Softpower: Pakistan's popular TV soaps
Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed in Zindagi Gulzar Hai
Thanks to its creative and independent artists, Pakistan's entertainment industryis flourishing
Pakistan is a land of unlimited talent and rich artistic tradition. While it is true that the country's film industry had a supine growth curve, the reasons for that have been more cultural than creative. Over the years, Pakistan's TV serials have won plaudits for their sheer sophistication and humanness, while cinema has now started coming of age. With a refreshing crop of scriptwriters and a flourishing industry that boasts of creative and independent artists, the entertainment industry in the country is growing leaps and bounds.
During the last few months films like Ho Mann Jahan have captured popular imagination. Starring Mahira Khan, Adeel Hussain and Sheheryar Munawar, the movie follows the lives of three friends from college with different social backgrounds, but aspiring towards the same shared goal of becoming musicians. Directed by Asim Raza, it features songs by Atif Aslam, Tina Sani and Zeb Bangash.
Another much-awaited film during 2016 was Khwaab: Aik Haqeeqat, a horror-thriller. Written by Khurram Nizami, the movie stars Maria Khan in lead as Roshni alongside Aamir Qureshi as Anas, as well as Khalid Nizami as Khuda Baksh. Marketed as a fantasy-based horror film, Khwaab: Aik Haqeeqat is expected to do well. The last major horror film in Pakistan, Siyaah, won the 'Best Screenplay' at the ARY Awards.
As far as adventure comedies go, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani was an excellent film. Directed by Nadeem Beyg and co-produced by Humayun Saeed, Salman Iqbal, Shahzad Nasib and Jarjees Seja, the movie stars Humayun Saeed, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Ahmad Ali Butt, and Vasay Chaudhry. Jawani Phir Nahi Ani received the biggest opening of all time in Pakistan and became a runaway hit at the box office both in Pakistan and overseas.
Among romantic genre films, Bachaana, starring Mohib Mirza and Sanam Saeed came out tops. The thriller, with themes of doubt, narcotics, driving in the fast lane, secrets and romance, was directed by Nasir Khan and produced by Rizwan Saeed. The film's hit song Yaari by Shafqat Amanat Ali was an icing on the cake.
Pakistani TV serials, on the other hand, continue to draw masses not only in the country but overseas too. The unique selling point of the shows is their strong story line. Be it the mega hit Zindagi Gulzar Hai or the drama series Aunn Zara, Pakistani TV soaps deal with real issues in a very realistic manner. These serials are about ordinary people, everyday situations, and how they cope with it. The content is both genuine and gripping.
A majority of Pakistani dramas on TV follow a tight and meaningful script. Extremely well-written - Aunn Zara, for instance, penned by the very talented Faiza Iftikhar while Umera Ahmed, an award-winning novelist, wrote Zindagi Gulzar Hai - these soaps culminate in a few months. If good TV is about brevity, Pakistani TV serials exemplify the tradition.
Pakistan has a history of making meaningful TV series. Dhoop Kinare, Tanhaiyaan and Ankahi were pioneers in nuanced, intelligent dramas, much before the fad of TV serials hit the neighbouring India - a territory that is now consuming Pakistani TV content in large numbers. Those early dramas, much like their modern versions, won legions of fans for its creative storylines and prolific scripts.
While the country may be - in parts at least - in the throes of conservatism, the vibrancy of Pakistan's TV has been a ray of hope. Whether it is highlighting issues around gender or depicting women's liberation, dramas like Mere Qatil Mere Dildar and Aunn Zara have led from the front. Audiences have been regaled with memorable performances by characters like Kashaf from Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Zara from Aunn Zara, Maham from Mere Qatil Mere Dildar, and several others.
The popularity of actors such as Fawad Khan, Sanam Saeed, Maya Ali, Fatima Effendi, Sanam Baloch and Osman Khalid Butt has transcended Pakistan. With audiences in the UAE and other countries equally gripped by the quality and content of their performances, it would be fair to assume that whenever clichés are avoided, creativity shines through.
A number of reasons work for the massive following of Pakistani TV serials. From Maat to Noorpur Ki Rani - small screen has witnessed mostly believable dramas that are even-paced and have a clear flow. Emotions, situations and the arc of narration proceed logically, towards a definite resolution within 20 to 25 episodes. Most serials are easy-to-understand and use conversational Urdu, significantly broadening its viewership. Pakistani entertainment at its current peak, have a tendency to lend a soft power status to the country. As one of finest cultural imports of Pakistan, efforts must be made to promote such creativity and talent.