Before I dive into this piece, something clear must be accentuated. I’m referencing dramas in recent times and I mean no disrespect to any female – this is an opinion piece solely based on my own personal struggles when watching our dramas. If you know me well enough, I’m head over heels in love with them; their storylines breathe a harsh reality that helm our society – and more often than not these didactic shows embrace the brutal truth of a rather bleak world we live in. Yet it recently occurred to me that I, on a personal level can hardly relate to the female protagonists at most; and on the few occasions I do find myself morphing into them, the plotline of the drama suddenly veers away.
Discussions of a career within dramas have always been touched upon, but almost every drama tenaciously indicates that once you’re married, you’re not expected to work; as long as the girl gets good ‘rishta,’ then it’s ample.
For instance, in ‘Dil Lagi,’ Anmol struck me as a strong, doggedly sturdy woman who was also the man of the house. But then when she eventually fell in love, she became compounded to her new home – and that was it. There are rare cases of hard-working women, for example, Sajal Aly’s character as Dr. Zubia in acclaimed drama ‘Yakeen Ka Safar.’ She made herself to the top and became a successful doctor working in Northern Pakistan. Another case was Kashaf from ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai,’ who was determined to pursue a career despite her traditional mother pressurizing her into getting married. These cases, for me, are just anomalies, and still both characters were relatable to a certain extent – yes they showed charisma and valiance despite what they went through, but there was a constant demand of empathy from a viewer for them; as if they couldn’t be fully independent, which leads me to my next point.
I don’t wear shalwar kameez. I know our dramas cater to the masses, but for a girl who’s lived her life mostly abroad, wearing them doesn’t come naturally to me.
The idea of morality in Pakistan, especially in dramas is very narrow, and is fractured into two parts; if you wear a shalwar kameez, then you’re already ticked off the list as the ‘ideal Pakistani girl.’ Wearing more western clothes that might show a little skin is, well not close to anything ‘moral’ in our society. Unfortunately, dramas correlate what a girl wears with her didactic compass; what your heart holds means nothing. Traditions are rigid in drama families, and I’ve seen countless scenes where a girl cannot even walk down the street without a dupatta in fear of being assaulted. While this might stem from reality, it accentuates a fear with our female audiences who begin to undermine themselves and lose any trace of confidence they might hold; at least that’s what happened with me. Watching these dramas I felt like I couldn’t even leave the house without a barricade of questions. ‘Cheekh’ is a fantastic example with Saba Qamar’s character being unafraid and bold (similarly her roles in ‘Baaghi’ and ‘Besharam’ have helped mold a different niche for the future of our television).
I’ve spent most of my life intermingling with both girls and boys – and while it’s starting to normalize in our dramas, there still Tis that hushed, thrumming voice at the back of every drama that talking to a boy is an actual sin.
Take ‘Suno Chanda,’ for example. Throughout the show, even when Jia and Arsal were set to be engaged, they weren’t allowed to interact – which made absolutely no sense to me. Jia wanted to pursue her studies, and it gave me such relief to know that Arsal supported her. Yet, another exception in a drowning ship of dramas where female liberation is discouraged. I want to see girls more rebellious, and if they’re going against their parents, I personally don’t think its wrong; if you want to go see a boy – GO SEE HIM. And while we’re on the topic of intermingling, I barely see any parties or ‘social gatherings’ taken positively in dramas. ‘Sang-e-Mar Mar’ depicted a very rigid Pashtun household, and it saddened me that this actuality exists – the girls are bound to their husbands, and while the visual medium is a tool for showing the truth, it can also initiate change – and maybe even miraculously manifest an epiphany.
Our dramas associate social gatherings with actual sin; you’re going to burn in hell because these parties clearly gather all of society’s most evil human specimens together.
Pakistan has been built on the notion of not seperating religion with state (something I won’t get into); and while sex, drugs and rock and roll will never be touched upon in our dramas, the idea that if a girl smokes or drinks must mean that she is a slut with zero self-respect, is going down a dizzying downfall and will never get married. Things like these should NOT define who you are; as I said – it’s all about your heart. If you have a good heart hunni, then the world is your oyster – and it’s this exact comportment that I am pining for in our dramas.
I do appreciate how our dramas are trying their best, unfailingly to yank out societal taboos, but our female characters are just clones, minus the odd few.
I want to see more dramas for girls like me; girls who have values, have morals but still have a little leeway to live life the way they want. Yes, I intermingle freely with the opposite sex; yes sometimes I fight with my parents if I don’t think they’re right and yes I am rebelli0us – but that doesn’t mean my demeanor is projecting anything negative; I’m just evolving along with life, and while I love our dramas – I hope we gradually see more women in progessive, dominating roles where they have fun and wear what they want without being judged, where they aren’t coddled to the point of suffocation, and where they can do whatever the FUCK THEY WANT. Yes, I grew up abroad, but having moved back I have noticed a burgeoning group of girls and boys who just don’t fit the stereotypical characters we see on our televisions; and I’m a little sick of it to be very honest. ‘Enaaya’ tried, and failed to do just that, so I’m relying on Hum Television, ARY Digital, and even GEO to pull up their socks and take this initiative – even though PEMRA won’t make things easy, we have to at least try.
Times are changing, and we must plow along with it too.