Novel-Based Dramas and Detailed Promos – Killing Half Of The Fun?

Let me start by confessing that I do not read novels but even a non reader like me knows the gist of the story of a play that is based on a novel or even one that is based on stories that get published in Urdu digests thanks to all the online discussions as well as those which I have with friends and family. I can’t help but go through all the drama discussions on daily basis even though I may not be an active part of them. There have been dramas that got me really excited, I remember when Shehr-e-Zaat was about to go on air I was really looking forward to it because the promos looked very intriguing and it was also going to be Mahira Khan’s first play after Hamsafar. But gradually by reading the discussions under the promo videos in particular and the ones I had with a few family members who read novels, I could easily make out what the story was going to be about; a girl who was not inclined towards religion to begin with goes through a complete transformation because of what life puts her through. People even mentioned the scenes they wanted to see in particular and others wondered how a novel which was very short was going to be turned into a 20 plus episodes play. When the play finally went on air it got a great response but the constant comparison with the novel was nothing short of annoying. Let me add that I do not blame the viewers for drawing such comparisons because that is bound to be their instinctive response. A non reader like me should jump to the idea of getting the opportunity of watching novels which are so renowned on screen because otherwise I would have completely missed out on them but because of some reasons that I have already mentioned and others which I am going to mention now, I think it is a good time to stop making plays based on novels and on stories taken from digests.

Firstly, people who have read these novels have very high expectations from the plays based on them. Many times the plays do not come up to the expectations and people feel more led down than they would be otherwise.

Secondly, readers like the novels the way they are and do not want to see any changes being made in them. A novel is usually very short and a play is much longer so it is essential to add additional characters and some sidetracks which people don’t often appreciate. The readers may not warm up to the new characters and the addition in the original story.

Thirdly, the constant comparisons with the novel are inevitable which result from the expectations of course, kill the fun for even those people who have not read the novel. While watching Zindagi Gulzar Hai I am constantly being reminded of what I am missing out on by those people who have read the novel and so often I am tempted to read the novel, which I am not going to of course at least not while the drama is on air. I think when you read the novel, the story unfolds gradually and so do the different shades of the characters and that is when you fall in love with the characters bit by bit and enjoy the twists and turns. Falling in love twice with characters maybe very hard and is not just the same watching the whole thing dramatized. I am not saying that no one enjoys these dramas, There are many people (who have read the novels) who enjoy these novel based dramas too and enjoy watching their favorite stars play the characters on screen.

Fourthly and most importantly for me (since I do not read novels), novel based dramas have no suspense; one can’t keep wondering what is going to happen next because most of the people already tell you what it is going to be. So you already you know the story and the characters all you have to do is to sit back and watch a plot you already know too well unfold on screen. For me most of the fun lies in sitting on the edge of my seat and speculating what the next turn of events will be.

Enough of talking about novel based dramas let’s talk about those dramas which are not based on novels or stories from digests but are especially written for television. Pakistani drama industry is blessed with very gifted writers who have tons of potential. But many of the dramas that are based on original scripts too lose half their charm when every single twist and turn is shown in the promos and even some of the OSTs tell you half of the story. What is the point of penning down an original script when the entire story will be given away in the promos? The people who are responsible for making the promos should be very careful not to give the entire story away. The promos should be short, sweet and enticing but at the same time keep the suspense alive. Who would want to watch an entire play when most of the story can be followed by watching the promos that come before the play and those that come afterwards too? I must give credit to whoever is responsible for making the promos of Bari Apa for keeping them short and sweet and even very often misleading too. The what-is-going-to-happen-next factor matters a lot to me and I really do not appreciate it when you can easily predict what is going to happen in the next episode due to detailed promos.

I was talking to a very close friend Zubeida the other day about novel based dramas and she rightly pointed out that our writers are greatly endowed and they have oodles of new ideas to share but it seems like it is the channels who want to make dramas based on novels. One of the reasons can be that these novels are already popular and automatically ensure a certain fan following so the channels do not have to work extra hard on advertising them. Do you want to see more dramas based on novels and stories that have already been published in digests? And have there been times when detailed promos ruined the drama watching experience for you? Do share your thoughts.

Fatima Awan.

