What do Pakistani TV audiences want to see? Favourite characters Kashaf and Wali give us a hint

What do Pakistani TV audiences want to see? Favourite characters Kashaf and Wali give us a hint

Heroes and heroines of recent TV favourites hark back to the original 'It' couple of the '80s
06 Nov, 2015

In the mid 90s, it felt like the golden years of Pakistani television were a distant memory. Our dramas, previously admired for their great stories and real characters, started becoming a mirror image of their Indian counterparts.

The influence of the Saas Bahu soaps from across the border was clear and undeniable. This resulted in many people (myself included) slowly giving up on Pakistani dramas.

A good story is like a good magic trick - it transports you to another world. To you, as a viewer or a reader, it becomes reality and no longer a work of fiction.

From the trials and tribulations of the two sisters in Tanhaiyan; to the beautiful and timeless love story in Dhoop Kinaray; to the tearful yet meaningful journey of realisation of a married couple in Aahat - we were a generation that had seen magic created on our television screens on numerous occasions.

When the standards of our home productions disappointed us, we turned away, in search of other mediums of escapism.

Dramas like Aahat, Dhoop Kinaray and Tanhaiyan bring back fond memories of the golden age of Pakistani TV
Dramas like Aahat, Dhoop Kinaray and Tanhaiyan bring back fond memories of the golden age of Pakistani TV

Pakistani TV dramas make a comeback

However, it feels like the days of glory are to return. Our faith, once lost, looks to be restored as our drama industry churns out one classic after another.

From Dastaan to Humsafar to Shehrezaat to Aunn Zaara to Zindagi Gulzar Hai to Pyare Afzal and finally Diyaredil, we are back to producing dramas that are not only popular on our shores but are increasingly enjoying cross-border success. We have a lot to be proud of!

But it is equally important to understand what makes a drama work and what the viewers want to see.

Decoding the recipe of success

The starting point is a good story.

We want a story that engages us both on a personal and a social level. We are tired of stories based on family politics, or manipulative women trying every trick in the book to get their way! We do not want to see rushed divorces or forced second marriages or the age-old dilemma of ‘beta chahiyay’. In short, we do not want to see stories about concepts that repulse us, on television.

The most successful stories are based on a strong family unit. This, in turn, creates more characters that the audience can root for. Look at Zindagi Gulzar Hai as an example – both family units, be it Kashaf or Zaroon’s, were supportive of one another despite any differences.

The next most important element is a good love story.

I personally feel that we have enough reality staring us in the face in everyday life. People want to watch a drama that pulls at their heartstrings or makes them laugh. Even if the situation is serious or worrisome in the drama, it should be balanced out well with light, heart-warming moments.Tanhaiyan is a classic example of this approach as Qutbuddin Qabacha made a timely appearance to provide the audience with much needed relief throughout the drama.

And then we need the right kind of couple...

While it may appear that the audience will root for any lead couple, the reality is in fact quite the opposite.

....a heroine like Zindagi Gulzar Hai's Kashaf

The female character that has won the most hearts in recent years is Kashaf Murtaza. I feel she represents the kind of female heroine that can capture the imagination of the audience more than anyone.

Sanam Saeed as Kashaf Murtaza in Zindagi Gulzar Hai
Sanam Saeed as Kashaf Murtaza in Zindagi Gulzar Hai

We want a female protagonist whom we can admire. Who faces hardships with her head held high. Who is self-reliant and hard working. A modern woman in her goals and outlook, but traditional in her mode of behaviour.

Like all women, she has her moments of weakness and insecurity, but she musters up her inner strength to face every challenge. A woman who hides her tears and puts on a brave face. Who may be misunderstood, but could never be ignored.

If you agree with the above being a just description of Kashaf Murtaza, you will realise that the same description also applies to the character of Dr Zoya Ali Khan from Dhoop Kinaray.

How can the same description apply to two such different characters? Because their personalities may be different but the qualities that we admire, remain the same.

...and a hero like Diyar-e-Dil's Wali

The male character that inspires the same level of admiration in recent times is Diyar-e-Dil's Wali Suhaib Khan.

I am certain that over time, the character of Wali will overshadow the popularity of another favourite, Kashaf's hero Zaroon Junaid. This is simply because Wali appears to be a better man than Zaroon.

He is the silent type, who keeps his thoughts and worries to himself. He demonstrates a high moral code by his sense of fairness, and responsibility. He treats everyone with respect, even those responsible for causing him unnecessary pain by words or actions.

Even when he is angry, his reasons are understandable and his actions justified. At no point can any of his actions be described as hypocritical. A woman feels safe with such a man .

You will note that the same qualities also apply to Dr Ahmar.

In conclusion

Thus years roll by, but human nature remains unchanged in terms of what we like.

