Pakistani TV Shows and the Problematic Representation of Relationships
TV/Streaming Reviews

Pakistani TV Shows and the Problematic Representation of Relationships

Pakistani tv shows have a problem and we need to address it

In recent months, a certain type of show has been topping the TRP charts – and one has to wonder, are the representations of romance depicted on Pakistani television leaving a bad impression on the audience?  Is the message being sent setting a bad example to viewers?  The most popular shows in recent months have been shows like Do Bol and Khudparast, shows with highly problematic relationships.    

Specifically discussing Do Bol, Despite their love, misunderstandings are created between Gaiti Ara (Hira Mani) and Sameer (Haroon Shahid) by Badar (Affan Waheed), misunderstandings that align perfectly with circumstances that turn the love birds against each other.  Badar’s scheming lands him the perfect prize – Gaiti and Badar are forced into marriage.  On the other end, Sameer is a lover that defends Gaiti’s honor, defends her to all willing to listen and remains devoted to her even after her marriage.  This is the hero of the show, right?  Wrong.  Badar plots, schemes and lies to get what he wants – and then after marriage, doubts Gaiti’s intentions.  Yet he is still the hero.  Badar and Gaiti’s marriage is romanticized to the point of Do Bol ranking at number one in the TRP charts.  When ultimately given the chance to divorce Badar with the support of her family, Gaiti chooses to remain married to Badar, because…..well, “love.”

Likewise, in Anaa, another popular show, we see a love triangle between Areesh (Shehzad Sheikh), Daneen (Hania Amir) and Anya. Anya is fully aware that Areesh and Daneen are madly in love, but are being torn apart by their family politics. Anya forcefully inserts herself into their relationship and agrees to marry Areesh, because she “loves” him. During the marriage, she is well aware that Areesh has realized his mistake of marrying her.  He advises her to leave him. She stays. He begins a relationship with a now-married Daneen and has phone conversations in front of her.  She plots and schemes with her sister-in-law, attempts to tie her brother to her in-laws and even attempts to get a taveez for Areesh.  Anya is a toxic wife, a woman with questionable self-respect….and yet, the audience can almost see the outcome a mile away.  Areesh will certainly, by some twist of fate, end up staying with his quiet, meek, doting wife, because…..well, “love.”

In Khudparast, which ended earlier this year, Uswa (Ramsha Khan) is a victim of domestic abuse.  She does her best to cope with the abuse by her husband Hanaan (Shehzad Sheikh) and his overbearing, controlling family.  When she reaches her limit, she hatches an unethical plot to seek revenge and leave her marriage.  Rather than focusing on the domestic abuse that Uswa faced to reach that breaking point, the show takes an odd turn, whitewashing Hanaan’s crimes towards his wife.  Instead, Uswa is ultimately punished for her plot and she contracts AIDS.  What?  That’s right.  The original victim is punished, because good wives stay with their abusive husbands.  Those good husbands cannot help themselves and wives should look past abuse, because it’s simply a way of showing…….well, “love.”

Last year, in O Rangreza, we witnessed a bizarre love story of sorts.  However, one track should have been simple – instead, it turned into a love triangle.  Amna (Sonia Mishal)  proposes to Qasim (Bilal Abbas) in order to give the family property back to him – it’s made clear that it’s a marriage with a purpose.  However, despite Qasim being in love with Sassi (Sajal Aly) and Sassi finally returning those affections, Qasim is guilted by Amna at every turn until he finally decides to honor his marriage to her.  Why?  Because…..”Love”?

There have been shows where real love wins in the end and poor relationships are not promoted – for example Inkaar, Dumpukht and Teri Raza.  A show like Khaani was criticized due to the romanticizing of the OST, but the show itself sent a solid, strong message:  Bad behavior is not rewarded.  These shows are trendsetters and several shows like them continue to push the envelope and send good messages for growth and change in society.  However, as long as the audience is embracing shows like Do Bol, Khudparast and Dil Mom Ka Diya, problematic relationships will continue to be promoted – and embraced.

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By Sophia Qureshi
Pakistani Drama enthusiast, Bollywood fan, elementary school teacher, writer, reader, photographer, lifelong student and mother