  • esha

    yes i think they should b made …. but they should not loose the track …. jo kuch novel mai hota hai ya to uss ko wese hi bnao ya phir chor do … r agar itni hi zaroorat hai bnane ki … to serial ko novel k naam pe advertize naa hi kre to acha hai

    • Khushba

      you are absolutely wrong! people more prefer to watch tv than read novels so agar change kr k bhi dekhatae hae tou koi harj nae uska b apna maza hota hae!so thnk postive and try to live in reality than in imaginry world!

    • FatimaAwan

      Thank you for reading the article Esha and for commenting:)

    • Palwasha

      Reading a book will always provide more pleasure than watching a drama because it is an interactive activity so therefore the reader has some control over the imagery that the book creates – based on the skills of the author.

      Watching a drama is almost always a passive experience and therefore there is far less thought process involved. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching dramas but nine times out of ten watching drama adaptations is disappointing. Apart from the personal interaction the other reason is that to include every detail of a 400 page book would require a drama about 52 weeks long.

      The exception is where the book has been very simplistically written and therefore there is a lot of room for expansion of plot and ideas for the director.

  • Mrs Asim

    🙂 thanks Fatima.MASAHLLAH bat kehnay ka saleeqa koi apsay seekhay. in fact it so happenes with the literature around the world, whenever there is a serial or film based on novel, it rarely meets our expectations, brains's quality of presentig visual images plays a great role in developing our interest in novels, now even if the setting of a scene in drama is not according to that image, it can disturbe the whole thing.there r a 100 such issues as u mentioned here. but I think its advantages r more as Umera Ahmed mentioned that when her readers told her that her novels changes their thinking about life and religion(I myself know many people) so in our country where litteracy rate is low and book reading is even lower,its a good idea to provide same inspiration to those who didnt and cudnt read the novel. simply we should stop comparing two different genres.

    • Khushba

      no Mrs.Asim i am really sorry but you are wrong.I donot ay that fatima is going on the wrong side but she is talking ablsolutely rubbish! and i want you to think again and then comment!

      • cartoon

        khushba i don't get why r getting so angry and so rude…

      • cartoon

        why r u gettting so angry and rude?i think it is u who should read the article again,think and then comment…it has got nothing personal against u..fatima has just wrote some facts..if u don't suport them,just give ur opinion.and discuss it, not argue

    • FatimaAwan

      Mrs. Asim thank you for appreciating the rubbish I write lol You have a very valid point, thank you for sharing it.

    • MishiKhan

      A novelist is a creative writer who specializes in long form fiction writing, as opposed to the shorter forms such as poetry, essays or short stories. A novelist creates fictional characters, then places them within the context of an imaginary setting. The place and time of a novel may be based in reality, but the story's plot development is generally created strictly by the author's imagination….
      Scriptwriter/ Screenwriter begin with an idea, use those ideas to write scripts, with the intention of selling them and having them produced for mass media. You can imagine how it will come out a more than 100 pages novel converted to a short Screenplay… Thanks for reading my opinion.

  • Mrs Asim

    but it doesnt mean that actual dramas shouldnt be written, even novel writers can write tv drama , Miratul uroos is a good example. new writers and new ideas should always be welcome.

    • FatimaAwan

      totally agree with you Mrs. Asim;)

  • Khushba

    no its wrong to say that novel based dramas are killing half of fun because people who prefer to see dramas than read novels can also have fun so its wrong to say this! 🙂

  • wisechap

    There are several novels that were not very popular . But when they were dramatized , became superhit…like Afshan, Uroosa, Rahain etc. I think the novel writer and drama script writer should be differant personalities.

    • FatimaAwan

      Wisechap what a wise thing to say;) totally agree with you. keep reading and please keep commenting.

    • Mrs Asim

      yes good point, even if not different the person who is converting novel in drama should have knowledge about script writing. these and other such plays were hit because of good direction and good script and actors of course:)

  • Mona

    U r right about killing half the fun and loooong comparisons… especially with shehr-e-zaat meray kaan puk gaye they k novel me naani thi aur naa hi vo na-muraad aashik aur esa nae wesa hua tha aur ye nadia is kirdaar k liay theek nae teeee. but still i like to watch the novel based dramas till now. Aroosa was a novel on ptv and it went very well aur wahan se ye trend start hua. but i don't think k ye khatum e ho jana chahiye verity is goog. and quality be must e.

    and i will go with novels k un me kuch tu story hoti e na. baqi tu bus triangle waar e dikhate en. and i am very happy k umera ahmad ne drma change likha e. aur ab me ne novel para va e but me ne kisi ko story nae batai aur us ka end be nae. me doosron ka suspense khatum kur k un k saath ye zulm nae kur sakti ….. lolx

    • FatimaAwan

      Lol Mona I know what you mean:) I am glad you could relate to what i said in the article. I am really enjoying ZGH but feel that most people who have read the novel are gravely dissapointed.