Our scriptwriters should take note – while they can’t create the same characters; they can create different characters with good and admirable qualities!

They've done a great job so far in reintroducing Pakistani dramas back into our lives! But as Peter Parker (Spiderman) would say, with great power comes great responsibility. They can create magic with their words, but should just bear in mind the kind of magic tricks that the people want to see!

For a drama to be successful, the characters must inspire, engage and move the audience. Because Kashaf and Wali have one thing in common, if nothing more – they have won our hearts!


Muhammad Majid Nov 06, 2015 12:29pm
Best drama in Pakistan make (specially Karachi ) end of 80,s and early 90,s other last fifteen years no any drama hit , and outstand successful , all drama make huge of cost but no story no production.
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Srehman Nov 06, 2015 01:47pm
The character of Asher is very realistic ,becomes wiser with time ,is good and bad both ,is not afraid to speak his mind ,even if it's not body is good all the time
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Jawad Nov 06, 2015 01:49pm
I miss the 90s but Pakistan is still doing great in drama industry . And slowing gearing up in film industry.
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Shama Nov 06, 2015 03:04pm
You have made us nostalgic! Very interesting article. You have made great comparisons between old and new. Each is beautiful and classic in their own way You have hit the nail on the head. Wali and Kashaf remain an all time favorite. Zaroon was created to be a hero with faults. Hence was appealing in his own way.
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sijaz Nov 06, 2015 03:27pm
Am I the only one who sees that we have become more conservative in our female outlook and roles? Because as much as we can see similarities drawn between Zya Ali Khan and Kashaf, It is to be noticed that while Zoya was one of many in the 80s - Most females, not just heroines, in Tanhayian, Kasak, and even the Amjad Islam Amjad characters that doted on the angry young misunderstood man with traditional devotion were forces to reckon with while being accepted as the regular women folk- while Kashaf stands alone, and is still not as mature as the ones that have gone before her. Even the shows from 70s had mature intelligent women being wooed for (not despite) their strong personalities as opposed to their vulnerabilities and looks as it stands today.
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Kiran Akhtar Nov 06, 2015 03:36pm
Hi Paz, great article. I loved reading it and agree with everything you said. We need to see characters on our screens who are our own, people who are genuine and real. We cannot ignore the fact that TV is a medium of education for the masses, people specially the youngsters idealise the leading couples and take them as role models. So yes it would help if these characters embodied the values and characteristics that you have discussed.
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AF Nov 06, 2015 04:20pm
Diyar e Dil was finally a good one after Zindagi Gulzar Hai . Pakistani dramas indeed cannot be compared with any other dramas. Focus on simplicity is one of the main attribute which makes them stand out among all and thus are appreciated worldwide.
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Paz Nov 06, 2015 06:22pm
@Jawad Thats true - Thank you for the comment! Looking forward to great things ahead for both TV/ Film
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Paz Nov 06, 2015 06:24pm
@Shama Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the comment! Zaroon was shown to have faults, which was interesting in its own way! Just that Wali, despite so many problems in the family, remained a figure worthy of admiration and respect despite his youth, which was commendable.
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Paz Nov 06, 2015 06:25pm
@Kiran Akhtar Thank you for your kind comment! I totally agree!
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Paz Nov 06, 2015 06:27pm
@AF Yes we should focus on things that work and what people want to see. A simple yet meaningful story with good and positive role models should be the starting point. Thank you for reading!
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meena Nov 06, 2015 06:33pm
Hi Paz, Love your style of writing. Very nicely compared :) After Zoya and Ahmer it was Kashaf and Zaroon who became the rage. Now Wali and Farah have charmed us. And as you rightly pointed out- it is Wali more than Farah who stole the show! Not only was the character written beautifully , it was portrayed perfectly by Osman Khalid. Kashaf and Wali are two unforgettable characters!
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Narvinnie Nov 06, 2015 06:37pm
I was in India visiting this February and came across Zindgi Gulzar Hai. Came back to US and got on you tube to see if I can catch up with the missed episodes. Ever since I am hooked to Pakistani dramas and always request other viewers to see what will be worth watching. I have seen some of the best drams ecer. Right now I am watching KANEEZ. Oh my God Indian Dramas can not even come near these. Acting is superb, direction is superb back ground music is superb. Do not change anything
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khan Nov 06, 2015 06:39pm
Diyar e dil is really good, still wish they had explored the area more and added some breathtaking scenery into the story
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Hamaad Nov 06, 2015 06:59pm
Tired of seeing weeping women in every other drama. Pakistani women are depicted as helpless, miserable and unable to pull themselves out of trouble. Also tired of seeing the story line about second/third/fourth marriages. Surely the drama story writers can do a better job than this.
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Rohit Sharma Nov 06, 2015 11:28pm
