The Tone Deafness of Pakistani Dramas

Updated: Jun 17

The Tone Deafness of Pakistani Dramas in Light of the Wave of Violence Against Women

Pakistani dramas get called out on their tone-deafness often, yet we don’t see any effort being made to improve it. Production houses, producers, directors, and actors need to start being more responsible about their work and what they represent. Given the recent wave of violence against women, Pakistani dramas have disappointed us. We often find elements of misogyny in drama serials, However, we usually expect dramas from major production houses and stellar casts to be more sensitive about the circumstances surrounding the majority of their audience, i.e. women.

In particular, I’m talking about two major dramas; Dunk and Laapata. In the first episode of Laapata, we see Geeti, using her social media presence, to falsely accuse a shopkeeper of harassing her. We keep hearing about cases of women who were never believed when they spoke up, and amidst the surge of these cases in the country, we get to see this.

In normal circumstances, I would’ve been okay with it, because people do misuse the power of social media and their followers to exploit others, or to take advantage in various situations. It’s true. However, this narrative is not appropriate when women, who are rightfully accusing their harassers, are not being believed.

When Dunk started to air, there was a lot of debate about how it was wrong to make a drama about a man being falsely accused, but I disagreed. A very small percentage of women do falsely claim to be harassed, and if the makers of the drama want to tell the story of a man whose life was ruined after a false claim of harassment, it’s fine. Although such instances, where a man is wrongfully accused, are rare, creators are well within their rights to tell his story. Drama serial Jhooti, which has now ended, also faced similar backlash. It was about a woman who constantly lied and wrongfully accused her husband of domestic violence. While it is rare for women to do this, I am not against the depiction of different sorts of stories. During that drama, domestic violence, or crimes against women were not glorified.

What’s problematic is the second-last episode of this drama, which was aired on Saturday. Haider, who was wrongly charged with attempt-of-rape by Amal, kidnaps her and takes her to an abandoned area. He continuously threatens to sexually assault her, locks her in a dark room and plays a recording of men making indecent remarks to scare her. And all this is presented as the hero’s way of getting ‘justice’.

Only a couple of weeks ago, a woman was kidnapped, tortured, and beheaded. Women are being killed, sexually violated and assaulted daily. And the last thing we need on our television screens is these heinous acts being shown as acceptable in certain situations. Such crimes can never be acceptable no matter what the circumstances.

The people behind these projects should make an effort to be more responsible. These scenes from both dramas could have been edited out, the episodes could’ve been delayed a week in order for the rage to cool down a bit. Had there been an intention on the part of the drama-makers, something could have been done. Airing these scenes means blatantly being tone-deaf towards what the women of this country have been going through. Women have been so traumatized by the recent events, that even those who haven’t been victims get nightmares of being targeted. And to add salt to the wound, women’s worst nightmares are being played on television screens, as a way of serving justice.

Let’s draw parallels here. In light of George Floyd’s murder by the US police, the hit tv show Brooklyn nine - nine’s creators decided to scrap up the work they’d already done on season 8 and started working on it again, keeping in view the sentiments of the victimized community in their country. This is the example our production houses should be following.

A drama must be made after careful planning as it is completed over several months, during which a lot can happen in a country. The people behind Pakistani dramas should be aware of this and should make changes to the content accordingly because it is their responsibility as humans to not glorify the horrors women are living through daily. It is their responsibility to not be tone-deaf and take the sentiments of their audience, and the crisis the country is going through into consideration, before airing a scene that has to do with a topic that is so sensitive.

Pakistani dramas need to stop exploiting people’s emotions and promoting regressive content as a way of getting TRPs. Creators need to be aware of the fact that whatever is shown on television does have an impact on its audience, therefore depicting and glorifying narratives in which the daily struggle of women is ignored and exploited, is wrong. Pakistani dramas need to do better.

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