Three Pakistani dramas that dare to be different

Three Pakistani dramas that dare to be different

Dramas explore sexual abuse, expat challenges and the terrifying psycho-dynamics of a broken family.
Updated 11 Sep, 2015

Feeling nostalgic for Pyarey Afzal, Aasmanon Pe Likha or even Zindagi Gulzar Hai? Don’t.

Some on-air Pakistani dramas have a lot more to offer beyond typical teary-eyed masala themes and run-of-the-mill plots.

Thankfully, the Pakistani audience has moved on from the Turkish tide of glitzy Ishq-e-Mamnoon and innocuous Fatima Gul dramas, leaving local drama crews room to grow. This season, there are three dramas that give viewers something different – with a perfect blend of storytelling and challenging, new themes.

Chup Raho: Silence paves way for sex offenders

  • Directed by Yasir Nawaz; Written by Sameera Fazal

  • Starring: Jibran Syed, Sajal Ali, Arjumand Rahim, Feroz Khan and Shaheen Khan

  • Chup Raho airs on ARY Digital on Tuesdays.

The basics

Chup Raho is the story of Rameen (Sajal Ali), a woman who is subjected to sexual abuse by her brother-in-law (sister's husband), Numair (Jibran Syed). In an attempt to save her sister Manal’s (Arjumand Rahim) marriage and her own "reputation", Rameen is forced to bear Numair's vile acts in silence.

Why Chup Raho is worth watching

The drama tackles a taboo topic that – as depicted in the show – is never discussed in society, covered up, hidden or ignored, especially when family members are involved.

The reason why Rameen doesn’t confide in her husband, Azar (also Numair's cousin, played by Feroz Khan) or her sister Manal is that in Pakistan, women are pressurised to not speak up against such injustice and are expected to quietly endure everything, including sexual advances and attacks.

Staying true to life, Rameen does the same, and when she does eventually try to tell her husband, he gently reminds her that she is wehmi (paranoid).

The drama also depicts the monstrosity of the perpetrator, as they prey on a victim and casually slip away due to the very fact that they are a close relative.

What is also interesting to watch is Numair’s relationship dynamics with his own young daughter, Naila. Numair is shown to be extremely protective of Naila and e.g. is deeply offended when Manal and Azar pray for his daughter to be 'blessed' with a husband like her father.

Chup Raho aims to shed light and drive dialogue around this dark aspect of society, and kudos to the team for such an effort.

Jackson Heights: The expat challenge

  • Directed by Mehreen Jabbar; Written by Vasay Chaudhry; Produced by Humayun Saeed and Shehzad Nasib

  • Starring: Nauman Aijaz, Adeel Hussain, Amina Sheikh, Marina Khan, Adnan Jaffar and Ali Kazmi.

  • Jackson Heights airs on Urdu1 on Fridays

The basics

Set in New York, the drama revolves around obstacles faced by six South Asian immigrants, living in Jackson Heights, a part of New York where there is a large concentration of South Asian immigrants.

There is a jubilant cabbie, Imran Bhatti (Nauman Ijaz), a tough Pakistani Christian restaurant keeper, Michele (Marina Khan), an Indian Muslim banker, Rizwan (Adnan Jaffar), an adamant beautician, Salma (Aamina Sheikh), an optimist Jamshed (Adeel Hussain) and a con man played by Ali Kazmi.

Why Jackson Heights is worth watching

Jackson Heights is a fresh take on the lives of South Asians migrating to the US – an aspect that greatly concerns many middle class and upper-middle-class Pakistanis.

Bhatti’s difficult life is a reminder to all those who fantasize about living abroad. Living in the US because of his marriage to an American woman, he represents the plight of many who get married just for the sake of staying on in the US.

Salma and Michele, the lead female characters in the drama, project an image of strong, independent women, who are ready to take up challenges. They show a different side of Pakistani women, who are not meek and submissive.

Though a developing story, Jackson Heights looks promising and realistically captures the lives of South Asian immigrants.

Firaaq: Hate destroys all

  • Directed by Abis Raza Abidi; Written by Mustafa Bilal; Produced by Momina Duraid

  • Starring: Sanam Saeed, Mohib Mirza, Noor Hasan Rizvi, Uzma Gilani, Mazhar Ali and Junaid Khan.

  • Firaaq airs on Hum TV on Saturdays.

The basics

Set in the US, the story revolves around the lives of a broken family, living in Panama City, Florida.

Tabasum (Uzma Gilani), the matriarch of the family, has severe control issues, manifested because of her fears and insecurities. As a result, she is estranged from her children, Shams (Junaid Khan) and Paimaan (Sanam Saeed).

Shams eventually leaves the house when Tabassum remarries after her husband’s death. Later, he takes Paiman away from their mother as well, only to realise that Paiman is now rebellious enough to take the reins in her own hands and is ready to make her own decisions.

Why Firaaq is worth watching

A complex story of love, relations and responsibilities, Firaaq goes just a few steps further in portraying how family members play an important role in making or breaking a house.

Growing up with such a cantankerous mother was bound to have an impact on Shams and Paimaan's personalities. While Shams has anger issues, which manifest in his interactions with his wife, Paiman grows up to become a very reserved woman. Her deadpan voice and impassive face are the result of years of emotional abuse.

With many families breaking down emotionally and psychologically, Firaaq offers a window for viewers to examine the reasons behind such trauma – and the consequences that follow.