Most people are okay with downtrodden women on TV: Sakina Samo
There are two kinds of women on Pakistani TV: the wronged woman, who cries, and the bad woman, who thrives on her misery.
Many think this polarity of female roles is the result of the lack of women in the director's chair, but what if a female director herself is making dramas that rehash the baechari trope?
BBC Urdu quizzed director/actor Sakina Samo on the subject, whose last TV drama was the Lux Style Award-nominated 'Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai'. The drama told the story of a poor orphan girl, who is sequentially tormented by a money-minded khala/phophi, terrible in-laws and a (mostly) loveless second marriage (her loving first husband of course had to die).
"[The baechari trope] is excessive," Samo admits, "but it's only 10-15% of people who think so. Dramas are for the masses, in which women often take a beating."
She elaborates on the small changes she's tried to bring in her TV serials – even those, she says, found resistance:
"My storytelling also happens through music, but I'm always told not to use the piano because it is 'Western'. What does that even mean? I'm told to use the flute and make the girl cry, but my heart is touched by the piano. The flute doesn't make me cry!"
Another effect of the resistance to new ideas is the limited roles offered to older actresses. Samo says that's why she switched to direction:
"Acting doesn't appeal to me anymore," she says. "You can either be a roti dhoti Maa (crying, despondent mother) or a zalim kism ki saas (evil mother-in-law)."
"They have decided that the audiences aren't interested in older characters," she later added.
But on a personal level, Samo loves her "old age". She elaborates on the plight of the young actress, who also opts for a family life.
"I'm free now. This is my time. Earlier, I had marriage, kids, responsibilities – so it's okay that my youth slipped by. It was a very thin line. I could have lost my mind due to the pressure – the name, the fame, the domestic responsibilties."
"I'm glad I'm not 20. I was an idiot back then," she says frankly, "I'm making up for it in the scripts I work in and undo the mistakes I made."