Pakistani dramas have always been an alliance between artistic and commercial interests, but the relationship grew rocky this year as commercial interests (just like their favourite trope) found a “dusri biwi” in the form of films.
The nascent Pakistani film industry took its toll on the Pakistani television industry, cannibalising some of TV's best directors, producers and actors. While some some good dramas were produced in 2015, they were far fewer than in previous years.
At times it seemed as if dramas had become nothing more than a launch pad or a cash cow to finance the movie industry's almost exponential growth.
Movies weren’t the only factor in the changing entertainment landscape; ARY and GEO launched game shows Jeeto Pakistan and Inaam Ghar, which took over the usual primetime weekend slots when channels used to show their best serials.
These shows allowed contestants to become the entertainment, promoting a hitherto unseen level of shameless materialism.
Despite the generally downward trend, Hum TV managed to consistently keep both quality and innovation alive, a fact amply supported by the high count of nominees from their dramas in all categories.
Although ARY Digital was busy making movies, it still managed to produce a few quality dramas. A-Plus and Urdu1 focused on mostly commercial projects, but managed to keep a stake in the race with at least one or two serials worthy of mention.
The biggest surprise this year was that, Geo, once a reliable source of well-crafted productions, was unable to scrape together one noteworthy primetime drama serial.
4,402 people took Dawn’s Drama Polls 2015. Here are the winners:
Winning by a sweeping majority with 58.2% of the vote, Diyar-e-Dil proved to be the popular choice for the best drama of the year. Sadqay Tumhare followed at a distant second.
Diyar-e-Dil: For capturing the imagination of every demographic, especially the youth. This was one serial that brought every generation together, sharing timeless traditions and bringing us truly wholesome family entertainment.
Jackson Heights: For looking beyond the television landscape of domestic squabbles and talking about live wire issues of immigration, domestic violence, and exploring ideas of home, love and loss.
It’s time Pakistani dramas step out of drawing rooms and look to a rich heritage of writing, which at one time could include everything from current affairs to satire, and intersect that with our personal lives.
Here’s hoping for a wider canvas in 2016.
Continuing its majority lead in the people’s poll, Haseeb Hassan wins for Diyar-e-Dil. His masterful execution of this saga and marshalling of so many highly talented and diverse talents deserves recognition.
Mehreen Jabbar’s strong directorial stamp and subdued interpretation of Khalil-Ur-Rehman-Qamar’s flamboyant and filmi style, made this drama an outstanding success.
A more than honourable mention to Ehtashamuddin for bringing control but most of all vision, beauty and atmosphere to a story that might otherwise have turned into pool of sentimental mush.
The undisputed queen of romance strikes again and captured the hearts of the nation. What is it about Farhat ishtiaq’s heros that no woman can resist?
Exemplary in character, never short on looks and willing to do or die for honour and duty yet human enough to make the kind of mistakes we would never forgive anyone else, what’s not to love?
This was a tough year for writers, with channels dictating longer and longer serials forcing writers to add completely ridiculous plot twists to garner ratings and even an attempt to deny intellectual property rights.
We chose Amna Mufti for simply brilliant writing in Farwa ki ABC. She had comedy, social commentary and a mirror for our times cleverly wrapped up in a simple romantic comedy.
Fasee Bari Khan for his complete and masterful understanding of the human condition and showing us a more gritty reality in Kitna Satatey Ho.
Khalil-Ur-Rahman-Qamar for his courageous and painfully honest writing of Sadqay Tumhare, critics be damned!
This was a tough race with Maya Ali just pipping Mahirah Khan at the post and winning for her portrayal of strong headed Zulaikha from Mera Naam Yousuf Hai. Her restrained, sincere performance proved her to be a very capable actress under the right guidance.
Mahira Khan’s luminous near flawless performance was a pleasure to watch.
Naveen Waqar’s outstanding performance in Mol was an exercise in restraint and deeply powerful acting . Welcome back Naveen!
Arij Fatima has been on a roll recently with one fabulous portrayal after the other, from Khilona to Kitna Satatey Ho to Ishqprast. She really has proven her versatility and range!
Last but not least, Marina Khan’s performance in Jackson Heights was quite simply a study in excellence – every colour, every shade of a woman from feisty to vulnerable flawlessly brought to life.
Our only question is, Wali, aap itney achey kiyun hain? Osman Khalid Butt has always been an incredibly talented actor and has borne the burden of good looks and popularity with admirable patience. However, the real test is now at hand, as his popularity reaches such dizzying, iconic heights.
We suspect he will handle it with his trademark, self deprecating humour because good work always speaks for itself.
Faysal Qureshi is quite simply one of the best actors of his generation and he proves it again with a knockout performance in Rang Laga.
Imran Abbas soulful performance as lovelorn Yousuf struck all the right chords. His ability to express his pain and pathos showcase his acting abilities and deserves praise.
Nauman Ijaz proved once again that he is in a class of his own. His inquisitive NY cabbie with a heart of gold proved to be the strongest character in Jackson Heights. Nauman Ijaz brought multiple layers to his performance showcasing desperation and humour, alongwith the bittersweet melancholy of pining for his homeland.
