A few years ago, the Pakistani entertainment industry took a bold step with the introduction of the show ‘Udaari’. The show openly talked about child abuse and rape and depicted the torturous journey to getting justice. The show was critically acclaimed, and the cast and production team was applauded for taking on such a bold theme. The aim of the show was to increase awareness around child abuse and to also empower women and children to stand up against such men.
The show opened an avenue in the entertainment world, these topics were now open to discussion and clearly, people did respond to such programs.
However, my question today, and for a while, is that other than just making dramas, are we truly making a difference through the entertainment world? Are the effects of such shows just limited to the time period during which they are aired or are there truly long-lasting effects?
One rather easy way to measure the effect of a show like ‘Udaari’ is to look at Google search trends around the time it was released to date.
The interest around the show is at its peak around the time it was aired, but interest (naturally) falls, and remains down, after the show. I also look up terms like ‘Child Abuse’ and ‘Rape’, a similar pattern is visible here. These terms have high search volumes at the time of ‘Udaari’ however throughout the rest of the time period, it falls. The search volume, however, does increase around the time of Zainab’s murder, and trends up again today, when her murdered has been hung. The reason this metric can be used is that shows how people are interacting with this topic on the internet, which is the new way people interact with each other and topics of interest nowadays.
Now while ‘Udaari’ was the first of its kind in Pakistan, it gave room for others to go on the same path.
This shines a light on a behavior that is very prevalent in the Pakistani drama world; the art of just churning out a certain drama format, just because they work. We saw it with ‘Humsafar’ and the increasing number of such dramas, and now we saw it with dramas on child abuse.
Recently we saw ‘Meri Guriya’ air on TV, which was IMMEDIATELY followed by a show called ‘Haiwan’.
Now it’s GREAT to have these shows air, however, other than simply raising awareness, what else are these shows doing, and what else can they do? Clearly, with ‘Udaari’, there was a lot of interest and a lot of online discussions that were happening online WHILE it aired, but what about after. The show was unable to sustain a healthy discourse after it ended, which is a pattern that is visible with every show done on this topic. More and more shows are being made on the topic, however, they are decreasing in their ability to sustain a public discussion and discourse.
I also feel there is an issue with presenting these topics in a drama format because the topics become dramatized and exaggerated. The way, we as Pakistanis, watch dramas is very much based on characters and how they’re built. In the case of ‘Meri Guriya’, the storyline was strong but everyone was attracted to the characterization rather than the storyline itself, therefore the cause was lost upon a lot of people. This weak association between the audience and the cause makes people forget the actual case altogether. These cases are not decreasing, these crimes are not stopping. There are multiple ways to take a stand and the media and entertainment industry is the strongest way to make that change, but the question now is, are we doing enough and are we making the most change possible?
What are your thoughts on it?