There was a time when Pakistani TV dramas had the power to desert the streets. This was the time when we only had PTV and the entire nation watched that much awaited prime time drama. The dramas of that era were generally focused on everyday problems of regular people. The reason they were so popular was that most people could relate to their characters. The dramas at that time had subtlety and the characters were multi-dimensional especially females.
Female characters, however, with time have become increasingly stereotypical. Most of them now have storylines that revolve around a male character. They are shown as meek, emotional, or submissive. Then came a time when the Pakistani drama got influenced by Indian soap culture. Female characters in that era were put into a mold of a new stereotype that women are vengeful, jealous creatures. This era was a low point in the history of Pakistani TV drama. After a long spell of similar disappointing stories, some female characters are finally getting out of their stereotypical shells.
Here are five TV shows that are breaking female stereotypes.
Baaghi finished just a little while ago with its anticipated tragic end. The show was based on the life of Qandeel Baluch-the controversial social media sensation of Pakistan. The thing that stood out the most in this show was the strength the main character exhibited. The show breaks the female stereotype of living like a helpless victim, impactfully. Not only does the character manage to escape her abusive husband but also never lets anyone else abuse her again. The drama is also an important commentary on honor killings. The idea that society’s honor is tied to the female body is problematic as it seemingly justifies man-made punishments. Baaghi questions this notion by asking the important question of what gives a man the right to kill another. Especially in a society that believes God to be the final judge for all.
2. Mujhay Jeenay do
‘Mujhay Jeenay Do’ has not one but multiple strong female characters. Even though the characters are not very educated in it, they are still the epitome of courage. The show is set in a village and highlights the issues of child marriage and ‘panchayat’ (village council). The character played by Mehreen Raheel nulls out the female stereotype that women are always jealous and out to get revenge on other women. The character goes through a whole journey through the entire series. In the end, the character is even ready to give her life for her husband’s second wife. The character has amazing strength and is one of a kind. The character of the female village doctor, played by Nadia Jamil is also crucial. Her presence shows that educated women can rally for other women and fight for their rights.
3. Akhri station
‘Akhri Station’ is a project by Kashf Foundation– Pakistan’s first specialized microfinance institution. It follows the stories of seven women. There are two things common among them. One, they are all victims of gender-related abuse, both physical and mental. And, second, they all have been shown to take a stand to change their situations. Akhri Station highlights a range of problems faced by Pakistani women. Whether it is escaping from an abusive husband or a cultural setup that feels burdened by unmarried women, this show highlights it all. It is a slap in the face of the female stereotype that women can only cry and never do something real about their problems. All of the characters in this show are nowhere near the typical depressed and victimized women we see in most dramas. Despite the worse, they have hope and that is the true representation of a Pakistani woman’s strength.
Currently on air, this show is another one with inspiring female characters. The character played by Amina Sheikh, named Ayra is the opposite of the ‘perfect bahu’ stereotype. She is a strong woman with career aspirations and is not ready to sacrifice them just because her in-laws’ insist she does so. This character has the capacity to be a role model for hundreds of women in Pakistan who are struggling with the same problem. It highlights the right to choose, which is a right Pakistani women have to fight hard to exercise.
5. Yaqeen ka Safar
The show finished a couple of months back but had a profound effect on its audience. The female lead character ‘Zubia’ is the most accurate reflection of the fact that one’s life does not have to be destroyed due to some bad incidents. She escapes from an abusive household and is betrayed by a man who tries to take advantage of her situation. She still finds the courage to live and finally move on. This character is the epitome of strength. It shatters the stereotype that a woman should just give up on the hope of a better life because she has had some socially frowned upon experiences. With the right determination, a woman can make herself financially and emotionally free from the shackles of a society that puts restraints on her as it sees fit.
These are just five examples of dramas that highlight a fresh perspective on the Pakistani woman. Yes, the ‘victimized female’ is a selling point in the television industry. But it does not reflect the realities of the dynamic Pakistani woman. Things are slowly but surely changing and television should promote more progressive female characters. Our drama industry has a huge audience, which gives it a unique advantage to be the harbinger of social change. And while the industry does its part, we must play our part as the audience as well. Let’s collectively vow to be more critical of the content we consume and perpetuate subconsciously.