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My take on the dramas of 2016

As 2016 ended, so did  a season of some exceptionally good dramas on the small screen. This year saw writers and directors tackle serious societal issues, explore many facets of family life and take a trip down memory lane to a different era. Though they had some bumps along the way, the successful dramas had well-defined narratives, fully realized characters and stellar acting. This year our nods to the best of 2016 include:

Dil Lagi Episode 2 Promo


Writer: Faiza Iftikhar Director: Nadeem Baig Starring: Mehwish Hayat, Humayoon Saeed, Saba Hamid, Uzma Hassan

After a season of dispiriting and disappointing heroines, Anmol gave Pakistani women their swagger back. Courageous and honest to a fault, she turned the tables on Mohid by bringing the Qazi and baraat to the hero’s house, throwing down a now or never challenge that was just one of the highlights of the story.

With a hero like Mohid it wasn’t really a difficult decision. Despite his strong arming and stalking tendencies, he was generous and had the patience of a saint.Mohid was a welcome relief from the untrusting, easily mislead and weak willed men that sadly overpopulate our screens.

Mehwish Hayat and Humayoon Saeed shone in this super hit serial, and while we are here, can we say Anmol and Mohid’s fight over a lock of hair was the cutest thing ever?



Director : Ehtashamuddin   Writer: Farhat Ishtiaq   Starring: Bushra Ansari ,Samiya Mumtaz, Ahsan Khan , Urwa Hocane , Farhan Saeed, Hina Khalid, Haris Waheed

This may go down as one of the most powerful serials ever made.  Director Ehtashamuddin managed to take on the difficult subject of child rape, giving us the full impact of this horrific act while respectfully avoiding any sensational or lurid details.

Outstanding performances from Bushra Ansari, Sammiya Mumtaz, Ahsan Khan and the real surprise package of Farhan Saeed and Urwa Hocane made this such a memorable show.

Of this serials many highlights, Zebo declaring herself a survivor rather than a victim was incredibly powerful, while Pa Imtiaz’s final conviction was a cause for celebration for the entire audience

Preet na kariyo koi (1)

Preet Na Kariyo Koi

Writer: Amna Mufti Director: Ehtashamuddin Starring: Hira Salman, Ahsan Khan ,Noman Hassan, Irfan Khoosat

Shagufta Shehzadi and Shams are hardly the usual hero and heroine; neither is particularly honorable or perfectly kind. Brave to the point of foolishness, always determined to get what they want, and incredibly ambitious, these two defy the world to get married.

Though it derailed towards the end, the writing was stellar. When Shams is sent to jail on a trumped up charge, and both families abandon them, Shagufta raises her daughter alone, always working towards freeing her husband. Here we saw all the real, gut wrenching decisions and sacrifices a single mother makes to survive.The entire ensemble cast was well fleshed out and delivered great performances. Hira Salman, Noman Hassan and Ahsan Khan were the lynch pins of this serial.


Mujhay Kuch kehna Hai:

Writer: Nusrat Jabeen Director: Shahood Alvi Starring: Sabreen Hasbani , Mira Sethi , Shahood Alvi

This was a story we have seen countless times before, superficially it was a typical Dusri Bivi story but what made it’s so compelling and fresh was the nuanced script, stellar performances from Sabreen Hasbani, Mira Sethi and Shahood Alvi and an ending that actually made sense.

Shazma is no feminist warrior, just a woman who did her utmost to make her marriage and family life work. All her self-effacement and suppression of will were not enough for her husband Moazam to love her, but this simple woman makes a new life for herself and finds her own dignity.The best part is when she simply turns down her husband’s offer of a Halala not out of spite or revenge but simply because she had too much respect for herself.



Writer: Samina Ijaz,  Director: Aabis Raza  Starring: Atiqa Odho,Soniya Hussain,  Zhalay Sarhadi, Ahmed Ali, Rasheed Faruqi

For its sensitive depiction of mental illness as well as the painful reality that mentally challenged people are often victims of sexual assault. There was a realism and authenticity about the representation of Nazo’s character which shone through and we were treated to a wide range of human relationships from dysfunctional family dynamics: from selfless and loving care givers to progressive politics.Any drama that spends a full five minutes showing a Pakistani male washing baby bottles and actually taking care of a baby not because the maid was MIA but because this too was his child, deserves applause.

The very believable characters portrayed by Soniya Hussain, Zhalay Sarhadi, Ahmed Ali,and situations penned by Samina Ijaz, the taut atmosphere and thriller like treatment by Aabis Raza and the wonderful performances from the entire cast made for heartbreaking but compelling viewing. Also, hat tip to Rasheed Faruqi for his excellent portrayal of a misunderstood caregiver.


