Dramas in Pakistan in 2023:

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A mishmash of roughness, subtlety, and spunk. The palette is undoubtedly more varied today than it was a few years ago.

As 2023 draws to a close, it is easy to conclude that the drama landscape in Pakistan saw some change. We are no longer forced to endure one-dimensional narrative of the villainous saas bechari bahu sort, and there is undoubtedly a wider range of options than in previous years. The majority of stories still center on the khandaan, though, and there hasn’t been much experimentation with other genres like thrillers, murder mysteries, horror, etc., or with themes that don’t largely revolve around family dynamics.

The new drama channel Green Entertainment, which is pushing the envelope in terms of both form and substance, has been a welcome addition to the mix. Limited series have also been tried by channels like Express TV and ARY Digital, with some really surprising outcomes.

Overall, 2023 has been a mixed bag, with several tragedies taking center stage in discussions for both positive and negative reasons. Let’s just examine a handful of them.

Kuch Ankahi

To suggest that Kuch Ankahi was maybe this year’s biggest critical hit would not be an exaggeration. The play is novel in its approach to the subject, even if the plot—which revolves around relatives vying for a guy who has exclusively female children—is straightforward and rather conventional.

The drama has a light overall tone, but it succeeds in making its point—that daughters are sufficient and deserving—through nuance. Fans of the famous Pakistani dramas of the 1980s may recognize elements of Tanhaiyaan and Ankahi in Sajal Aly, Mira Sethi, Mohammad Ahmed, Irsa Ghazal, Vaneeza Ahmed, and Qudsia Ali’s portrayals of their respective roles.

The play is very delightful, with outstanding performances along with a poignant message. Kuch Ankahi is the drama I would watch if I could only watch one this year.

Sar-e-Rah

The narrative of Rania, a young lady who starts driving her father’s taxi after he gets sick, is told in this miniseries. This is a fascinating storytelling piece where the audience gets to know not just Rania but also four other people who rode in her taxi at various moments over the series.

Sar-e-Rah deftly addresses subjects like infertility, gender identity, and women’s empowerment—topics that our culture typically finds difficult to discuss.

Nobody could have portrayed Rania more well than Saba Qamar. Excellent performances also come from Sunita Marshall, Saboor Aly, Muneeb Butt, and Hareem Farooq in their respective parts.

In terms of novelty, Sar-e-Rah performed well both in terms of the subjects it covered and the narrative technique it used. Please have a look so you won’t be disappointed.

Gunah

Gunah is a superb mystery drama that spans just six episodes and will astound you by the time you reach the climax. A woman named Gul Noor (Juggun Kazim) goes missing at the beginning of the play. Her sister Gul Meher (Saba Qamar) is not lending a helpful hand, and her husband Malik Hayat Khan (Sarmad Khoosat) is furious.

Arriving now is SHO Sabiha (Rabia Butt), who proves to be a formidable opponent and eventually solves the mystery of Noor’s abduction. Gunah addresses a very delicate subject, running the danger of giving away the plot to people who haven’t seen it. Gunah is still a fun movie to see, despite some overly dramatic moments in the performance.

Even with six episodes, the drama keeps a reasonable pace and doesn’t go longer than is necessary for effective and satisfying narrative. You could easily watch it all in one sitting over the weekend if you haven’t already.

Kabli Pulao

When Kabli Pulao debuted on Green Entertainment, it garnered a ton of praise for both the drama and the network, leaving viewers to wonder what else may be on the then-newish channel.

Through the story of Haji Mushtaq (played by Muhammad Ehteshamuddin) and Barbeena, an Afghan refugee widow (Sabeena Farooq), including their marriage and the development of their relationship, Kabli Pulao examines the difficulties encountered by individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds when attempting to form relationships.

Ehteshamuddin’s portrayal of Haji Mushtaq bravely explores an uncommon love tale, brilliantly capturing the character’s complexity. The drama’s dedication to illuminating the challenges faced by refugees is a welcome diversion from popular narrative.

One looks forward to every episode because of Farooq’s skill as an actor in the Barbeena character. One of the finest stories of 2023, Kabli Pulao has a lot to offer and is a flawless combination of a captivating plot and superb acting.

Mayi Ri

Mayi Ri, starring Aina Asif and Samar Abbas Jafri, started off as a warning story that illustrated the suffering that child marriage victims go through. The drama does, if suddenly, return to the initial theme even if it shifts into a plot that revolves more around family politics rather than the turmoil surrounding underage weddings.

Mayi Ri portrays some of the worst aspects of our society, like men getting married repeatedly at the expense of their current families, women being mistreated by their spouses, parents deciding to seal their children’s destiny, and a host of other societal evils.

Although many prospective victims may not be aware that child marriage is illegal in Pakistan, this play does a good job of conveying that they may approach the law in order to seek protection.

Baby Baji

If any drama dominated talks in 2023, it was the story of Baby Baji. For better or worse, the drama was very captivating and even somewhat of a guilty pleasure, especially when it came to some of its well-known characters, including Javeria Saud’s Azra and Samina Ahmad’s Baby Baji. The drama lacks depth, however it’s possible that depth wasn’t intended. The majority of the characters are blatantly stereotypical; they are either angels or devils, with nothing in between.

The storyline of Baby Baji isn’t like your typical slow burn Pakistani drama; therefore, it should be viewed as fast food television. Though the play still attempts to convey a moral lesson through slapstick humor, its primary, if not exclusive, objective seems to be to entertain. Maybe give it a look for a couple of episodes? You could become addicted!

Bandish

Not to be mistaken with the tale of Bandish (or Bandish 1), Bandish 2 brought a horror element to the landscape of local play. As the name suggests, the play finishes with a lesson on why one should never pursue such paths. The narrative deals with issues of envy, rage, and “revenge” of some kind by using a black magic practitioner.

Bandish 2’s horror aspects are nothing like those of Bandish, and for extended periods of time, the storyline drags unnecessary. Instead, the story is “more family drama, less horror.” The excellent performances by Affan Waheed, Hoorain Ikya Ali, Sania Saeed, and Amna Ilyas, among others, were the only thing that kept this from being a complete disaster.

Fairytale

Last but not Least, Fairytale, a Momina Duraid production with writing by Sarah Majeed and direction by Ali Hasan, narrates the tale of Umeed, a cheerful, flawed young girl who aspires to enjoy life to the fullest. Fairytale is a lighthearted romantic comedy that features all the typical clichés but presents them in a surprisingly contemporary way. The drama’s appeal to young Pakistanis was so great that the creators decided to quickly produce a second season, which had not been in the original script.

The chemistry between the heroine and the hero is what keeps Fairytale alive, and the characters are a lot of fun. Fairytale is the perfect show for you if you want humor, lightheartedness, and something really relatable.

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