At a time when Pakistani society is perhaps its most progressive self, a lot of Pakistani dramas are still bent on representing modern women the old way. The narrative usually goes as such that a woman is either seeking a marriage proposal, trying to get the attention of a male protagonist for marriage, playing the character of a gold digger scheming to claw her nails into some innocent chap, or is fighting tooth and nail to get someone else’s husband’s attention.
Women are more than often depicted as either too spineless to stand up for themselves. If not that, they’re shown to be too spiteful that they single-handedly destroy entire families. Either way there is never really is no progression or middle ground.
Let’s take a look at some done-to-death plots for women our dramas have been portraying for quite some time now.
The gold digger plot
She is the woman who comes from a lower class family. She dreams for a large life but instead of working hard to accomplish those dreams, she schemes and schemes, and then schemes some more. She looks for a prospective husband in every other rich man and finally finds one only to realize that life is not a bed of roses.
You can witness this plot in dramas like ‘Gumrah’ where Hina Altaf plays the role of an opportunist girl, getting married to her friend’s father. You also see it in the hit show ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’, where Noori marries Bhola for a place in society.
The woman vs. woman plot
This is by far the most used and popular story-line. Get yourself a “satti savitri” female-lead and add in a crazy ex-girlfriend (mostly larkay k phopo ki jilted baiti). Or get a power hungry saas paired with a jealous sister-in-law. For an extra kick, do a sister vs. sister themed show.
Such serials trivialize the importance of female bonds and show women as always scheming and plotting against each other. We see this story line in some very famous dramas like Khamoshi, Yaariyan and Mann Mayal where two female leads are seen competing for every thing in life.
The black magic plot
Black magic is also a go-to plot in Pakistani dramas. In almost every other show you’ll find a female antagonist who indulges in black magic like it’s a fun game of ball.
Adding it so casually to the plot normalizes its use (if it even exists and helps) and insinuates that women are involved in this act because they are unable to look beyond their spite. Shows like ARY’s ‘Kala Jadu’ and ‘Aalim’ have similar story lines.
Glamorizing adultery and brothels
To a large majority, adultery and brothels have the power to destroy a society completely. Yet the media uses this plot to herd in viewers all in the name of exploring female freedom and sexuality. Is showing women having illicit relations outside of marriage equate to progression?
Such was the show ‘Dil Tou Bhatkay Ga’ where Resham plays the role of a woman who is unhappy in her marriage and rejected by her adulterous husband. And then? Then she explores her own options outside of marriage. Latest to hop on the bandwagon is the hit show ‘Alif Allah aur Insaan’. Bringing tabooed topics to light is important, granted, but there is no need for them to be glamorized.
Pakistani dramas have come a long way in the past couple of years, but have they? In some dramas women are seen in progressive roles, but are they enough? I’ll let you be the judge of that.