Three series premieres of 2021

January 24, 2021

These shows are shedding a light on various social issues and are presenting them in an aesthetically pleasing manner. They also have a certain mass appeal

Pakistan’s entertainment industry has always taken pride in its TV dramas due to their strong storylines, characterisation and diversity of topics. After the emergence of the private sector in the television industry, our dramas have explored many new dimensions and become more commercial. Nowadays, people either love these shows or they hate them. A reason for some of the audience disliking the shows that are on air is that the same old storylines are repeated time and again. In 2021, several new drama serials hit our TV screens. Dunk, Raqs-i-Bismil, and Qayamat are three of the more notable ones. The first two started airing in the last week of December and Qayamat premiered in the first week of January. All three have seasoned, popular actors in their cast who are known for their craft and have huge fan followings.

Dunk is an ARY Digital drama starring Sana Javed and Bilal Abbas as the lead pair. It’s based on harassment issues and how society deals with them. Director Badar Mehmood is known for his brilliant work on Balaa and Cheekh. It is laudable that the topics he chooses for his shows are always socially relevant. This time he has addressed the sensitive issue of sexual harassment. A university student, Amal (Sana Javed), files a false harassment case against her teacher Humayun (Nauman Ijaz). It is for the third time that Badar Mehmood has teamed up with Bilal Abbas. Bilal Abbas has always won the hearts of his audience with his performance and this time too appears to be no different. Nauman Ijaz is a seasoned actor who always has something new to offer to his audiences. In Dunk, we love his portrayal of a falsely accused professor. Sana Javed appears to be playing the role of an antagonist for a change. After delivering a powerful performance in the web series Churails, Yasra Rizvi is also back for another challenging role.

While Dunk is about harassment, it is seriously questionable whether the show has caught how false allegations can destroy a man’s life. In the wake of the Me Too movement, as women are speaking up about the harassment that they have faced, writer Mohsin Ali Shah’s narrative might adversely affect the cause of protecting women. However, trusting the creative approach that the writer-director duo have adopted so far, one would like to believe that they will be able to handle the subject matter sensibly.

Raqs-i-Bismil is directed by Wajahat Rauf, who is back on the small screen after his 2017 directorial venture Shadi Mubarak Ho. This time he has come up with a romantic drama. Raqs-i-Bismil is a typical boy-meets-girl love story, in which, rather than falling for the girl next door, our hero is attracted by a forbidden love. Such love triangles were very popular in the ’70s Bollywood movies. Imran Ashraf and Sara Khan are the lead pair of this drama serial. Moosa (Imran Ashraf) belongs to a well-respected conservative family whereas Zohra (Sara Khan) is a modern-day courtesan. Writer Hashim Nadeem has addressed the double standards of society; families respond differently to the love affairs of the two genders. In the first few episodes, the characters and their backgrounds were introduced at length but now, finally, the story is moving forward. Moosa seems to be helpless when it comes to his feelings for Zohra whereas in a different plotline, his cousin was married off against her will.

Such stories are usually pretty predictable. Nonetheless, Wajahat is known for taking full advantage of fiction and creating silly situations. The second lead of the drama is played by Anoushay Abbasi as Sakina. Momin Saqib appears as Isa, who carries the subplot of this show. The rest of the cast – Javeria Abbasi, Mehmood Aslam, Nida Mumtaz and Gul-i-Rana – have also performed well. Zara Sheikh also returns to the small screen in this serial after a very long absence.

Finally, Qayamat is a Geo Network star-studded drama serial. The main cast includes Ahsan Khan, Neelam Muneer, Amar Khan, Shabbir Jan, Noor-ul-Hassan, Saba Faisal, Kinza Malik, and Sana Fakhar. Rashid (Ahsan Khan) is the uneducated son of rich parents (played by Shabbir Jan and Saba Faisal), who are unable to find a suitable match for him due to his bad reputation. Samra (Amar Khan) and Ifrah (Neelam Muneer) are raised by middle-class parents who hope to see their daughters get settled and live a peaceful life. Shabbir Jan’s character plays the antagonist who makes everyone’s life difficult.

Qayamat offers us a clichéd story that has a poor miserable girl, a strong-headed supporting sister, an unrequited love, a spoiled-brat as an antagonist, helpless parents and a lot of tears. Ahsan Khan has shown his stellar acting skills many times but, as Rashid, it seems that he is attempting to imitate Bollywood actor Amir Khan. Saba Faisal is playing her usual on-screen role, while Sana Fakhar’s talent seems to be wasted for now. For Amar Khan’s sake, one hopes that her character is more than just a girl crying helplessly. It looks like the writer plans to make audiences cry a lot by making poor Samra suffer, but later on the tables will be turned by Ifrah’s character. However clichéd this drama plot is, it never fails to entertain Pakistani audiences. One hopes that director Ali Faizan and writer Sarwat Nazeer bring a fresher perspective to it.

These shows are shedding a light on various social issues and are presenting them in an aesthetically pleasing manner. They also have a certain mass appeal. Let’s see in the coming weeks how the stories unfold and whether these dramas can continue to hold the audience’s attention.

The writer is a veteran broadcast journalist and media professional

Three Pakistani series premieres of 2021