By Muneeb Yousuf
Everything is not shoddy about Pakistan. There are bright things too which we least take notice of or which get overshadowed by what selective media rhetoric present to us. In the present times, where radical right has taken the center stage, playing the cards of nationalism and promoting hate culture have become vital tool to further their political agenda. Amidst this, there is an ever increasing tendency of displaying hard power. Apart from signifying the territorial boundaries which came to place as a result of bloody partition, the government in place is cultivating a national consciousness and acting as a selective permeable membrane for cosmopolitan agents. The nation-state considers such cosmopolitan agents as a threat to peace.
In July last year, the governments proscribed certain channels in Jammu and Kashmir which they believe could encourage violence and disturb law and order. Among the proscribed channels is Karachi based Hum TV which airs dramas on wide ranging issues. There is a significant viewership of Pakistani dramas in Kashmir and Hum TV stood not only as a source of entertainment but something which shakes up viewers’ conscience on a range of social issues that they usually do not recognize or think of.
Pakistani Dramas are unique in the sense that they are theme based raising social issues with embodied aura of Urdu that just goes straight to the heart. Unlike Indian serials where family fights and rivalry continue to engage viewers for years, Pakistani dramas are strongly aesthetic, focusing on characters with specific themes that run for limited number of episodes. From last three years in Kashmir, there has been decline in the interest of women for Indian TV serials particularly those aired on Star Plus and an upsurge in viewership of Pakistani serials in Kashmir and even mainland India. There are hundreds of thousands of watchers of Pakistani serials across South Asia. It was perhaps this popularity which Indian TV network Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) wanted to en-cash when they launched Zindagi. Zindagi was the first Indian general entertainment online channel, showing only Pakistani serials targeting vast Indian audience. The channel was an instant hit but it had to switch over to Turkish dramas after anti-Pakistan sentiment caught hold in India following 2016 Uri terror attack.
Pakistani dramas could be considered in the South Asian region as possessing certain attributes of what Joseph Nye calls “Soft Power”, which he defines as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion and payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals and policies”. Few Pakistani dramas have women oriented themes in their script thus naturally leading to large female audience. Such dramas prompt audiences particularly women to rethink and reclaim their rights, dignity and honor in a pattern of a society which is largely a male dominated one.
Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan (my existence is meaningless) is one among the popular Pakistani serials that just rattles major constructs of our families and the societies that we live in. In the broader context Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan is a masterpiece of art where religion, patriarchy and progressiveness meets together in an overarching fashion, pushing viewers to think beyond the notion of black and white that most of the society do. The drama is based on an independent and freethinking woman whose life is completely ruined. In a premeditated fashion, her mother-in-law, who appears pious, deliberately sends her to a room to show her as a woman of immoral character, which she is not. This false display of her illicit behavior terminates her marriage. For this false accusation, the woman is then married to a man double of her age, who mercilessly scolds and beats her. Towards the end, the drama suggests that sometimes people who look pious from the outside can do horrible things for certain interests. The drama skillfully shows how other versions of the truth are never considered by elderly family members particularly males; they consider it an imperative to save the family honor without considering whether those allegations levelled are true or not.
Dastaan (The Tale) is a heartbreaking Pakistani drama that brings to the fore gory and grim realities caused by the Partition of Indian sub-continent. It beautifully presents how communal violence took place before the British India got divided into nation-states of India and Pakistan. The drama looks at the struggle of Pakistan as a fascination, a ‘holy place’ for whose realization mass killings and thousands of rapes took place. Bano,a young woman who is a staunch supporter of Muslim League during United India undergoes a tale of harrowing incidents that just rousehuman consciousness. Even after going through horrendous incidents, her love for Pakistan remain supreme.After reaching Pakistan, Bano happily shouts“ye paak mulk, paak sarzameen hai”. Her notion about Pakistan is such that there are not fiend elements in it, a pure land. She believes that everyone living in Pakistan is her relative and they will treat her with love and respect. The drama fundamentally looks into the idea of Pakistan that thousands like Bano had believed to be religious and reverential. However, such beliefs are shattered when Bano sees Pakistan deviating from the very ‘idea’ it was formed for. Though the drama praises those people who sacrificed for Pakistan, it paradoxically questions the concept of nationhood. The similar questions are raised by Begum Jaan, an Indian movie released in 2017. The movie asks the fundamental question of what does the concept of nation and freedom mean to marginal sections of the society?
Diyar-e-Dil is a virtual dose to eyes and heart. The story of the drama revolves around a middle aged father (Agha Jaan) who has two young sons from whom he wants deep commitment and respect to his decisions even regarding their choice of marriage. The marvelous performance by Agha Jaan along with breathtaking script keeps viewers desperately waiting for rest of action. Not sticking to the family codes, the elder son bypasses father’s decision of marrying to his cousin and instead elopes with a woman whom he loves. This decision brings conflict in the family and as a result Agha Jaan disowns his son, who starts his new life in the city. During this period of separation, the younger brother continuously remains in touch with his elder brother, however, Agha Jaan remains adamant. The efforts by young son results in the reunion of Agha Jaan and the elder son, however he doesn’t survive the fruition of his efforts. The reunion scene is incomparable to any Indian serial. In the larger scheme of things, the drama immensely focuses on family values, which is an important character of families in Pakistan.
There are several other Pakistani dramas that have huge viewership in Kashmir. Among others are Man Mayal, Khuda aur Muhabbat, Pyar-e-Afzal. Man Mayal is extremely popular among youth given to its undying love theme that continues even after the marriage of girl. “Aap mujhe zehar lagtay ho!”, a prominent wording of girl to her lover is a favorite line among Kashmiri youngsters.
By proscribing channels in Jammu and Kashmir, the government wants to build an imaginary ‘Berlin wall’ that would in their belief keep the Kashmiri community separated and unaware from the society across the dividing line. In the age of globalization, that of-course is a unintelligent move with only aim of deriving political mileage from it.