WKND Special: Why Pakistani dramas turned to comedy
The shows raked in millions of views and overtook many regular shows appearing weekly.
Television dramas from Pakistan are known to be sob-fests thriving on the miseries of the middle-class woman, who is either trying to marry the right guy or running away from being married to the wrong guy. Networks have been experimenting with horror and short comedies, but haven’t quite tasted as much success.
This Ramadan, that story changed, with not just one but three romantic comedies winning acclaim. HUM TV presented Chupke Chupke and Taana Baana while Geo Network produced Ishq Jalebi. The shows raked in millions of views and overtook many regular shows appearing weekly. As the pandemic reared its ugly head, what could be there to lift spirits and help world heal a bit? Laughter. And in some good doses. This is exactly where TV came to the rescue.
Danish Nawaz, director of Chupke Chupke, weighs in on the success of his show. “The whole world is undergoing stress and depression. People need laughter now. They de-stress when they watch this. I got this script before Covid hit. And when I read it, I felt really good and knew it would be a hit with the masses.” Sultana Siddiqui, the founder of HUM TV, emphasises that the network wants to create stories that can be watched with the entire family, hence the emphasis on humour.
Chupke Chupke stars Ayeza Khan, Osman Khalid Butt, Arsalan Naseer, Aymen Saleem, Asma Abbas and Uzma Beg, among others. The series tells the story of a mad-cap family which has star-crossed lovers trying to find love in the funniest way possible. It became popular in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, with various fan pages sprouting up on social media to celebrate and enjoy the show’s witty one-liners and comic moments. An Indian fan named Sneha, even commented saying, “Thank you Chupke Chupke for giving us happiness in this difficult time.” Dubai-based blogger Nida Siddiq says she loved that everyone looks out for each other and how natural the Dadi’s (grandmother) acting is.
The writer of the show, Saima Akram Chaudhary, says she thought of the characters first when shaping the narrative. “If the characters are strong enough, the story takes shape automatically.”
Taana Baana revolves around a young man (Danyal Zafar), who loves his wife (Alizeh Shah) very much, but is tired of living in a joint family system. The story, with its gentle comedy and sensitive understanding of the family system in Pakistan, debunks societal stereotypes — forte of director Saifee Hasan.
Sultana Siddiqui says if she loved Taana Baana, it is because “you see a young couple’s journey and how a family comes together despite the regular conflicts”.
Ishq Jalebi is the story of a family that has left its patriarch in search of greener pastures in the West. Saima Akram Chaudhry says she had written the show as a tribute to her father-in-law. The show examines various issues, including Covid-19 and leaving the elderly behind at a time when you need them the most. “I wanted to write a show that had a strong message. I wanted to give out this message in a light-hearted way,” she says.
Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi, the duo behind Seventh Sky Entertainment that produced Ishq Jalebi for Geo TV, state that they always “strive to provide quality entertainment that instills family values and light humour that you see in Ishq Jalebi is just one such format”.
Why does one not get to see these series all year round? “That’s what I want to know too,” says Saifee. “I want to see more comedy on our screens. There should be content for kids as all.” Saima Akram echoes this view. “All TV shows should air light content all year. Audiences are tired of seeing the weeping damsel in distress. I’ve written two shows already which are also light in nature and you’ll see them on Hum TV soon.” Sultana Siddiqui says that we see a “trend of funny romcoms sitcom styled shows all over the world like Friends etc. And we should have them too”.
Abdullah Kadwani and Asad Qureshi say that their shows Romeo Weds Heer and Shahrukh Ki Saaliyaan were both rom-coms that aired in a once a week format during the year. However, they learnt that “such shows seem to have a better audience during Ramadan when people are free post-iftar and looking to watch some lighthearted television, vis a vis rest of the year”.
Danish Nawaz has the last word when he says comedy is important. Then why don’t we see more of it? “It’s difficult subject; it’s difficult to make people laugh.”
With inputs from Hasan Kazmi