  • SEHRISH

    oh come on fatima the novel based tele dramas or movies r not new the shakspear and other british ,american and other country's novelist also dramatized or orginised stage theater on novels. so it is a world wide trend. if you are not intrested then it is your problem .

    ihave a suggestion for you. NEXT TIME DO NOT WATCH NOVEL BASED DRAMAS IT IS BETTER FOR YPU AND ALSO FOR THOSE PLAYS.

    • FatimaAwan

      No caps lock please.

    • SRA

      lolllzzz agreed with ur advice!!!!

    • MishiKhan

      There is no need to be so hyper …
      A novelist is a creative writer who specializes in long form fiction writing, as opposed to the shorter forms such as poetry, essays or short stories. A novelist creates fictional characters, then places them within the context of an imaginary setting. The place and time of a novel may be based in reality, but the story's plot development is generally created strictly by the author's imagination….
      Scriptwriter/ Screenwriter begin with an idea, use those ideas to write scripts, with the intention of selling them and having them produced for mass media. You can imagine how it will come out a more than 100 pages novel converted to a short Screenplay… Thanks for reading my opinion.

  • amna siddique

    I agree that novels vanish the fun of drama but still I would say that those people who dont have interest in dramas wud prefer to read novel so novels shud be there…..I Myself dont read and never ask the story from those who have read so I merely enjoy the fun of dramas

    • FatimaAwan

      That means we are on the same page Amna, this was a general article meant to trigger debate:) i am thoroughly enjoying ZGH but kind of annoyed with the comparisons.

  • Maheen

    In my point of view,both novel based dramas and the dramas that our writers write should be balanced,as par depending upon viewers!

  • Hassan Abdullah

    thanks to fatima to make the works wht m actually thinking…totally agree wd you..i hv read the novel zindagi gukzar he and i was really excited to watch that drama bt hnn i watched first 3 episides (i watch all 7 episodes to wd hope fr best formula) bt i am really disappointed because the actually fun and suspense which i get in novel is not found in drama. . thats why i would say dramas should nt based on novels

    secondly, u talked about long promos..u r right..me ny bht sy dramy dekhny start kiye bt wnh i watched their promos i understand the story..so suspense khatam hony ki wja sy na dekhey …they make trailer of whole drama expect long promos…

    • FatimaAwan

      Hassan Abdullah like I said I do not read novels myself but I have observed that many people who read novels feel the way you do. Thank you so much for sharing how you feel about novel based dramas in general and Zindagi Gulzar Hai in particular. I hope you will be commenting more often now.

  • MishiKhan

    I agree with you 100% Fatima, that is true, and I was thinking the same. Scriptwriters and novelist are two different categories, and you can not combine both.
    A novelist is a creative writer who specializes in long form fiction writing, as opposed to the shorter forms such as poetry, essays or short stories. A novelist creates fictional characters, then places them within the context of an imaginary setting. The place and time of a novel may be based in reality, but the story's plot development is generally created strictly by the author's imagination….
    Scriptwriter/ Screenwriter begin with an idea, use those ideas to write scripts, with the intention of selling them and having them produced for mass media. You can imagine how it will come out a more than 100 pages novel converted to a short Screenplay… Thanks for reading my opinion.

    • FatimaAwan

      MishiKhan thank you so much for the detailed comment, it was very informative. Keep reading and commenting, I love reading well thought out comments that add to my knowledge.

      • MishiKhan

        My pleasure fatima, i love reading your articles ,inshallah i will be in touch, thanks

  • Malaika makhdoom

    i think we must not make things so critical,there are so many people who dont read novels,dramatized version of novels is i think great effort..and as far as the matter of changing the story of the novel is concerned,here comes the role of our creative writers.U see how beautifully they add fiction in the story.and there are only few people like 10 out of hundred who know the original story.

