Losing our culture and identity, one drama at a time

Published: February 2, 2014
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The appeal of the dramas of yore was such that they were viewed and appreciated not only in Pakistan but also by people abroad. But the media industry of today only seems to be interested in abandoning our cultural and social values.

Gone are the days when families would sit together and watch Pakistani dramas. Instead, today we get to see the ‘not-so-moving’ storylines that seem to be inspired by Indian soaps. What is worse is that our TV channels show things that are in direct contradiction with our cultural and social values.

From pregnancies to abortions, from extra-marital affairs to illegitimate children and elopements, we have been exposed to all kinds and degrees of absurd content in these dramas in the name of modern entertainment. Even respectable relationships are not spared. I have seen countless dramas where a guy falls in love with his niece or his daughter’s friend or a girl starts having an affair with her brother-in-law, and uses all sorts of ploys and unfair means to make him her life-partner. These dramas even show maids being used as objects of physical pleasure and satisfaction by their male employers.

These are only a few examples of all the absurdities that we are being entertained with in the form of dramas like Mera SaaeinMaatKitni Girhen Baqi HainTair-e-LahotiMujko Khuda Pe Yaqeen HaiMaane Na Yeh Dil – the list can go on and on.

Mera Saaein was the story of a traditional feudal lord and politician with insatiable desires of women, power and wealth. Photo: Official Facebook page

One entertainment channel even went to the extent of showing an apparently unmarried couple living under the same roof as husband and wife in Rishtay Kuchh Adhooray Se.

And then of course is the foreign content – Turkish dramas dubbed in Urdu – to entertain the audience. This is an obviously low-cost business strategy adopted by our channels. Our local artists and directors have raised their voice against the airing of foreign content on our TV channels and this is a much needed-step. However, no considerable objection has been raised on the declining quality of our own productions.

Turkish dramas have taken over our entertainment channels. Photo: File

And yet, Juggan Kazim’s op-ed in The Express Tribune brought a flicker of hope amidst this declining trend in the entertainment industry. Her effort is quite commendable as she categorically states her opinion on the matter:

“There is the decaying drama industry that seems to focus mostly on the affairs of married people. The stories are awful and the production values are worse. There is little regard for character development…”

The argument given is always the never-ending race for increasing ratings. However, this doesn’t seem to be a sane or rational argument. After all, even in the PTV era when there were no private channels in our country, we had popular and successful dramas – perhaps more than any drama serial of today – that would have the audience glued to their TV lounges at 8pm every day.

Dramas like TanhaaiyanAlpha Bravo CharlieAanchDashtAroosaDhuwaanSitara aur MehrunnisaMarviDes Pardes and Bandhan are only a few of the famous ones from  that time.

Such was the appeal of these dramas that they were viewed and appreciated not only in Pakistan but also by people abroad. To me, this is sufficient evidence that even whilst staying within our social and cultural norms, we can produce content that is welcomed by a wide variety of audiences.

By following in the footsteps of international media, we are intentionally or unintentionally destroying our own culture and consequently, losing our identity. This obsession with competing with something that does not represent us – as far as our social values and culture is concerned – needs to be addressed on an urgent basis because it has a direct influence on the mindset of our younger generation.

How will we stop our youngsters from doing certain things or behaving in a certain way if that is the behaviour propagated (and hence, justified) by the media?

Mujhe Khuda Pe Yaqeen Hai was the story of how a girl tried to humiliate her fiance with false claims only to marry his US-return brother. Photo: Official Facebook page

The media industry must realise the impact such things can have on our society. All those associated with this industry have a huge responsibility on their shoulders to mend their ways for a better society.

Since the Pandora’s Box is already open, it won’t be easy to fix the problem quickly.

But one of the steps that can be taken immediately by the media is to start having Parental Guidance (PG) ratings for all the shows being aired by our TV channels so that the viewers can at least know which category the program they intend to watch falls under.

Jim Morrison once said,

“Whoever controls the media controls the mind.”

While Allen Ginsberg went a step forward and said,

“Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.”

Hence, people need to understand that it is in their hands whether they allow the media to control their minds, their perceptions and ultimately their culture or not. It is essential for audiences – the grown up category of the masses who are mature enough to differentiate between right and wrong – to let the entertainment industry know what is acceptable and what isn’t.

After all, media content is based on what viewers want to see. So if viewers voice their concerns vehemently enough, if they boycott certain channels or certain programmes the ratings are bound to drop.

Our channels will then have no choice but to abstain from airing content that is so unwelcome by the masses.

Kiran Wali

Kiran Wali

A business graduate working in the corporate sector. She tweets @KiranW_ (twitter.com/KiranW_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nobody

    While I’m no expert on all Pakistani dramas, I’ve seen quite a few of the big names in the past few years and while they may have been too “modern” for some people’s liking, they all had a point and most also had a lesson that followed. Nothing I saw was gratuitous in nature.

