Move on from promoting male toxicity on TV

Zainab Raza urges channel producers to be more conscientious regarding content they produce

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Movies, TV shows, dramas and literature have the potential to make people think about and reflect on the society we live in. However, production houses in their greed have decided to churn out equivalent of Indian saas-bahu sagas “in order to sell washing powder”, as put by a veteran actor.

When questioned about the content they are showing, their reply is always the same: this is what people want to watch, and sadly it’s true.

While “Ishq Hai”, the epitome of male toxicity and a narrative filled with scheming hateful women got millions of views, productions like “Dil Na-umeed Tu Nahi (DNTN)”, a gritty and realistic take on the rampant issue of human trafficking prevalent in Pakistan backed by the society’s mighty and powerful, barely got a quarter of that.

With its subtle yet moving portrayal of a complex and extremely sensitive issue, “DNTN” was like a breath of fresh air, as subtlety is a lost art in our current TV dramas.

The serial’s protagonist, a mentally disturbed female sex worker due to years of forced intoxication to make her complacent, was played by Yumna Zaidi, a prodigious talent and one of the finest actresses of Pakistan.

The other talent in “DNTN” was equally, if not more talented; Omair Rana, who adapts the garb of the mysterious friend/confidant of the brothel’s madam. Other standouts included Yasra Rizvi of “Churails” fame.

It is sad that while “DNTN”, one of the best Pakistani TV serials produced in the last two years, did not get the recognition it deserved, “Khuda Aur Mohabbat”, a drama that can best be described as mundane, managed to cross a billion views.

It is true that commercial art, be it in the form of drama or film, is more accessible to the masses, but times have changed. Bollywood can be taken as an example in this regard. Their cinema has evolved with time with talents like Rajkumar Rao and movies like “Newton”, “Andhadhun” and “Article 15” are becoming the norm rather than exception.

Why, then, our production houses are so reluctant to change?

In my opinion, it is just laziness.

A current example is “Parizaad”, a drama that dared to stray off the formula and is doing well. Good art always speaks for itself and it is time that our producers and TV channels do some soul searching about the kind of messaging they are imbuing people with.

With violence against women on the rise, is it wise to show women getting slapped left and right? With Pakistan ranking amongst the worst countries for women safety, is it responsible to glorify stalking as ‘love’? With cases of harassment on the rise, is it prudent to air “Dunk”, a story of a girl who falsely accuses her professor of inappropriate behaviour.

To those who are making these decisions, by all means factor in commercial success, but for the love of God, stop promoting male toxicity and women hatred, especially in the current climate. And never forget that great art, is its own reward.