The Pakistani entertainment industry has grown incredibly over the years. With the advent of private television channels, the revival of the film industry, and the advancement of technology this industry underwent a change that has its pros and cons. There are more opportunities now for the actors but there are also certain challenges which make their job more difficult than ever. We have seen many success stories from the industry in the past decade or so with actors going from playing supporting roles to becoming the top most leading actors in the country. We have also seen actors going into production and even direction. The room for growth in the industry is infinite but so are the frustrations and the challenges.
Nowadays, actors are more vocal than ever about the challenges they face unlike before when they did not speak about such things. These actors obviously are those who have attained a certain position in the industry and therefore they can speak their mind. Even now, these actors have to compromise constantly even though they have been associated with the industry for decades now. With the changing times, some senior actors had to face situations that they had never encountered before.
After watching so many different interviews of Pakistani celebrities, we have short-listed a list of challenges which the actors face yet they continue to entertain the viewers and do not let these hardships stand in their way.
The Race for Ratings
With the increase in the number of television channels, the competition is fiercer than ever. The viewers have so many different options to choose from and the sponsors also want to pick the dramas with the most viewership for sponsoring. As a result of this, there is pressure on the actors to be a part of such dramas that will appeal to the audience. Many of the viewers pick and choose a drama based on the actors who are in the cast. Therefore, an actor whose drama gets the ratings gets the most offers as well. There is constant pressure on the actors to choose projects which will guarantee viewership. Gone are the days when content was the king, nowadays ratings are the determining factor and it is obviously challenging for an actor to determine beforehand which drama will get the ratings that the producer and the channel desire. If an actor is consistently part of dramas that do not get the desired ratings, no matter how well they perform, their ‘demand’ in the industry is automatically, unfortunately, affected by it.
The Dearth of Quality Scripts
Due to the rating system and in an attempt to grasp the attention of the viewers, the quality of scripts has gone down. There are more dramas being made today than ever therefore there is a lot of repetition as well. If a drama with a certain storyline gets popular then most of the production houses want the writers to pen down scripts on the dame lines. Most producers and channels want to play it safe because at the end of the day they are in the business for the money.
Many of the veteran and even the younger actors have often shared how frustrated they feel working on television since there is a dearth of quality scripts. They all agree that most stories revolve around more or less the same angles. Some of them have to choose scripts they are not satisfied with because they need to continue working. Others have distanced themselves from the television industry because the scripts do not appeal to them.
Even those actors who are really passionate and find it difficult to take a break are forced to do so because there aren’t enough quality scripts to choose from. Some of these actors have been part of the drama industry since the PTV days and they often share how different things are now and how the quality is going downhill with every passing year.
Pressure from Production Houses & Public
Most of the actors do not talk about the pressure from the production houses directly but it is quite evident that many of them have ended up choosing certain projects because they did not want to displease a certain producer. Since the relationship between the actors and the producers is more like that of a boss and an employee nowadays instead of team members, the actors do not get the creative space they need and most often end up taking instructions from the producers.
Apart from this, there is also constant pressure on the actors from the public since a majority of their fans and followers want to see them a certain way and do not accept their individuality in a way that they get the kind of freedom they need in order to grow and work in a relaxed way.
Delay in Payments
It is truly sad that nowadays more than ever even the top actors of the industry do not get their pays on time. Many actors have often talked about this issue, some of them get paid after years of doing their projects and others don’t get paid at all. In a recent interview, Nauman Ijaz openly talked about the delay in payments which definitely makes the job of an actor even more difficult. Even though acting demands a lot of time and a great deal of effort, the actors who have to run their houses obviously have to venture into other fields as well because they need to keep earning. Some of them have turned into writers solely because they were running out of money even though they were continuously working. While the producers keep on investing in new projects, they do not pay those who have already worked for them and Noman Ijaz blames the broadcaster more than the producer for it.
This is a big challenge for creative individuals since they have to continue working with people who already owe them salaries. The fact that more actors are coming out and openly talking about this issue goes to show that this is, unfortunately, a common phenomenon in the industry.
