The curious case of Ramazan rom-coms

April 24, 2022

Following the success of Suno Chanda, 30-episode Ramazan specials have become a regular fixture on Pakistani TV channels

The curious case of Ramazan rom-coms


akistani television has a long history of showcasing hour-long romantic comedy dramas on the two Eid holidays. Often farcical in nature, these plays highlight social issues, like arranged marriage or finding the right animal for sacrifice on Eid, using comic relief. In 2018, a new style of rom-com was introduced with Suno Chanda.

Its first episode aired on the first day of Ramazan It was followed by an episode daily, and the finale aired with the end of Ramazan. Centered around a love story between two cousins, the drama became an instant hit because of its light-hearted banter, situational comedy and well-developed side characters.

Suno Chanda set the trend for what I call Ramazan rom-coms for TV channels in Pakistan. These shows aim to provide a fine balance between exaggerated situational comedy, representation of everyday life of middle-class families, and an enemy-to-lover romance trope. The show’s popularity led to its sequel in the Ramazan of 2019. There was no Ramazan rom-com in 2020, probably because of the challenges that came with the sudden surge in pandemic. The sub-genre was back in 2021, with tremendous success of Chupkay Chupkay and Ishq Jalebi. 2022 has seen a proliferation of Ramazan rom-coms with thirty episode series that that loosely follow the formula pioneered by Suno Chanda.

A major reason for the consistency of pattern in most successful Ramazan rom-coms so far, is that they have been written by the same screen writer, Saima Akram Chahudry. She has been writing for TV since 2014, with quite a few popular serials and long plays in her portfolio. However, her real claim to fame has been Suno Chanda. The onscreen location for Ramazan rom-coms, which include both seasons of Suno Chanda, Chupkay Chupkay, Hum Tum and Paristan, is Karachi. The characterisation reflects an ambitious attempt to represent various ethnicities. Many of the characters belong to various regions of Sindh, the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. The variety of dialects is mostly used in an emphasised tone, sometimes for comic effect. The character of Shahana from Suno Chanda for example was wildly popular because of her colourful Punjabi dialogue and Punjabi middle-class housewife outlook. Similarly, the brother-in-law from Hyderabad in Chupkay Chupkay was given a distinct comic dialect that made him prominent amidst the regular Urdu discourse our television viewers are familiar with. The Ramazan rom-com optics for GEO TV are more Punjabi in nature. Ishq Jalebi and Chauhdry and Sons, are both presumably set in Lahore with a predominantly Punjabi variety of accents and more slapstick comedy.

The Ramazan rom-coms follow the adversaries to lovers trope in the story of conventional desi main characters. Except for 2022 Hum Tum, the main love story in all other dramas of this sub-genre revolves around two first cousins.  

The Ramazan rom-coms follow the adversaries to lovers trope in the story of conventional desi main characters. Except for 2022 Hum Tum, the main love story in all the dramas of this sub-genre revolves around two first cousins. The concept of marrying into the family, especially marrying first cousins, might be scandalous for a non-Pakistani audience, but it is one of the biggest realities for roughly more than eighty percent of the television viewing population here. In Chupkay Chupkay, the heroine, Meenu, looks at the hero, as a brother, calls him bhaiyya, and often gets scolded by him for not paying attention to her studies. He, likewise, has brotherly affection for her as a young sister. Everything changes when they are forced into a marriage contract. Recently on air, Chauhdry and Sons shows first cousin protagonists, who have grown up in different cities, unaware of each other’s existence until they meet through a plot twist. Cousin marriages usually get a lot of negative criticism among the critically aware commentators on social media, especially Twitter. However, the target audience of these dramas relates to these tropes and the social issues surrounding the love stories. The love story is woven into the fabric of the socio-cultural traditions of the people, validating its existence and pinning it in their everyday reality.

An overarching definition of romantic comedy, in global cinematic terms, will never be sufficient to explain the curious phenomenon of Ramazan rom-coms. Television is the chief source of entertainment for middle and working class families in Pakistan. These dramas are filled with everyday humour and social commentary, scaffolding the love story that may have been received with derision in the community. A recurrent scene in the sub-genre is the couple looking at the moon that heralds the end of Ramazan and the beginning of Eid festivities. The on-screen chemistry between the lovers is reflected through meaningful exchanges of loving looks and discreet hand holding backed up by songs composed and recorded specifically for these plays. To conclude, our Ramazan rom-coms can pose interesting research questions for anyone looking into the reception of televised love stories.

The author conducts research on popular genre romance, with a special focus on the reading culture in Pakistan. She works as an assistant professor at COMSATS University Lahore, and tweets @JavariaFarooqui

The curious case of Ramazan rom-coms