Parizaad & Laapata: HUM TV’s Obsession With Blackface

Ahmed Ali Akbar and Ali Rehman Khan

The entertainment industry in any country plays a huge role in educating the masses and spreading awareness on social issues. Our TV shows have tackled all sorts of serious and important topics; rape, infidelity, child marriages, mental health and many more. The dramas try to be as bold as the system allows them to be.

HUM TV is one of those leading channels addressing these issues through storytelling. However, it is baffling to see their current obsession with blackface and how they keep messing up due to their colourism.

Colourism and Blackface

People with a dark complexion are seen as inferior to those with a light skin tone in parts of our society. This sort of discrimination naturally extends to our entertainment industry as well. The majority of our leading ladies and men are light-skinned with very few exceptions.

Blackface stems from colourism and is the act where someone with light skin, through the use of makeup, imitates the appearance of a dark-skinned person.


The drama serial ‘Parizaad’, which is only just three episodes in as of now, is being heavily criticized. As soon as the character looks were revealed, Ahmed Ali Akbar’s look as the titular character Parizaad generated a lot of chatter.

A show that is being sold as progressive and representation for dark-skinned people choosing to cast a light-skinned actor to have him painted black is irresponsible and shows complete ignorance of the real issue.

Although Ahmed is doing a remarkable job from an acting standpoint, his casting in itself is problematic. This show had the potential to be game-changing had they cast an actor who did not conform to conventional standards of beauty. It could have broken the barriers holding back those actors and actresses.


The show debuted last week on Wednesday. This was yet another highly anticipated show marred by its insensitive and out of touch casting. In this instance, it’s Ali Rehman Khan who does not fit with his character. 

Why write a role of a guy with a visibly tanned complexion, only to cast an actor with probably one of the lightest skin tones in the Pakistan entertainment industry. Ali has clearly been put under a ton of makeup for this role.

This is yet another example of how progressive and refreshing it might have been had an actually tanned actor been cast in the role instead. 

One thing to note here is that while ‘Parizaad’ has already gotten its fair share of criticism, viewers don’t seem to have an issue here. It seems as if brownface isn’t as egregious to some as is the case with blackface. We will have to see if the general opinion on that changes as the show gains an audience.

It’s shockingly tone-deaf even for our industry and the irony seems to be lost on HUM TV regarding the issue. Needless to say, this new trend that the channel seems to be developing needs to be stopped before we start seeing it everywhere. It should be a no-brainer as to what sort of actor needs to be cast if the role demands a tanned character. 

We know actors are meant to embody any role they are given. However, this is an issue deeply rooted in colourism which has plagued our media forever and it needs to change. This should be a moment of growth for HUM TV and a lesson for other drama channels. We hope we can move past this and look forward to more inclusiveness in our shows in the near future.


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