Let’s just all agree here that the only way ‘Rasode Mein Kon Tha?’ became bearable (and secretly even a little addictive) was when it turned into a ‘musical’ on social media. Right? Aren’t we all just otherwise done with the such Indian serials been overly dramatic. I mean sure there is supposed to be drama in the dramas but who sleeps in a kilogram of jewellery around their neck and wakes up with perfectly intact makeup?
I am sorry if you are a big fan of Indian daily soaps, please don’t go “NHI,NHI, NHI” on me. Well, I don’t like comparing India and Pakistan for anything, not even cricket. Really, I mean it. But if I could hear to just one more song before I die, I am sure it’s going to be from Coke Studio. Coke Studio India or Pakistan you ask. Pakistan, of course. (If you are visualising Atif Aslam singing Tajdar-e-Haram right now, I like you already)
It’s the same love for the talent that lives on the other side of the border that made me explore Pakistani Drama and I must say I have found more reality in their serials than
I do in most reality shows.
Apart from the strong storylines, highlighting of social issues, and realistic costumes, hair, and makeup, what I really like about Pakistani Dramas is their representation of women.
Sure, there are still some problematic tits and bits that can be addressed, but leaving that for some other day, here I list some progressive Pakistani drams with strong women leads that I absolutely love:
Well, this is the first ever Pakistani drama that I watched and I must admit it was mostly because it stars Fawad Khan as the male protagonist- Zaroon. But just a few episodes into the serial, my crush shifted to the amazing female protagonist- Kashaf (played by Sanam Saeed). She is a strong-headed girl from a lower middle-class family who pays utmost importance to education, career, and self-independence and doesn’t care about the consequences of speaking her mind. With subtle romance here and there, Kashaf expresses most of her love, insecurities, and introspective thoughts through her diary entries that she doesn’t share with anyone. The drama though under the category of ‘romance’ highlights the social issues of gender inequality and class discrimination while making our watch ‘gulzar’ with the amazing take of Kashaf on all these issues.
The story of Jackson Heights revolves around a few Pakistani immigrants who are trying, struggling, and managing (yes, all the same time) to build a life in New York. Though Bhatti saab (played by Noman Ejaz) is too adorable for you to not be in complete aww of, two female characters stand out in this drama- Salma (played by Aamina Sheikh) and Michelle (played by Marina Khan). While Salma, as a sole bread-earner of her house, works very hard at a beauty parlour, Michelle is a successful and slightly intimidating businesswoman who doesn’t feel the need to have a man in her life. Salma talks about using her jewellery for her step-daughter’s education (and not wedding that we so get to hear about) and also [SPOILER ALERT] divorcing her husband to follow her heart without worrying about the ‘log kya kahenge?’. At the other end, we see Michelle refusing her bestfriend’s proposal to marry him for she doesn’t want to confine to anything other than friendship with him and is unapologetic about her decision. On a whole, it’s refreshing to see such women on screen who play a part of what we are and want to be.
I know, this is possibly the most popular Pakistani Drama of recent times and I know it will stand a better chance in a ‘Family Dramas’ list than here. But, hear me out! As any usual family comedy drama, Suno Chanda has all the complications, hilarious twists and turns, and dialogues that we just won’t forget. But how often in desi dramas do we see an old widow woman being the head of the family in the truest sense or a mother-in-law supporting her daughter-in-law to a level that she points finger at her own son’s mistakes or a young woman talking about her career goals more than anything else? Not quite often, I would say. Suno Chanda through it’s 2 seasons captures these women of 3 generations through Mumtaz Begum (Bi Jaan), Shanana’s mother-in-law (played by Samina Ahmad) Shahana, Jiya’s mother-in-law (played by Nadia Afgan), and Jiya (played by Iqra Aziz). What I most like about Suno Chanda is that it doesn’t put in a conscious attempt to make a point, but through all the giggles and smiles that it brings about, it also does a fine job in presenting strong female characters.
One of the top-rated Pakistani dramas on IMDb (9/10), Ranjha Ranjha Kardi is a show tied with a strong storyline, amazing cast, and very credible depiction of its characters. Though born in a very poor family who survives by picking garbage from streets, Noori (played by the very talented Iqra Aziz) refuses to become a victim of her fate. She not just desires to study and earn money through a respectable job but is also willing to go do any lengths to make it possible except taking favours from anyone. A fierce woman who can tackle any situation on her own, takes things in her hands at a tender age and leaves her ‘house’ to build a life of her own. She carries the courage to love and show her intention of marrying a man of her choice but also to move on when she discovers his mean intentions and lies. Throughout the drama, she fights her own wars and deals with both wins and failures in the best of the spirits.
All this sounds interesting but don’t want to indulge in a series right now? Don’t worry! Even I wanted to end the list with something sweet and so my final recommendation is a Pakistani movie- Cake.
The first ever Pakistani film to be premiered at Leicester Square in London, Cake is a drama comedy film directed by Asim Abbasi. The main essence of the story lies on the strongly-inked female protagonists – Zareen (played by Aamina Sheikh) and Zara (played by Sanam Saeed). The two sisters are seen taking independent decisions about their personal relationships and family when they are put together with their elder brother to take care of their ailing parents. Sure, we do see some amazing women characters on screen but too often their liberal and unapologetic behaviour is seen as a brave move or a strong act but this movie doesn’t make that mistake. It captures the two sisters being expressive about their desires, carrying an occasional excessive anger, and unapologetically following their hearts. Lastly, the real icing on the cake is their mother (played by Beo Zafar) who is full of life, a little loud, ‘just slightly’ self-obsessed, and extremely adorable.
I know, if you religiously follow Pakistani dramas, I have disappointed you by not including names that you were so expecting in this list and I do apologise for it. Now be the nice person that you are and mention those names in the comments below and make the list bigger and fuller.