    Furthermore, as much as Pakistanis don’t like to admit it, factions of society do engage in “morally questionable” behavior every day and there’s no getting away from that. People are not necessarily influenced by TV. While I’m not condoning or condemning any behavior, I think adults should be left to decide their own morality and instead of putting Pakistani culture into one neat box labeled ‘moral and conservative’, we should accept that Pakistanis are different in nature and culture is evolving, as all cultures do.
    Note: Before somebody attacks me, I’m not condoning vulgarity, just freedom of choice.
    Cheers. Recommend

  • Shail Arora

    Ah… those good old days of Dhoop Kinare and Dr. Zoya Ali Khan, when PTV network was received via that awkwardly large antenna in Amritsar, which had to be adjusted every now and then just because a pigeon sat on it.
    On a different note, totally agree that the content of Indian serials is pretty pathetic. Please save your audience from an onslaught of those mindless plots, while you still can.Recommend

  • W.M. Qadri

    Very good effort by the writer, which sheds light of hope that there are some people outther who condemns the vulgarity being shown in the name of drama and Pakistani culture. These media channels are pursuing agenda of our enemy. In no way they are serving our country or nation or religion. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Where did that come from ?………what’s happening is an evolutionary process, trying to put restrictions on it is certainly not the answer. The answer is to allow it to take its natural course in which the good will survive and the bad will fall by the roadside.Recommend

  • http://mezaajedeen.blogspot.com Tribune Reader

    also will some one explain me why every drama has cousin couples, are they trying to promote incest and inbreeding through cousin marriages, when instead they should be showing biological effects on off springs off cousin marriages like they did in humsafar.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    So true. These dramas only target stay at home bored women gone are the family plays of Tomorrow. A good thing is the Indian drama craze is almost zero and even the Turkish dramas are slowly losing their appeal how ever certain failed channels have become an outlet for Old Turkish and Indian plays that no one even watches. Even worse are hoe two largest channels have launched new channels just for Indian and Turkish dramas. Please make some dramas about young adults there is no one in my age group who watches any shows nowadays it is all about the sad oppressed woman or Bold topics.Recommend

  • Leila Rage

    Dear writer

    These dramas only portray things that ARE actually happening in society. If these dramas dont reflect societal issues, those issues will not vanish, they’ll still be there but people will just be less aware of them Recommend

  • abubakar

    Right on the money ;this article. I mean you’re so right the stuff they show in these wretched and miserable dramas is so not in accordance with the norms prevailing in our society. It’s downright indecent because this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in 95% of pakistani society so it is indeed Indecent and Immodest. They should be airing dramas that depict the true culture of pakistan not this psuedo-indian culture…Recommend

  • Hurt

    Why blame all your ills on India? Why put down India for every small thing that bothers you? Aren’t you a ‘grown up’ nation at 66 years of age? Aren’t you in the 3rd generation after separation from India? Can’t you make up your mind to do what you want to do? Why do you think India keeps influencing you? Do Indian commentators blame Pakistan for every thing wrong in their country (other than Kashmir fueled terrorism)? They have a bunch of Pakistani artists in their movie industry – they do not blame us for influencing their culture. They have a lot of urdu in their dialogues – no complaints or problems there either.

    Poor train of thought. Make the neighbor a scapegoat for whatever ails you. Recommend

  • M.

    Showing pregnancies is in direct contradiction of our cultural and social values?Recommend

  • Parvez

    ET SOMETHING VERY WRONG WITH YOUR BLOG COMMENT SECTION…………..nothing seems to be getting throughRecommend

  • Unknown

    @Leila Rage:
    Don’t try to be sadat hassan manto.
    if you let house fly in the garden full of flowers, it will still find a dirty place to sit. Our media is behaving like it. Media is not portraying good things rather showing only the dirt that might be happening in some corner. Recommend

  • Shail Arora

    @Hurt: C’mon mate, why do we have to get so defensive when being criticized? Wouldn’t you agree that our Indian soaps go a bit overboard with the plots? While it’s one thing that people might be interested in this fantastical overdrive, but let’s call a spade, a spade, and learn to be tolerant.Recommend

  • Kiran

    @Hurt:
    Please dont take it wrong. The intention here is not to put the blame on India at all. The channels are to be blamed for showing the kind of content they do. Only one single aspect mentioned is about Indian soaps, which our drama industry seems to be taking inspiration from to a certain extent. Recommend

  • omair shahid

    couldn’t agree more with the writer i remember our dramas only used to have 12 or 15 episodes but it used to have stories,and good clean entertainment but now our dramas have no stories, full of vulgarity and lasted for forever with 200 to 300 episodes also i remember there used to be a day long drama on our history every special day like 14 august, 9 September i think that the reason why we dont love our country anymore always talk negative.those were the days really missed it.Recommend

