, Star and Zee. The same constipated acting, gibberish dialogues, multi-layered makeup and gigantic ostentatious sets everywhere. Believe me Pakistanis are lucky in this regard and are missing nothing.


  • CounterTerrorist
    Dec 15, 2011 - 11:11AM

    @antanu: What are you talking about??!!! lol


  • abhi
    Dec 15, 2011 - 12:07PM

    I like the comment “our dramas are better than indian ..indians drama should be banned in pakistan” if your dramas are better why asking ban? or the people of pakistan are fool who watch india drama despite having better drama at home.


  • saleem
    Dec 15, 2011 - 12:55PM

    Lets face it Veena Malik is a lot better than all the Rakhi Sawant, etc, even in India ( GO Veena GO )


  • shafi Ahmed(Deccan)
    Dec 15, 2011 - 1:34PM

    Hope tribune will something constructive at some day (:


  • Dec 15, 2011 - 2:19PM


    NTM was the first Pakistani private channel and not Indus TV. Please correct that.


  • Striver
    Dec 15, 2011 - 2:51PM

    The writer forgets that India did not produce dramas until Pakistani dramas such as Tanhaian’s enormous popularity in Pakistan and Indian areas bordering Pakistan.

    I have seen an exact copy of Tanhaian on an Indian channel.

    Now in their dramas and certainly in their news channels, they are trying to copy the Pakistani Urdu accent.

    We are not comparing like for like. Pakistani dramas far surpass those that India has ever produced in content and quality, but may be not in glamour. That is a fact we must accept.


  • pakistani
    Dec 15, 2011 - 2:52PM

    how can u guyzz forget. .. azhar ki ai gi baraat , then . . .doli ki aigi baraat. . . Nd finally. . .takay ki aiegi baraat. . .

    Pakistani dramas have substance in them. . .unlike indian dramas


  • pakistani
    Dec 15, 2011 - 3:00PM

    and then there was Alpha Bravo Charlie. . .

    Btw indians also copy pakistani dramas. . .like they r doing right now. .of dhoop kinare. . . I think the indian copy is named. .. ‘kuch tou lag kahien gay’

    Sooo indians also think that pakistani dramas are awwweshummm ! =P


  • ProudPakistani
    Dec 15, 2011 - 3:18PM

    Well Indian dramas are pathetic…I agree they had a huge following for few years but now you have to agree that people now prefer Pakistani dramas over indians…


  • GA
    Dec 15, 2011 - 3:19PM

    However well Indian Channels are doing vis a vis Pakistani channels, no Indian channel can beat the comedy serials featuring Orya Maqbool Jan and Zaid Hamid! Episodes with these starcasts are mind blowing!


  • Zeeshan Mahmood
    Dec 15, 2011 - 5:20PM

    Indian dramas are totally flopped in Pakistan and only 5% of viewers are still stuck with this mania… Pakistani TV dramas are again at their Golden Age and more than two dozen dramas are viral these days…
    Not only HUMSAFAR GEO’s and ARY’s many dramas are popular equally…

    PTV is still moving like a snail… And We should not discourage our new talent by repeatedly comparing them with veteran actors/actresses of old PTV era… Many among new actor’s lot are doing REMARKABLE work… Amna Sheikh and Aaysha Khan are not less talented than any old veteran PTV actress… But I would say Amna Sheikh is one of the finest actresses of Pakistani drama history…

    Stop creating the illusion that Indian Channels are still popular in Pakistan… Its misinformation… Just come to common streets of Pakistani cities… Truth will be revealed…Recommend

  • simplemiss
    Dec 15, 2011 - 5:35PM

    Now Indians and Pakistanis are arguing whose TV soap opera ( drama) is better !!! Come on guys. A saas -bahu fight is a saas-bahu fight whether it is in India or Pakistan. But the greatest Nautanki in the world is actually enacted on the political stage of our countries …day after day and our people have enormous patience to watch them.


  • r p
    Dec 15, 2011 - 7:59PM

    pakistan has failed in every field


  • pinky
    Dec 15, 2011 - 8:58PM

    er why did you gloss over dramas like Alpha Bravo Charlie, Dhuwan, Bandhan????? these dramas of late 90s were as good as their predecessors (if not better) also neglected mentioning the phenomenon of Telefilms & longplays…telefilms by singers like yasir akhtar & ali haider and long plays like ashfaq ahmad’s qurat ul ain (plus other aik mohabbat so afsanay)…our nishan-e-haider series also falls in the category of long plays, right?.

    hurriedly written article..needs improvement


  • Suresh
    Dec 15, 2011 - 9:07PM

    I enjoy Rahaman Malik on TV speaking…speaking anything!


  • punjabi zubaan
    Dec 15, 2011 - 9:33PM

    as an indian i wud luv to see indian dramas banned not just in pakistan but in india also,im sooo sick of them.i mean we used to have some decent programming but star plus has ruined everything. even comedy shows like office office and yes boss are not running anymore.indian programming is only for women as they seem to be the target audience of every channel.

    and plzz guys grow up,we dont have to argue on everything,especially silly thing like whose dramas are better,what r we,in fifth grade?


  • Mohinder sandhu
    Dec 22, 2011 - 1:50AM

    @Shah Hayat Ahmad:
    Pakistan make much better drama’s then indian dramas on zee tv,starplus or ndtv, But then why
    compare them with indian dramas.In india i have never seen any article published in news paper about pakistani sitcoms. pakistanis should be comparing themselves with their all weather friend china’s sitcoms or may be europeans or americans.Why don’t you guys leave india alone,Do your thing.India lose money when pakistanis watch their television without paying for that,Pakistan hurt india by selling pirated movies,India do not get any monetary benefit when pakistanis watch their TV or films,Please tell your authorities to ban all indian content because you are self reliant and better then india.Please LAY OFFRecommend

  • Plal
    Dec 22, 2011 - 10:09AM

    Pakistani Tv drama is not seen in India but Indian Tv drama are still seen in Pakistan,Why if they are not worth viewing.Star Plus is making so much money that it organised Star Parivar 2011 celebration in Macau and took all its artists and associate by plane.Reality Shows are more popular on Indian TV, which are more costly to produce , so it is not very common in Pakistan and Pakistani tv have more News based programs than entertainment based.


  • narayana murthy
    Dec 22, 2011 - 12:42PM

    Hindi dramas on TV, Soaps to be more specific, are horrible.

    I fail to understand how can any Pakistani watch it!

    Frankly, I haven’t come across one intellectual (man or woman) who could tolerate these moronic absurdity called Hindi Soaps!!!


  • Nada
    Jan 1, 2012 - 6:25AM

    “Humsafar” is the best Drama ever! Every one should watch it! :)


  • Anup M
    Jan 4, 2012 - 11:59PM

    How i can forget 1974-1983 era of PTV where Andhera Uajala,Aik haqiqat so afsan,Nelaam Ghar,Taakra (by dildaar parvez bhatti) Dhoop Kinare,Parchayian,Kaliyaan (A puppet show),Sheeshe ka Ghar,Uncle urfi….How many should i write here

    Indian Serials stands no where…I agree


More in Film