To Ban or Not to Ban – A Tale of Pemra & Pakistani Dramas

Fatima Humayun shares her thoughts on the recent happenings.

Pakistani dramas were once famous for their unique, indigenous, and original content in which drama makers used to depict the actual nuances of Pakistani life, unlike our Indian counterparts, which fell way to why an empty cooker was put on the stove.

Somewhere down the line though, our own drama content became seriously flawed as well. One of the worst offenses of the past decade of programming has been to portray Pakistani women as either damsels in distress or wicked females who only want to destroy someone’s happy life.

While this certainly isn’t something new but recently the bar has been lowered even more, if you can believe it. It’s as if we cannot escape the curse of the evil saas, man hungry ‘bad girl’ or desperately vile nand or indeed, the filthy rich woman who wants to steal another woman’s husband.

Pemra recently took a decision to ban a few Pakistani dramas on the basis of their scripts violating our social and moral values. The dramas are ‘Ishqiya’ and ‘Pyaar Kay Sadkay’ which are banned for the repeat telecast whereas the drama serial ‘Jalan’ has been discontinued. Even though the courts have since overturned this notice, we can’t help but consider the wider implications.

While banning something is never the answer, surely our producers, writers and directors ought to wake up and smell the 2020. We are no longer living in an era where you can shove any subpar work down the viewers’ throats, and they will accept it. We live in a digital age where content, and a plethora of content is available on people’s fingertips.

Let’s face it. So many of us are sick and tired of watching the hackneyed storylines  where these dramas revolve around a ‘good’ woman and a ‘bad’ woman in which the good one is a bechari gareeb larki with a heart of gold who has suffered all kinds of miseries in her life so she winds up winning Prince Charming’s heart, and everybody is glad that she is getting her happily ever after. The bad one is awful on the grounds that she, in her scheming approaches to prevail upon him, will destroy his life because he picks the good one and, the bad one will be doomed. She is abhorred for being in love with the same man since she clearly, doesn’t show the capacity to adore another individual as wholly as the ‘good woman.’

What’s more is that the bad one has a cutting edge attitude and dresses likewise while the good one is religious and is never without a dupatta, this attitude has made us judgmental about other’s characters dependent on their appearance. I have run over numerous dupatta-wearing young ladies, giving hesitant filled gazes to those ladies who don’t wear a dupatta. Don’t tell me our cultural and societal narratives aren’t shaped by our fictional content.

And I’m not arguing that the dramas are the sole reason for the judgmental aunties giving nasty side eyes to the non-dupatta clad girls. But to deny that they play a role is willful ignorance.

By such lousy scripts, we are ingraining young girl’s minds from which their expectations and reliance on men increases and their confidence goes down. We are ignoring the growing reality of a large number of today’s men who also want someone with an independent, confident personality rather such meek characters.

Are these the norms yet? Maybe not. But by not even attempting to break stereotypes, all we are doing is perpetuating them.

Where are the stories of the female breadwinners of their families working side by side men, entrepreneurs, some are pioneers in their businesses, strong-willed women who are fierce and talented who don’t need to be dependent on men to fulfill their dreams – these women should also be represented. There can be stories written about their lives, where even romance can play its part, but the stories can be so much more. For there is so much more to the Pakistani woman than just her obsession with love and family.

Pakistani dramas have a vast fan following abroad and we believe local content plays an important role in feeding the mindset of the viewers. If the media industry won’t produce powerful and strong characters, then we are not sure who will!