Most people are okay with downtrodden women on TV: Sakina Samo

Most people are okay with downtrodden women on TV: Sakina Samo

TV director/actor Sakina Samo talks about the baechari trope and the dearth of roles for older women on TV
05 Oct, 2015

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!"

Samo's last TV serial Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai rehashed the bechari trope
Samo's last TV serial Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai rehashed the bechari trope

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."


safia kadir Oct 05, 2015 08:34pm
I have become addicted to Pakistani dramas, a more complex role than the "victim" or zalim mom or mum in law was portrayed in Sadqay tumary where Shano's mom had a real issue , she was jilted and wronged and she took her revenge. If our dramas could show women as they are: complex, loving, angry, giving, mean, compromising, accomplished, we could get good rating even then. I recall "Apa" was a great drama with a complex lead character. If a writer looks to their family or friends for inspiration, they would I am sure find interesting and complex women. Life is about shades, not black and white; or just good or evil.
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prateek Oct 05, 2015 09:14pm
An independent and strong women is not liked by most South Asian men.
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Arif Hussain Oct 05, 2015 10:29pm
Why do we make depressing TV serials showing crying females all the time, arrogant abusing males and typical zaalim saas. We have talented authors, writers, actors and actresses. Why don't we use them to show happy, positive, normal life of a Pakistani family. Why do we not show success stories of a common person who can beat the odds by hard work, education and live a happy life. Why do we have to show crying women and shouting and abusing men. Pakistani society and people are much more intelligent and deserve to see better dramas to give them hope and happiness and moments of laughter. You do not want to come home and watch Pakistani drama to get depressed.
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Masood Haider Oct 05, 2015 11:11pm
Lack of good playwrights and much greater demand for scripts is the reason for the deluge of totally stupid and highly improbable ludicrous plots which by and large treat women like dirt - helpless, subservient, needy and abused and yet we never cease to goat over how wonderful Pakistani TV plays are.
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Cyrus Oct 05, 2015 11:50pm
Sorry. I don't want to see older women of TV. Over the hill actresses in America have the same constant complaints. They never complained when they were young and beautiful making big money. Television is not the legitimate theater. On television body image and laughs are everything. If older women can't do comedy they won't get work. Let's face the facts. The producers are risking their money. My advise to older working actresses is to stay slim. There is too much competition for the role of the mother. Men are not interested in seeing Mum on TV shows. They are watching the daughters.
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shereen Oct 06, 2015 04:15am
I know so many women wronged professionally but never a story on it. Similarly I know quite a few who had terrible personal luck one after another loss but continued to go forward with life laughing. Why can't we have light hearted stories of valour. We know there is more to life than a happy susral. Why we ignore it is beyond me.
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Ahmed Oct 06, 2015 12:03pm
@prateek speak for urself dude dont generalize all men!
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