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.