Viewers, screenwriters or censors — who decides what you see?

Speakers share opposing viewpoints about drama serials on television

Haniya Javed February 08, 2015
Speakers share opposing viewpoints about drama serials on television. PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/EXPRESS


Who decides what you see in drama serials on TV? The question inspired some dissent among the ranks of the speakers at the discussion ‘PTV aur Aaj ka Drama’ on the third day of the sixth Karachi Literature Festival on Sunday.

While writer Samira Fazal believed that it was simply ratings that defined what viewers wanted to see, with the supply-and-demand rule in force, panel moderator and actor Raju Jamil had an altogether different opinion. “It is the screenwriters who are in control and the viewers only watch what they are shown,” he argued.

“We sanctify our past,” declared actor Sajid Hasan, adding that everyone seemed to have forgotten what it was like working at the time of General Ziaul Haq’s rule. “Even today, we cannot show dramas revolving around Pakistani politics or politicians. What else are we left with but to show what is being shown?”

Actor Sania Saeed was less concerned about ratings. “I am not even satisfied whether all subjects, even taboo ones, are being given space in our storylines,” she exclaimed.

However, writer Haseena Moin had her reservations. “The kind of content being shown, with harassment and violence against women in dramas — would you say that it’s part of our culture?” she mused.

Meanwhile, Aamina Sheikh, another actor, pointed out that since Pakistani society comprised a range of varying stratas, all sorts of thoughts and stances had to be catered to. “At the end of the day, it just depends on the writer’s preference.”

Replying to Jamil’s query about why the same faces were seen everywhere, Sheikh had an answer ready. “Faces overlap in every other serial because the selected talent pool is smaller than the number of channels,” she explained. “Producers choose the actors they know.”

Talking about the difference between TV today and in PTV’s golden days, actor and radio personality Neelofar Abbasi said that women looking to break into the industry had more opportunities today than before, with entire websites working on broadcasting dramas by themselves. However, she went on to say, “It is unfair to compare contemporary work with that of PTV — both have done well in their own respective dimensions.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2015.


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