Ok so this is one aspect Pakistan is at its creative best ahead of India. Don't you guys copy our serials. It will kill your TV industry too. BTW am a big fan of Pakistani shows and Zindagi gulzaar hai is a beautiful program. Hoping that Pakistani industry upgrades to HD video and better audio and it will be comparable to any, in the whole world.
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M D Bhasin Nov 07, 2015 12:18am
We, in India, watch Pakistani dramas on Zindagi channel with keen interest. They appear so Indian in all respects, except the marriages with first cousins and frequent and easy divorces. No dictionary is required to understand the Urdu used in these dramas which is just like our spoken Hindi. I think no other two countries in the world are so similar as India and Pakistan are, again in all respects.
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Paz Nov 07, 2015 12:33am
@meena Thank you for the excellent feedback regarding my article and way of writing! Means a lot :-) Regarding DeD, yes I do feel Wali was the more admirable one of the two. Just like Kashaf was more admirable than Zaroon. But that is why it was so understandable why they invoked such feelings of admiration in Farah and Zaroon respectively ( and us!) We need more unforgettable characters like that ....and hopefully more unforgettable performances, like Sanam Saeed as Kashaf and Osman Khalid Butt as Wali.
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Paz Nov 07, 2015 12:36am
@Hamaad That's what I mean. We do not want to see stories that are not an accurate reflection of the women of our society or for that matter, our society overall, where second / third marriages are not necessarily the 'norm' as shown!
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Paz Nov 07, 2015 12:38am
@khan Yes, no end to the Diyaredil wish list but I suppose all good things come to an end, as they say! I, for one, think there should have been a wedding sequence between Wali and Farah but that's just me:-)
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Paz Nov 07, 2015 12:41am
@Narvinnie So glad to hear your views! Yes we have to hold onto what makes our dramas work ! And the biggest contribution is from the script writers who provide the foundation of a great story -everything else follows from there! Glad you enjoyed ZGH, do watch DiyareDil and I guarantee you will have another favourite!
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Paz Nov 07, 2015 12:46am
@Rohit Sharma Thank you for the great comment and for reading! Yes we must keep holding onto what makes our dramas work, but improving on the technical aspects as well. However I think we are headed in the right direction so hopefully sky is the limit provided the writers give us with the right kind of stories!
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Paz Nov 07, 2015 01:43am
@M D Bhasin Thank you for the comment! Yes, no matter where the borders fall, human nature on both sides remains the same- our worries, struggles, culture and language are fairly similar and there is no better language than the language of emotions! Our dramas are very real and so pull you into the story, until they become a part of your lives. Regarding the first cousin marriages, it happens but the majority are not necessarily first cousin marriages- same is true for the divorces. We def do not want to give the wrong impression , which we seem to be. Thus we must address these issues as they are creating the wrong impression, overall.
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Paz Nov 07, 2015 01:56am
@sijaz I agree with how you feel- In Kashaf's case however, she is shown to come from a conservative background, and based on her relatively protective upbringing, she was still a modern woman in her goals and how she conducted herself. But yes, definitely more modern women (like Dr Zoya Ali Khan) are needed, who are more of a realistic and true reflection of the intelligent and strong women of today! Kashaf was the closest we came to showing the modern woman in recent times- most of the time we are weepy wallflowers! Thank you for your comment:-)
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Sosi Nov 07, 2015 01:58pm
Fantastic article. It is so nice that while praising the new famous characters of Wali and Kashaf you have mentioned the evergreen Zoya and Ahmer. I am very proud of our dramas and was getting a bit dejected with the roti Dhoti heroines. The need of the hour is to show the modern woman of Pakistan who faces every hardship with courage and is not swayed by materialistic concerns. In the same way the young men should be role models for stronger family ties and respect for senior members of our community. Well done Paz. Highlighting these issues will help our producers to think before taking easy options.
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Paz Nov 07, 2015 05:00pm
@Sosi Thank you so much for the great feedback. Yes, I feel it is necessary to point out what we need and want to see- role models that we can look upto - not characters that we cannot identify with, let alone understand. Equally important for the male leads to raise the bar by demonstrating qualities that are admirable and worthy of respect. Not mistreat the women in their lives! Pakistani women of today are modern and strong- facing everyday challenges with courage. Please show more women like us!
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Shrikant, India Nov 09, 2015 08:06am
@Paz Any article on Pakistani TV Dramas, without mention of Mehwish Hayat is incomplete !! Millions of Indians are her fans.
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Paz Nov 09, 2015 05:05pm
@Srehman not putting Ashar down, just think Wali has more admirable qualities as a man in comparison.
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Paz Nov 09, 2015 05:19pm
@Shrikant, India interesting to know but in this instance, I was talking about two of the TV roles that have been extremely popular with our audiences so unfortunately couldn't mention her as she didn't play either of them ! ;-)
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