Pakistani dramas makers and producers have for the longest time tried to maintain a balance between dramas that solely entertain and those that educate at the same time. It won’t be wrong to say that most Pakistani dramas in some way do highlight certain social issues. Some of these dramas revolve around pressures and evils within the society; others highlight issues that are faced by individuals with regards to their relationships. There was a time when such dramas were focused on a single issue. Nowadays, writers try to focus on more than one issue. Sometimes they manage to get the message across in the most befitting manner and at other times these dramas simply fail to impress altogether.
The Promotional Strategies
With the advent of social media and due to the fact that there is so much competition between the channels, promotional strategies do play a key role in piquing the interest of the viewers. Interestingly enough, some of the current issue-based dramas or those dramas which are genuinely raising certain important issues were not promoted as such. There are also those which were not promoted in a manner that wouldn’t have enticed the viewers. Only those viewers who follow the celebrities diligently were able to watch these dramas and later on they gained some popularity due to their genuine appeal. These dramas did not get the kind of ‘marketing’ that they truly deserved. Then there were those production houses that created controversies on purpose in order to grab the attention of the viewers.
Drama serials such as Pehli Si Mohabbat, Raqs-e-Bismil, and even Neeli Zinda Hei fall in the category of dramas that were promoted as romantic/horror stories yet they do raise definite social issues. Dil Na Umeed Toh Nahin is one of those dramas which were not promoted in a befitting manner. Also, the fact that it was airing on TV One affected its viewership. The star cast was the most appealing aspect for those viewers who do not have a lot of knowledge about the writers and production houses, in general. Even the active social media users were not given reason enough by the promoters to tune into the drama. Pardes was another such drama that highlights such a vital social issue yet it was promoted more as a drama that had Shaista Lodhi and Sarmad Khoosat playing the lead instead of a drama that was going to have a social impact. The content of the drama was definitely more important than the fact that Shaista and Sarmad were sharing the screen in this drama! Drama serials such as Dunk and Phaans were promoted as issue-based dramas. Dunk makers also relied heavily on controversy and sensationalized headlines for grabbing the attention of the viewers.
Commercial Dramas vs. Issue-Based Dramas
There is no denying the fact that the commercial storylines are usually more popular among the general public therefore at times promoting a drama that might have significant social impact might be promoted as a ‘commercial’ drama. Pehli Si Mohabbat and Pardes are two such examples from recent dramas. Sometimes, the viewers are more interested in the star cast and therefore are more likely to tune into a drama that has a more commercial element to it. Most of the viewers want to be ‘entertained’ when they switch on the television therefore a drama that is reality-based might not be their first preference. There are definitely those viewers as well who understand that a good quality drama is a combination of both therefore many such dramas do get popularity once they go on air.
Current Issue-Based Dramas
More than ever now, the dramas airing leading channels do focus on issues that impact society in some way. Many of the dramas highlight social evils such as rape and domestic abuse. There are others that break this cycle and highlight certain issues which are not highlighted often in dramas. Here is a look at some of the dramas which are raising important issues but in different ways. Some of them are succeeding and others are simply ‘using’ these issues to grab people’s attention. Others are simply failing at it because of the lack of quality content.
Pehli Si Mohabbat – Questioning ‘Arranged’ Marriages
Pehli Si Mohabbat is one of those dramas that were promoted as a filmy love story. Maya Ali and Sheheryar Munawar’s first on-screen appearance on the small screen was presented as the main attraction for the viewers perhaps because the makers were convinced that the viewers will find that more appealing than the actual content. However, it was the content of the show that ended up being its strongest element. Pehli Si Mohabbat questions ‘arranged’ marriages which are most of the time forced marriages yet they are glorified in such a manner that no one ever questions them! The writer has done outstandingly well in raising an issue that isn’t even considered an issue. This drama has proven to be a breath of fresh air since it has been breaking so many stereotypes. Pehli Si Mohabbat definitely fits the bill because it has so much more than just star power! The star power, the melodious OST, and the production values make Pehli Si Mohabbat a pleasant meaningful entertainment.
Raqs-e-Bismil – Highlighting Class Divide
Raqs-e-Bismil is another drama that was never promoted as a drama that will highlight social issues. Yet, the premise of the entire story lies on the class divide; the way people from certain families feel that they are superior to others. Then there are women such as Zohra who never get respect because they were born and raised in circumstances that did not allow her to make the kind of choices she would have liked to. The writer has beautifully integrated the concept of not judging people based on their background into a love story. There will probably be more surprises in store in the upcoming episodes. The drama did go off track more than once therefore the message sometimes does get lost and at other times it is highly repetitive. Overall, Raqs-e-Bismil can be labeled as a drama that highlights an important societal issue yet the multiple tracks do tend to be distracting at times.