Instant & Insensitive Feedback
Things have changed vastly due to social media. Every person watching television nowadays has easy access to social media and most often people are quick to share their opinions about everything from the episode which just aired to the statements given by the celebrities. Apart from this, whenever an episode of a drama is uploaded on YouTube, people give their feedback. This instant feedback can at times be the biggest challenge for an actor since even the smallest of mistakes are picked up by the audience and people most often are not very kind while sharing their opinions. There are also so many people who can be harsh and insensitive while sharing these opinions, this is perhaps the most difficult challenge for an actor.
Maintaining Public Image
The viewers consider actors their ‘property’ and therefore they have certain expectations from them. Even though they follow these celebrities and call themselves their die-hard fans, there is little room for these celebrities to cross those boundaries which the viewers have set for them. The females in particular have to try really hard to protect their public image. Wearing a revealing dress or giving a statement that might hurt people’s sentiments can result in ruining their public image. Even the male actors have to constantly make sure that they do not do anything which hurts the sensitivities of the public. There was a time when actors were more focused on their work and they did not have to put in so much effort to maintain this image since the interaction with the public was not as much as it is today due to technological advancement.
Disrespect from Producers & Channels
Even the most veteran actors have shared how they have been mistreated on the sets by those who run the show and even the co-actors. Everyone knows about the Badar Khalil controversy and how Sultana Siddiqui gave Fawad Khan preference over her. She openly talked about how senior actors are made to sit for hours while the new actors come late on the set and get their scenes recorded first. The channels and the producers have lost respect for the senior actors and in order to be heard, they need to put their foot down.
Imran Ashraf shared how for the longest time he was the one serving tea to everyone because he was just another supporting actor on the set. He also shared in one of his interviews how he was mistreated by his co-actors. Someone as well-known as Muhammad Ahmed faced the same difficulties because he was too polite. Therefore even if an actor is giving his best, he still has to face these situations which are not in his control at all.
The Social Media Angle
Social media has given actors an edge as well but if you look at the bigger picture most actors are not happy with the way social media has impacted their work. Sonya Hussyn and many others have openly shared how important following on social media has become now. The popular actors do not just get acting projects but they get the sponsorships and advertisements as well. Apart from working hard in the field, the actors therefore have to dedicate their energies and resources towards having a definite presence on social media as well because it affects the kind of work they get. This is a real challenge for all those actors who want their work to define them and not the number of followers they have on social media.
Typecasting & Biased
If an actor does well in a certain role, the producers play it safe by casting him in similar roles repeatedly. This definitely affects the diversity which an actor would like to show on the screen. Since nowadays the focus is primarily on ratings and playing it safe, this is happening more than ever. Not only this, more than the performance itself, the looks of an actor also contribute to what kind of a role he will be offered. There are actors such as Imran Ashraf and Gohar Rasheed who are trying hard to swim against the tide. The fact however remains that in the industry especially nowadays the outward appearance of an actor plays a major role in getting him certain kinds of projects.
Even the actresses are chosen based on their skin color which is extremely sad. Therefore, apart from polishing their craft, the actors have to often resort to cosmetic procedures in order to bag quality projects and get noticed by the producers.
Another big challenge for those actors who have crossed a certain age is staying relevant. Most of them feel frustrated that Pakistani dramas revolve around the younger lot and therefore they continue to play supporting roles although there are so many stories related to their age group that needs to be told.
Because of this issue, there are so many talented actors who are simply relegated to the background because of their age. The talent, therefore, takes a backseat and age comes first. This makes it difficult for the older actors to stay relevant since there aren’t a lot of roles that are meaty enough to get them the kind of attention they deserve. Although actors do not have a shelf life, in such a scenario their shelf life is highly dependent on the production houses and even the best of actors have to try really hard to stay in the picture and get noticed.
Kudos to all those actors who give commendable performances and continue to impress us despite all these challenges. It is also good to see them talking about the issues they face with so much confidence. There is definitely a need for unions and proper laws that would safeguard the interests of these actors. Also, there is a dire need for diversity in the industry so that everyone who is talented would get to contribute to it in a way that satisfies their creative side as well.
Do share your thoughts about the challenges faced by the actors and what do you think should be done about it?