Hareem Farooq is an actress to watch out for: skilled, sincere to her craft and let’s face it simply beautiful. Her role in Diyar-e-Dil was a welcome addition to the original novel.
Mansha Pasha had a standout performance as Madiha in Mera Naam Yousuf Hai. Her empowered performance had shades of heartbreak, steely resolve and enough self-respect to love yet learn to let go.
Despite Rida Isfahani’s small role as Jamshed’s love interest in Jackson Heights, she made a great impression with her soulful performance. Hope we see more of her in the coming year!
It was a tough call putting Mikaal Zulfikar’s performance in the “supporting “ category, but we are glad that he was recognized for a brilliant performance worthy of his talents.
Ali Rehman's impressive performance in Diyar-E-Dil won and broke many hearts everywhere. We expect great things from this talented actor.
Ahmed Hassan surprised the life out of us with his brilliant performance as Gogi. Mere Soney, Merey Piyaray please, please can we have some more? Though they were Amna Mufti’s witty lines, the delivery was flawless. Take a bow, Mr Hassan!
Composer Shani Arshad’s soulful music with lyrics by Sabir Zafar that were sung with equal fervour by singers Zeb Bangash and Momin Durrani remained the popular choice.
Diyar-e-Dil’s beautiful soundtrack was used with subtle perfection to highlight the feelings and mood of every character.
Hat tip to a lovely reimagined version of 'Liaayan, Liaayan' by composers Zulfiqar Ali and Kailash Kher. Singers Saad Sultan featuring Rizwan Anwar bought just the right touch of melancholy, which added to the feel of the drama Jackson Heights.
Composer Saad Sultan hit another homerun with Tu Mera Nahin which had all the pain and longing in singer Rizwan Anwar’s voice highlighting Yousuf’s heartbreak in Mera Naam Yousuf Hai.
Adrian David Emmanuel's composition and lyrics brought to life in a beautiful rendition by singer Farhan Saeed was a beautiful track despite the subpar drama.
Samiya Mumtaz’s portrayal of the bitter, damaged Rasheeda won well deserved, universal acclaim. Samiya Mumtaz is a highly skilled actress who never fails to make a mark.
Nausheen Shah’s raw performance as a washed out, depressed and relapsing addict was stellar. Her unkempt appearance added to her internal conflict and moments of fragility were her strongest suit and definitely a more believable version of someone with substance abuse issues.
Ushna Shah is just not someone you can ignore. The absolute energy and presence she brings to every role made her shine in a pretty average potboiler like Piyaa Man Bhayy.
Syed Jibran, please take a bow for this polished study in sheer evil. Every nuance, every layer of this character’s being was laid bare for us by this incredible actor whom we cannot praise enough!
Adnan Siddiqui for portraying the devil himself. An arch manipulator, a self absorbed nightmare of a person portrayed with the ease and charm only a highly accomplished actor such as Siddiqui can produce.
Ali Kazmi’s electric performance as the abusive and slightly unhinged Sikandar was one of the finest negative portrayals of the year. For an actor with palpable energy, imagine what he can do in other roles.
Syed Jibran is also the critic's choice for all the reasons listed above.
No surprises here as the so-called Jodi no 1 pairing that began with Aunn-Zara continues to win hearts. The audience never gets tired of seeing this young, modern duo.
Ali Rehman and Hareem Farooq had a kind of magnetic chemistry which should never be wasted. They made a surprisingly fresh, well matched screen pair with an almost automatic rapport the audience just adored.
For all other points of note, here are some additional 'awards' to honour everything that stood out for being good, bad or just plain-old-so-bad-they-were-good!
The award goes to Sajid Zaki for recycling the same story over and over and over again: One man, two women and an inheritance. (Watch Numm, Sultanate e Dil, Ishqavey, if you're curious).
“Baarish ko dekho mat, usey mehsoos karo”
“Agha jaan, nashta karlain”
From Nausheen Shah’s Z in Zidd, Hira Tareen’s holiday rehab visits to Gohar Rasheed’s high as a kite performance in Goya, drug addicts were the part to kill for and then (surprise!) save one, they all died.
Don’t go to America. Everyone is miserable there, which is why I never went.
Stick to film scripts!
Maryam from Maryam, played through a sea of tears by Mawra Hocane. A woman who can never stand up for herself ...ever.
Hassan from Dusri Biwi played by Fahad Mustafa whose sheer innocence and goodness has to be seen to be believed.
Aplus has bought every tube available for Yeh Mera Deewanapan
Sultanate-e-Dil, Bewafaii Tumharay Naam, Mere Khuda and Dusri Biwi
Four dramas so ridiculously awful we couldn’t resist watching them.
Farah from Diyar-e-Dil
Ramin’s mother in Chup Raho
Saba Qamar and Sami Khan
This is a two-way tie between
a) the heroine marries her husband’s best friend to achieve a halala
b) victims spending quality time with their rapists (in Sangat)