Panellists debate standards of TV dramas
KARACHI: TV dramas are now giving competition to talk shows. It is a huge achievement that despite a plethora of channels the public can still recall names of actors and dramas. There is no diversity in drama serials. These days, dramas focus on women’s never-ending sob act.
These polarising views were expressed at a session titled ‘Drama and the Small Screen’ on Sunday, the final day of the fifth Karachi Literature Festival. Moderated by TV director Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, the panel had two channel owners Sultana Siddiqui and Seema Taher Khan who favoured an optimistic overview of TV dramas, scriptwriters Hasina Moin, Attiya Dawood and actor Shakeel preferred bemoaning the declining standards of the small screen.
“When I was given a charge of running an entertainment channel I strongly felt that television is one of the most potent forms of communication that can change mindsets. Having said that we however need to get out of this tag of family channel and enlarge our scope,” said Seema Tahir. She added that three elements strongly affected the content of TV dramas: advertising, viewers and ratings. Responding to a question by Sarmad that despite her advertising background her channel focused on period dramas such as Umrao Jaan and Husnara and stories with strong women characters, she replied: “I have always thought that TV is about empowerment, enlightenment and then entertainment. Hence we produce stories derived from our rich body of literature. I think our dramas are so good that they have given competition to news channels and talk shows.”
On the other hand Hasina Moin was scathing in her criticism and said that for 40 years she had shown women taking charge of their lives and now all she saw on every entertainment channel was a woman sobbing and getting beaten up. “I have been actually told by a channel that showing copious tears increases the ratings of their plays.”
Sultana Siddiqui felt that the situation was not so dire since her channel continued to produce meaningful plays and serials such as Kankar and Subah ka Sitara which were quite popular. “In some quarters there may have been low-quality plays on my channel but overall we are doing quite well. If in this saturated environment of more than 80 channels people can still remember actors’ names and their plays, I think it is a huge achievement.” She also told the jam-packed hall that the hugely successful drama Humsafar, broadcast by her channel had been dubbed in Arabic and was being shown on MBC.
Veteran actor Shakeel was in a nostalgic mood speaking more about PTV golden days and its powerful influence. “PTV dramas were even popular in those foreign countries where Urdu was spoken and understood. I remember that I was flying to the US and during a stopover in a Gulf country, a couple of people came up to me and said that I need to do more of plays like Labbaik Labbaik by Ashfaq Ahmed. And I thought to myself that it had such a dull story and I was surprised that they had liked the play. Then they people explained to me that our plays were a means for them to educate their children on Pakistani culture.”
Atiya Dawood regaled the audience with her observations of the current situation of scriptwriting. “A TV channel once called me in to discuss a drama about rape. I was told that the girl was raped by her brother-in-law and she would accept this injustice quietly and with patience as God would get justice for her. When I asked them how that would happen, the content team said that the daughter of the brother-in-law would get raped.”
She was also critical of the situation when central women characters were not shown taking charge of their lives once their husbands died or were thrown out of their homes. “At least back in the days of old Pakistani films the widowed mother would sit at home and sew clothes and she would support her children.”