4 + 2 Top Pakistani Dramas of 2020 you might want on your recommended (and watched) list!
The struggle was very much real
It was a cold December night in a faraway village of Sindh and the year was 2016. Ten (or more) heads could be seen competing with each other to witness the suspense that was unravelling on the 15-inch laptop screen.
“Pyaar hona marz hai itna huai hai ye mujhe, dard ko bhi dard hai ITNA huai hai ye mujhe,”
crooned Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and the ten (or more) hearts attached to the heads pumped in agreement. It wasn’t an easy feat to catch the latest episode of Sang e Mar Mar in that village. The plan was made a day ahead. One of the cousins bribed her brother to get hold of the Zong internet device. Thankfully, my boss hadn’t allow me to take off from work so my laptop had come along. Tea was made on a wood-fired clay oven as the wind howled and threatened to snatch away the shawl tightly wound around the face of the chai-maker.
Hours of prep went into watching a 40-minute show.
Because Sange e Mar Mar deserved it. The director, the writer, the actors, the producers, the editor, and the singer – every single one of them was on one page and they told us a story we haven’t still forgotten.
In 2020, it is colder than it was in 2016. I sit comfortably in my room in Karachi and the shows are only a click away. The similarity is, that I still have that 15-inch laptop on me. The difference is that I don’t have any Pakistani shows to watch.
I tell this story not because I feel particularly nostalgic. I tell you this because it was difficult to come up with a list of Top Pakistani dramas people enjoyed in 2020. Blame it on the pandemic or the producers; the fact is Pakistani dramas were only good in parts and almost none will be recalled fondly four years down the lane.
Sorry for being a Bitter Bushra, but I’ve done my research.
That’s when my relatives came to the rescue and gave relatively definitive answers. Combining the data from these slightly unamused, indecisive, and uninterested lot, which belongs to different demographics, we now have a list of dramas that people watched in 2020. You can call them “top shows” because at least they intrigued people enough to be watched.
Disclaimer: Sabaat isn’t here because only one person mentioned it, which doesn’t make sense to me, because even if it seemed like an amalgamation of Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Humsafar at times, it held its own beautifully. Anaya and Miraal will go down in history as the best performances of Mawra Hocane and Sarah Khan respectively.
This was literally the conversation between me and my sister. I messaged her to tell me her top shows and she said, “Alif” and I replied, “Bas?”.
Either they have already seen it or they wish to watch it; You won’t hear a single person complain against this spiritual journey conceived by Umera Ahmed, executed brilliantly by Haseeb Hassan, and lived by Hamza Ali Abbasi, Sajal Ali, Kubra Khan, Ahsan Khan, Pehlaj Hassan, Saleem Meraj, Lubna Aslam, Hadi Bin Arshad, and Manzar Sehbai.
It is important to mention each and every one of Alif’s lead actors here because when you watch Alif you don’t go, “Wow, they’re acting so well”. You feel the helplessness of Momina when she’s begging for money to take her brother’s dead body home. Abdul Ala’s arrogance hits you with the same force as it hits Qalb e Momin. You feel as betrayed as Husn e Jahan when Taha puts all his guilt on her and flees.
Alif is not simply a show, it’s a journey
Albeit a slow-paced one, but that didn’t bother many. Most of us had read the book so it was natural for us to keep thinking in terms of “when will this happen, when will that happen”. The only thing that did bother me (even in the book) was the abrupt nature of Momin and Momina’s romance. In the novel, at least we had a scene where they meet (not exactly) in a plane before Momin comes up with the idea of a film called Alif. In the show, we see Momin is all woo-ed up a little too quickly and similarly, Momina reciprocates a bit too quickly. There should’ve been a few meaningful scenes that lead up to that.
Ehd e Wafa is your fresh piece of content this year!
The ISPR production may be a propaganda show for many, but the truth is: it was a crowd-pleaser. People watched it despite it being dubbed ‘sasta ABC’, which cannot be true because look at those handsome lads at the helm of the four diverse stories – Ahmed Ali Akbar, Ahad Raza Mir, Osman Khalid Butt, and Wahaj Ali. Please go ask MD Productions and the ISPR how many bucks went into roping the beautiful boys.
One thing worth noticing is that Ehd e Wafa was more of a hit amongst the younger audience and mothers. Mothers want their sons to be like Saad and Sheheryar and the younger lot aspires to be as perfect as the leads – barring Shahzain – of Ehd e Wafa. So, if you’re in your thirties (like me) and think Ehd e wafa didn’t quite hit the spot, then honey, let’s face it, it wasn’t for us.
I still remember walking in on my mother as she was gushing over the surprise birthday Saad throws for Dua. If she could, she wouldn’t mind adopting Saad and his Dua.