  • Stranger

    Please don’t blame India for these problems . We Indians ourselves are fed up of these third rate programs thrown at us every evening on the idiot box.Recommend

  • Sara

    @Stranger:
    India isn’t being blamed. The problem is with our own entertainment industry and their strangely pseudo-modern mindsetRecommend

  • Meher

    Absolutely spot on! The impact these pathetic dramas can have on our society needs to be taken care of. No body seems to be bothering at all!Recommend

  • Lalit

    time is continuously changing.one can't expect arts like Cinema or Television to remain struck in one moment of history forever.what do you think stops today's producers from producing the marvels similar to yesteryears.its ground reality of being rejected by the hip youth.i also like the films and music of 60s and 70s over the present ones which many would rather like to brand as sleaze and cacophony.however my colleagues love the unorthodox style of Honey Singh and Mika Singh.it is safe to declare here that i fail to grasp what they sing more often than not.but i feel its me who have lagged behind in this frantically changing world of Music and movies and if most of the people relate with such music and movie than let them dictate their terms...morality and public service has never been the driving forces behind the forward march of art..it has always been the free will.
    Recommend

  • Khan

    There is nothing wrong if you like one drama over the other. But it is another thing to say that “pregnancies to abortions, from extra-marital affairs to illegitimate children and elopements” are against out “cultural values” and our “identity”. These things are a part of our society and if some writers or storytellers want to highlight some of these things, why is that a problem? Nobody is forcing you to watch.

    And what is so wrong with foreign content? All of us grew up watching hollywood and bollywood, and of course, cartoons, that can be called “foreign content”. Why can’t Turkish or some other country’s soaps or movies be shown in Pakistan? What is so wrong with expanding your worldview and learning and being entertained by non-Pakistani work?

    Today you’re talking about banning foreign dramas to promote domestic dramas. Tomorrow you’ll talk about banning books and newspapers and music and movies not written or created in Pakistan. Why not? They’re also media for learning and entertainment. Where does it end? And why should I raise my voice against one kind of entertainment and not the other? When will you be satisfied at the cost of everyone else’s betterment? Recommend

  • Black

    There is nothing wrong if you like one drama over the other. But it is another thing to say that “pregnancies to abortions, from extra-marital affairs to illegitimate children and elopements” are against out “cultural values” and our “identity”. These things are a part of our society and if some writers or storytellers want to highlight some of these things, why is that a problem? Nobody is forcing you to watch.
    And what is so wrong with foreign content? All of us grew up watching hollywood and bollywood, and of course, cartoons, that can be called “foreign content”. Why can’t Turkish or some other country’s soaps or movies be shown in Pakistan? What is so wrong with expanding your worldview and learning and being entertained by non-Pakistani work?
    Today you’re talking about banning foreign soaps to promote domestic dramas. Tomorrow you’ll talk about banning books and newspapers and music not written or created in Pakistan. Why not? They’re also media for learning and entertainment. Where does it end? When will you be satisfied at the cost of everyone else’s betterment?Recommend

  • Rakib

    @Shail Arora:

    @Hurt who has made perfectly valid points is a Pakistani as this sentence of his indicates(They have a bunch of Pakistani artists in their movie industry – they do not blame us for influencing their culture)Recommend

  • Shail Arora

    @Rakib:
    Perhaps, I was mislead with statements like – “Aren’t you a ‘grown up’ nation at 66 years of age?”
    I just assumed that since he is addressing the populace as “you”, he is an Indian.

    Anyways, it’s been my general observation that we Indians are not good at accepting criticism, no matter how genuine it may be, so, I just wanted to set the record straight.Recommend

  • mehdi

    Jim Morrison was right Recommend

  • Mehr

    @Black:

    “at the cost of everyone else’s betterment”? what are you talking about buddy. I think the point made here is quite clear by the writer i.e. stop ruining your culture. N no nobody can deny the fact that we do get inspired by what we see on our idiot boxes. Limits should not be crossed in the name of entertainment. Plus, Another thing is the family aspect. Today’s programs are in no way suitable to be watched by family members together. Atleast here in Pakistan. The level of boldness is just too high. A source of collective entertainment must not go beyond a certain boundary of decencyRecommend

