The ‘ratings’ challenge

August 20, 2023

So far, an engaging drama that promises to capture, to some degree, the rot at the heart of our rating-driven entertainment industry

The ‘ratings’ challenge


ritten by Umera Ahmed and directed by Haseeb Hassan, Jannat Say Aagay is an interesting drama based off of a theme clinched from the world we live in - a world increasingly dominated by likes and ratings, be it on television or social media.

The drama that began airing last Friday explores some of the harmful impacts of a media culture where stress and adrenaline rush are employed to generate impulses and manicured responses at the heart of which rots apathy.

The play, featuring Kubra Khan as Jannat Ali Khan, the protagonist, offers the audience something different, something to think about. Jannat Ali Khan hosts a popular show: Jannat-i-Jahan, that garners formidable ratings.

The saturated world of television is as competitive as any so naturally, Jannat Khan has a rival in Ayla, essayed by Ayesha Jehanzeb. Ayla works for a rival channel and is under pressure from them to come up with outlandish ideas and out-of-the-box strategies to promote her show to upstage Jannat Khan, get a lead on her and top the volatile ratings.

Apart from talented leads, Jannat say Aagey has an impressive cast featuring the likes of Ramsha Khan, Gohar Rasheed, Talha Chahour, Lubna Aslam, Shahryar Zaidi, Hina Bayat, Saboor Aly and Shabbir Jan.

Ramsha Khan’s character, Tabassum, introduces a new dimension to the plotline. Tabassum belongs to a lower middle-class family. Engaged to a first cousin who dotes on her, she is a diehard fan of Jannat. She idolises the celebrity and believes her to be sympathetic and considerate for the less fortunate some of whom she regularly invites on her television show.

Tabassum is a student who tutors children to support her family. As her adulation for Jannat grows, her fiancé tries his best to obtain passes so that she can appear on Jannat Khan’s birthday show.

Jannat Ali Khan comes across as an extremely ruthless and ambitious woman who will stop at nothing to make sure her TV show retains the top slot. For that, she will resort to anything. Her selfishness becomes apparent when, on a show where she is interviewing a rape victim along with her family, she casually asks the survivor and her family to weep and ‘act more hysterical’ supposedly for ratings.

Through this scene and others like it, the viewers are made aware of a side of her that is at odds with the persona she exhibits on screen and which viewers and fans find likeable.

As the play is aired, it appears promising. Some of its hooks are the professional rivalry between Jannat and Ayla and the role that Tabassum will play in the larger scheme of things.

Umera’s prowess as a writer shines through even in the early episodes. The dialogues are carefully crafted and the plotline offers something hitherto unseen; the lives that serve as fodder consumed by an industry the sole purpose of which is ‘to entertain.’

Kubra Khan does a commendable job but needs to work on her dialogue delivery. To be around for the long haul, she needs to take classes in elocution and put in more effort.

Ramsha performs well as a lower middle class girl with stars in her eyes. Her character nurtures ambitions of becoming a celebrity like Jannat, hosting a popular show and touching people’s lives the way she believes Jannat does. She, as Tabassum, is touched by how her television idol ‘makes a difference’ in people’s lives. She does not realise that what the viewers see are calculated and rather superficial moves to boost the show’s ratings.

The play appears promising. Some of its hooks are the professional rivalry between Jannat and Ayla and the role that Tabassum will play in the larger scheme of things. Other things to look forward to are the critique – and enaction of measures, including those brought on by a preference for everyday sadism, that the entertainment industry has to resort to in order to get the audience to feel something (anything) and last in the race for ratings. It delves into the core of how sensationalism and hype are used to keep the viewers hooked.

Ayla envies and despises Jannat. She begrudgingly admires all the ‘novel’ ideas Jannat comes up with to make sure her show is trending: from inviting rape victims to her show to coiling a venomous snake around her neck to shock and stupefy viewers. The woman is clearly out for the kill and will not think twice before destroying anybody who crosses her path.

Will Tabassum, who has real problems, will continue idolising Jannat or be disillusioned when she discovers the truth behind her persona? We’ll have to keep watching to see how the story unfolds.

The writer is an educationist. She can be reached at

The ‘ratings’ challenge