Tum Yaad Aaye

Writer : Naila Ansari  Director :Aabis Raza  Starring  Sehar Afzal, Sania Saeed, Nadeem Baig, Agha Ali, Muneeb Butt, Erum Akhter

This story was a beautifully written romance, which harkened back to the best Pakistani dramas of the past.  This serial was full of solid performances, from Sania Saeed and Nadeem to the younger crowd of Seher Afzal, Agha Ali and Muneeb Butt.This serial’s most memorable moment came when Zainy realises she has married the wrong man but is determined never to let go of her step father’s dream for her to be a CS officer.

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Main Sitara (season 1)

Director: Seema Tahir Khan writer: Faiza Iftikhar Starring Saba Qamar, Mikaal Zulfikar, Ayesha Gul and many more

Perhaps the biggest take home from this wonderful serial was that it showed us actors, actresses and other showbiz people are just ordinary human beings with all the same hopes and dreams of ordinary people. It also gave us a timely reminder that once upon a time Pakistan had a thriving film industry and a strong heritage of storytelling that needs to be remembered. Powerful performances from Saba Qamar Mikaal Zulfikar and Aisha Gul made this a treat to watch.



Director: Farooq Rind   Writer: Sarwat Nazir Starring: Zahid Ahmed, Saba Qamar, Atiqa Odho, Ghana Ali

Saba Qamar gave another great performance in this modern fairytale, playing Mishi who has everything except the love and stability she craves; while Zahid Ahmed plays her politically active prince charming. Like all good fairytales this story was rooted in reality, exploring stereotypes about the fashion industry and the way women are judged by societyhe most memorable scenes have to be when Mishi and Haider manage to get married on a live television show through a game of taunts and one-upmanship.

Low Points

Of course, not all dramas scored well: there were regressive values, victim-shaming, the misuse of religious limits and of course the inexplicable twists and schizophrenic logic of Mann Mayal. Here are the low points of Pakistani dramas this year:

Gul E Rana, because of the completely irresponsible way it fed into rape culture. Although Gul e Rana presented us with a morally upright heroine who refused to fall in love with an abusive husband that married her at gunpoint, it also perpetuated the myth that clothes cause rape  When the  “hero” tries to forces himself on an old girlfriend who sought  protection at  his house,  instead of helping the victim Gul e Rana scolds her, saying the clothes the victim wore were an” invitation” to men.

Let’s get this straight, clothes don’t cause rape, Rapists cause rape.


Zara Yaad Kar and Hatheli. Halala and how to achieve it has become a popular topic for dramas lately. What is supposed to be a strict limit from God has become the focus of several lurid storylines where the “shareef” heroine has to spend the night with someone to get back with an ex-husband.The technical ‘aik raat ka Nikkah’ makes a mockery of the sanctity of the marriage bond and puts an impossible burden on women. In Hatheli the whole family begs the heroine to do this “correction” with her devar.  While Zara Yaad Kar went the extra mile by using halala as a punishment for the admittedly selfish Mahnoor who is tricked into marrying a servant, double her age.



Mann Mayal. If only there was just one thing- from strange platonic sleepovers, strangely neglectful parents who ask an ex-boyfriend to take care of their daughter, to a cook who suddenly becomes an executive manager and a hero that could be persuaded by anyone to do anything except actually working at his business, Mann Mayal had it all.However to save the reading public more pain let’s stick to the major ones .Mann Mayal provided us with two  of the most regressive female protagonists ever, putting the cause of Pakistani women back by at least ten years.There was Mannu, a heroine without enough intelligence to cross the road on her own and who needed to be rescued every other episode. Then there was Jeena, so in love with Salahuddin and so devoid of any self-respect, that  there was no amount of humiliation that could keep her away… because merey tho maa baap nahi hai

Bay Qasoor was a new low in the ratings war, making the mazloom heroine suffer as much as possible. One can imagine the writers thinking “how can we make this worse than Mann Mayal?”, and then coming up with the idea  for a mother to poison her own daughter. Then there was the fabulous idea of aunt and niece marrying the same rich budhha using the cop out that the  aunt was adopted.

Dewana had the worst make up and quite possibly the most nonsensical story this year. Hum TV’s attempt at supernatural romance was one of the most excruciatingly ridiculous serials in a long time.

Teri Chah Main told a rather bold and unusual story  of a woman marrying her husband’s nephew, who also happened to be her daughter’s fiancé. This followed the usual pattern of the women being punished with major illness and loss of all respect and love while the man gets off scot free, with a new wife ,despite being equally, if not more  to blame.

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