  • Rakib

    @Shail Arora:
    I agree with you about hypersensitivity of Indians to criticism. To topic: may be forbidden sites on Internet are more damaging! On TV cross-border influences may be there & often discussions take on moralistic tones to find scapegoats. If I were to televise a tale that has Ind-Punjabi characters that are alcoholics or narcotics would it mean I am showing today’s reality or damaging innocence of Pak-Punjab!? If the latter then if I were to make a historical serial on Jahangir’s Lahore days do I show him using opium or not! Masking one’s personal likes/dislikes behind lofty words everybody becomes defender of his own undefined ideas about culture, values & morality. One doesn’t get it that if I were to be a content-consultant it’s not enough if I am clear about what I want, more important is to know what the market wants; may be it wants Honesty. @Talha Rizvi puts it evocatively:(Please make some dramas about young adults there is no one in my age group who watches any shows nowadays it is all about the sad oppressed woman or Bold topics.)Recommend

  • Manish

    From pregnancies to abortions, from extra-marital affairs to illegitimate children and elopements, we have been exposed to all kinds and degrees of absurd content ? Do you live in some kind of fairy tail world where the prince comes riding on a horse looking for his princess? Evidently you seem confused between the content and the way of portraying the content. abortions, illegitimate child etc. wrong as they may be are not absurd but a reality to which we close our eyes everyday. What is absurd is the over dramatisation of the said issues for cheap quality entertainment.This is what is wrong and needs rectification. India has over the years produced numerous scandalous downright boring cheap soaps but we have also had some really good ones such as the Lead India or Satyamev Jayate, One about the child marriage or many inspiring ones or funny ones or ones with great message , why does pakistani TV show producers get inspired by Indian family drama only is what should be questioned as well. they cherry pick the rotten ones and sell it on pakistani television space to thunderous response. There is no denying that a lot of Indian entertainment does not meet optimum quality however a lot of it does. Dhoom-3 or Chennai express gets record breaking response in Pakistan but not many buyers for being cyrus, Khosla ka Ghosla,Aamir,Peepli live,Paan singh. Indian industry like any other offers both good and bad, for starters you choose the bad ones for entertainment, watch it over and over again and then claim how it is destroying your culture. Why the confusion ? Germans or Russians dont cry foul when their kids watch Hollywood movies. Both the drama soaps and condom advertisement raised genuine issues. Both failed to present appropriately. Which one got banned ? Recommend

  • S…

    Today’s dramas having pathetic storylines are not worth-watching with families. True! Nothing creative and interesting…just useless love stories Recommend

  • Black

    @Mehr: the point made by the writer is quite idiotic since she makes her argument through personal opinion and not through empirical or scientific facts. And the writer of this article cannot even recognize that culture is not a static thing. You cannot control or ruin culture. Moreover, you are simply closing your eyes to the empirical fact that there is plenty of diversity of opinion on the subject of foreign content being shown on TV. That is why there is so much demand for these programs. And you should not forget that TV and other forms of entertainment are just luxury goods. Every TV program is not mandatory or compulsory for everyone. Anyone who doesn’t like some tv program is free to switch the channel or do something else. But demanding that there should be a “ban on tv programs I don’t like” is ridiculous. It is ridiculous in the extreme. Recommend

  • IQ

    Sometime back when I along with some other family members came back after attending a wedding, one of the kids of a relative said “what kind of a marriage was this with no ‘pheray’ and no ‘sindoor’?……..” this is the cultural change gifted by our channels to us and that is exactly how we are eventually losing our identity.Recommend

  • Mehr

    @Black:
    I have read Juggun Kazim’s article also the ref of which has been given in the above piece. She also has endorsed the same idea as the writer here did. So I dont see it as a personal opinion of one individual only. Besides, even I have observed in my own social circle also that most of the people are having the same kind of views about today’s dramas. There is something seriously wrong with the current trend of topicsRecommend

  • http://Blogs.tribune.com.pk Aimen Ali

    I agree with with blog and I think the failure is near because every other person sitting at home start writing senseless dramas with no outcome or reason even the directors are illiterate. I’ve seen some shootings myself and I would say there is no professionalism in pakistani industry.people need to learn through education in particular field.Recommend

  • x

    @Parvez:
    Moral of brigade of Pakistan can’t resist following the Maya Khan vigilantism coupled with Rehman Malik blanket approach of ban everything.
    @author, As a fan of Turkish dramas, I dont see my morals decaying or even if they do, that’s my informed decision. People hace access to hollywood and bollyood movies as well. Should those be banned as well?and internet? Quality og pakitani dramas is poor with no wellcrafted characters or strong story line which is what Juggan Kazim said, ‘showing immorality’ and ‘corrupting innocent people living in their bubbles’ was never the problem.
    ET please publish. Don’t know why my comments get needlessly censored.Recommend

  • Umair

    Thats a parenting problem!Recommend

  • Tellerr

    True. Media should reflects public demand. I think if overwhelming majority was to boycott the drivel we are being fed then media runners will simply produce what we want to see. Pakistanis make your mark, say not to rubbish.more blogs that report this are needed. Recommend