  • Sidra

    i think that mata e jaan hai tu, humsafar and zindagi gulzar hai are the best despite of being novel-based. i did not read their novels but i knew the story bcoz my friend read humsafar and mother read mata e jaan hai tu. i must admit that these two dramas maintained their suspense and fun till their end. i want more romantic as well as social novel-based dramas and i dont want to know the story of such dramas from others. and that is why i usually dont read the comments on novel-based dramas.
    one thing more. i am also a novel reader. i have read zard mausam and when its promos came i became excited to see its characters on screen but i was very dissappointed to see the drama. i even stopped following it. it was not up to my expectations.

  • Nyla

    Agree with you Fatima. You are right. I am the third generation enjoying the same novels my Nani, mother and Khalas were reading. I was very very disappointed after watching dramatization of Shama & Afshan. Writing a screen play for Urdu or English novels is really hard work.

  • Zainab

    As I live abroad and did not really learn well enough Urdu to read/write properly, I got my husband to read a part of Humsafar when it started…didn't get past the third or so chapter, because the Drama ended and then I lost interest in the novel. You really need to sit down and read a novel if you are planning to while drama you can watch as you please (forward/rewind). As to people who complain about it not meeting their expectations, they should think that a novel is a complete work while a drama will either be a summary version highlighting the most interesting scenes or is just loosely based on the novel and not completely. They should really stop complaining and appreciate what they're getting

  • Lara Zuberi

    First, I will say that this is a well written article. Second, I will state my opinion, which is that the audience of drama is probably a hundred times larger than the audience of novels, specially Urdu novels, which is an unfortunate fact. As an avid reader of English books, I find it a gift to be connected with works of Urdu fiction, whi h I have read very little of, through dramas, that are very well created in terms of screenplay, direction and acting. It is also a gift to a writer, as it broadens the audience, forming a much larger stage. Expectations of viewers must be realistic, because many emotions in a book cannot be translated into a play. For viewers who enjoy suspense of the story, it is quite simple to interject when friends are revealing the story. I do it all the time. I want a good story, whether I get it from a novel or an original screenplay, is irrelevant. I do agree with the point about the promos completely.

  • Ms.

    Totally agreed about the promos yar….mujhay lagta tha may akeli hi hoon jisay sakht ghussa aata hay yeh dekh ker k yeh log saari story promo may ya ost may hi bata daytay hain….n hamesha sochti hoon k aisa kion hota hay???/ suspense kion nahi rehna dia jata…!!??? may khud ziada ter OSTs dekhty hi nahi hoon…. 🙂
    Novel-based dramas are OK wid me…wesay zindagi gulzar hay…may nay nahi perha hua…but is k bhi promos nay satya naas maar dia…..like shoro say hi pata hay k jitni marzi laraai ker lain lead roles…shadi un dono ki honi hi hay….that really KILLED the fun :@
    n u r 100% right about bari aapa's promos 🙂

    • FatimaAwan

      Ms. I am glad you can relate to what i am talking about. Yes you are right you can tell half of the story just by watching the videos for the Osts!

  • Zafeena

    novel based dramas are ok but every novel or short story is not for drama for e.g. Hamsafar from Farhat Ishtiaq was a great hit but Mata-e-Jan which was a hit novel completly got ruined when it was dramatised and yes OSTs should be stoped

  • Dr.Affaf Sheikh

    I totally agree with u fatima the charm of the story is lost if it first published in digest or 1st to be dramatised like man-o-salwa which is onair side by side or the coming drama aik nai cinderella .now the writer know if people don't like the end in novel they gradually change it in drama or some people donot read it by saying "T.V. PAR DEKH LAIN GAY KON DIGET KHAREEDAY."Some old novels when they r now dramatised the characters play by our actors totally murder the charisma of the novel.some novels r fine while the person is reading but when it is dramatised the boldness disturb(in my opinion) the audience.i think now it should be stopped b/c many of the novels r dramatised & lastly most writers quit to write in digest & book reading in near to be extinct.:(:(:(

  • saba

    i thnk u are the best writer i thnk u should also write a novel but plz do not sale it to te tv and 2ndly there iz more fun in reading novels in every timez ye direcrors story ko bara ar actors fazool daal dete hain ar mge yaqeen hai ke bin roe ansoo ka b ino ne satya naas kur daina hai u can not imagine that i wept while reding novel but there will b no charm in the drama