The biggest pro was the theme – a coming of age tale of four boys. How often do you see that in a Pakistani show? Another plus was the endearing romance between Saad and Dua, Shazain and Rani, and of course our masoomana couple: Sherry and Masooma. Unfortunately, Shariq and his lady love (Hajra Yamin) didn’t have much of an arc. The biggest plus, for me, was that they didn’t show the female supporting characters (I won’t call them leads) as doormats.
The major con was that they didn’t add nuances to Saad’s character or story, leaving Mir with nothing to play with except for screen space. Apart from that one major mistake, he does nothing wrong. He’s the perfect son, perfect brother, perfect colleague (he prevents divorces from happening for heaven’s sake) and the perfect husband. Do privileged people actually lead uninteresting lives?
Interestingly, the most common feedback which came forth was, “Kaash thora kam cringe hota”; and that’s a pointer for Mustafa Afridi to ponder over.
Pyaar Ke Sadqay made everyone go sadqay!
Honestly, I was expecting this Farooq Rind and Zanjabeel Asim Shah partnership to top the charts. Surprisingly, people around me are still unaware of Bilal Abbas Khan and Yumna Zaidi’s onscreen charm. But those who are aware, deemed PKS the top show of 2020. The only reason it isn’t at the top is that a lot of people didn’t mention it.
Another person that deserves a special mention is Srha Asghar for playing the strong, younger sister’s role so impeccably. Zanjabeel wrote an inspiring female character and I think we must applaud that.
Yeh Dil Mera wins the different concept of the year award!
YDM was watched by most of the people I spoke with; some left it in the middle, and others completed it and enjoyed it (in parts).
That’s the plot for 90% dizis out there. They should experiment, yes. But are they failing to capture views? No. Pakistanis are watching it with much more interest than they watched Yeh Dil Mera. Why?
- We want our Pakistani dramas to be either Tanhaiyyan/Dhoop Kinarey or simply stop existing.
- We tend to fall for couples and their chemistries instead of stories.
But most importantly:
- We have suddenly become poor storytellers.
Yeh Dil Mera was a good story but it seemed the storyteller had a bad cough. He coughed through some important scenes, leaving the audience baffled and bitter. You can read the rant of my broken heart here: I Might Be In A Toxic Relationship With Yeh Dil Mera
YDM was my personal favourite in 2020. I gave my heart and soul to it and all it gave me was amazing performances sprinkled between disjointed and repetitive scenes.
I remember messaging the director, Aeshun Talish, and the writer, Farhat Ishtiaque, after the last episode because I planned to review the last episode and wanted to understand what went wrong. The review was never written, but they did clarify that it wasn’t the actors’ fault that there were continuity issues as is the popular belief.
And in case you’re wondering if YDM had an alternate ending, Ishtiaq confirmed that she was very clear about this end since the very beginning. “Even when I started writing this story, Aina and Amaan’s fate was clear in my mind. No matter how justified Amaan’s reasons of taking revenge from Mir Farooq were, but in the process he used an innocent girl. Aina was betrayed by the two people she loved most – her father and her husband.”
Despite some loopholes, YDM did capture the audiences’ interest. People talked about it, even if it was to moan and groan about, “when will it end uff?” There is no denying that Ahad Raza Mir’s performance saved a sinking ship with equally power-packed support from Sajal Ali and Adnan Siddique – whenever the latter two were given the chance that is.
On the other hand, Sajal Ali held her ground, but unfortunately, there wasn’t much ground to hold. Some (very few) viewers felt she went a bit OTT, but guys, have you ever had a meltdown? I have and I am as loud and manic as her, and my father hasn’t even killed my mother and lied to me all my life, and my lying husband doesn’t even exist yet. Oh, and I also haven’t witnessed my mother’s murder. Yeah, so apologies to people who wish Aina to be subtle and understated. I am all for subtlety, but not at the cost of being unreal.
Ek Jhooti Love Story and Churails get an honorary mention…
Because they kept the Pakistani drama industries honor intact in 2020. Looking at these two Zee and M Content productions one can say that all is not lost…yet. If given the resources and freedom, our storytellers can still spellbind the audience. Churails and Ek Jhooti Love Story catered to two utterly different audiences, but interestingly enough, both spoke about women empowerment. EJLS spoke about it in a more domesticated way while Churails was more unapologetic and, hence, ruffled a few feathers.
If it were up to me, I’d scoot them right to the top. Unfortunately, a large audience has not seen these gems because they cannot access the web series. Most of them don’t know how and others are still caught up in their anti-India stance.
Please read this piece to understand why you should be supporting these web series: Oh Zee, yet again?
Do Churails and EJLS have THAT Pakistani drama charm? No
Why look back when you can look forward? Not in the direction of Jalan. Nope. But why not in the direction of Churails and EJLS?
Here is a message for makers: Please tell us a story which we can enjoy fully, without having to ignore a few things here and a few things there. That’s all we ask for.