Pakistani dramas have been a great source of entertainment as well as spreading awareness in the country and also across the world. Our stories largely revolve around female characters and hence they are called female-centric or women-oriented content. But are the makers really that thoughtful?
Characterization is an important part of storytelling. While creating stories one has to work on the characters the most. The rest of the story is led by the characters themselves. But what happens when the characters become an archetype and get repeated like a formula in every second story? The newness and freshness from the stories get diminished and drama loses its charm.
Female characters being shown nowadays are hardly different from the typical three types that are constantly repeated on TV for rating purposes.
Weak, Suppressed, Voiceless
The most tried and tested formula to get viewership on television and now on digital too is to make a woman cry on screens. Our drama producers know the fact very well that a commercial drama is sold by the tears of a woman and they apply this mantra to almost every story they create. Samrah, played by Amar Khan from the drama serial ‘Qayamat’, is one such character who constantly gets beaten up by her ruthless husband and eventually dies of the sufferings caused by him.
Hania, played by Zoya Nasir in the drama ‘Hania’, and Rudaaba, played by Ushna Shah from ‘Bashar Momin’, are some of the most oppressed women that have been shown on TV. And then come serials that show horrible treatment to women and never get called out for it. Popular shows ‘Rishtay’, ‘Meri Baaji’, and currently on-air ‘Wafa Be Mol’ are some of the dramas that depict horrible violence against women without any right messaging.
Cunning, Vicious, Ruthless
This is another extreme of characterization. A drama that revolves around a suppressed woman, represented as “white”, also portrays an extremely vicious woman, who is the representative of “black”. While we believe that life is all about “greys”, our dramas still choose to show the war between black and white and how senseless this treatment is.
This cunning vamp could be the real sister of the heroine or a cousin or friend who just has one motive in life and that is to destroy the life of our “bechaari” heroine who has no spine. Mashal, played by Kubra Khan, in ‘Hum Kahan Ke Sachay Thay’, Zoya, played by Sabeena Farooq, in ‘Kashf’ and Nisha, played by Minal Khan from drama serial ‘Jalan’, are just a few of the uncountable similar characters shown in dramas like ‘Jhooti’, ‘Balaa’, ‘Dil Mom Ka Diya’ and ‘Dilruba’.
Strong, Independent, Resilient
Among a lot of producers who prefer not to experiment with strong female characters, there are still a number of makers who dare to show some great female characters that are appreciated, loved, and welcomed by the masses. They are strong women who know how to fight for their rights and also support other women around them. Not only this, but the characters also look human in every possible way who are emotional at times and have their vulnerable moments too.
Anaaya and Aaliya, played by Mawra Hocane in ‘Sabaat’ and ‘Aangan’ respectively, and Chhammi, played by Sajal Aly in historic drama ‘Aangan’, have been some impactful characters of women who are strong and independent. Sanam Saeed as Kashaf in ‘Zindagi Gulzaar Hai‘, Yumna Zaidi as Allah Rakhi in ‘Dil Na Umeed To Nahi’, Sarah Khan as Falak in ‘Laapata’, Faryal Mehmood as Inshaa from ‘Raqeeb Se’, Rabia Butt’s character Nargis in ‘Pehli Si Mohabbat’ and everyone’s favourite Dr Zubia, played by Sajal Aly, in ‘Yaqeen Ka Safar’ are some of the best portrayals of women on television.
It is important for the creators to portray strong and ambitious women, who know of their rights, in the dramas, since it is a medium that is viewed by a large audience, who are easily influenced by those characters. Hence it is a responsibility that can be beneficial for our society if handled well.