Pardes – Struggles of Overseas Workers & Families
Pardes has turned out to be an outstanding drama based on a novel idea. Pakistani dramas usually do not focus on the problems faced by Pakistanis working overseas and most importantly we are never shown what their immediate families actually go through. Daldal did tackle the issue but it had a different storyline altogether. Pardes is more focused on the exploitation of the male members who provide for their families and the sacrifices their immediate family has to make as a result. Pardes grows on you gradually and when you think that the story might be getting typical, something happens to prove you wrong. So far, Pardes has definitely been fitting the bill because the emotional and realistic element of the drama couldn’t have been more impactful.
Dil Na Umeed Toh Nahin – All-Encompassing
Dil Na Umeed Toh Nahin’s producers and the channels airing it did not do justice to it while promoting it. There was barely any hype surrounding the drama and even when it went on air many people did not even know! Since this drama aired on two different channels including PTV it was definitely surprising that the promotions were so unimpressive. However, it was the star cast that made the viewers tune into it, and ultimately the writing and direction completely pulled the viewers in. Unfortunately, when compared to many other commercial dramas, Dil Na Umeed Toh Nahin is still lagging behind but when it comes to doing justice to the issues it has raised, this drama fits the bill like no other! Dil Na Umeed Toh Nahin is one of those few dramas which deal with so many different societal issues at the same time and the writer has made sure that every weakness of the social fabric is highlighted through different tracks. This drama however can get so dark at times that some of the viewers find it extremely disturbing. But this also proves that the writer, director, and the actors have done their job right! Had the producers promoted it the way they promote commercial drama serials, it would have been watched and noticed even more.
Aakhir Kab Tak – Exploitation and Abuse
Aakhir Kab Tak is another drama that raises the issue of exploitation of women and rape. Unfortunately, our producers have started using rape as a tool to get the public’s attention therefore every other drama has such a track. However, Aakhir Kab Tak shows another side of such criminal acts and one which has not been highlighted in any other drama so far. I have watched a few episodes of the drama and I must say that so far it seems to be heavily inspired by Dar Si Jati Hei Sila and even Mein Na Janoo but the solid characters keep it engaging. The script isn’t too impressive but at the same time, it is not as commercial and meaningless as some of the other such dramas.
Dunk – Focus on Commercialism
Dunk is one of those dramas that actually deals with a really serious issue yet the producers never had a serious approach right from the get-go. The entire focus was on getting the public’s attention by statements that created controversy. The script is also highly commercial and the treatment given to the drama is even more so. Dunk could have been a groundbreaking drama serial had the producers focused on the actual content. The leading lady definitely has a mental disorder yet that part of her personality will perhaps never be scrutinized. It definitely does not fit the bill and will always be remembered as a missed opportunity.
Phaans – Repetitive & Misleading
Phaans was promoted as a mystery drama and yes it is that, sometimes to an annoying extent. However, the leading character of the drama either has some mental disorder or a disability which just like always has not been specified. In the drama serial Pyar Ke Sadqay, I never really felt that I actually needed to know why Abdullah and Mahjabeen were not like other people their age but while watching Phaans I feel the need to know more about Sahil since he is the ‘criminal’. Since the story has been far from impressive so far, there is little hope that the viewers will get to know the real reason why he raped and what is wrong with him! It is unfortunate that mental health and disorders are used in this manner by the writers for putting together mysteries that are more annoying than intriguing. Although this drama was never promoted as an issue-based drama, there are a number of reasons why it does fall in the category and it has failed in so many departments.
Neeli Zinda Hei – On Point So Far
Neeli Zinda Hei is essentially a horror drama but I do feel that the writer has highlighted how the fake peers run their businesses by taking advantage of women who are jealous and envious of their own relatives. This is another evil that is unfortunately rampant in our society and I find this track reflective of many affluent and even educated women who go down this path. So far, the jealousy, madness, and the need for control have been highlighted in such a way that they will give people an opportunity to self-reflect and it does raise awareness since the fakeness has been shown so openly.
How many of these dramas are you watching? Share your thoughts about them. It would be great if the writers stop using rape as a tool to create mystery and suspense! It is a serious issue and should not be used for ‘entertainment’ purposes. Are there any other issue-based dramas that you feel fit the bill or those that have missed the mark? Share your views!