2014 gave us some blockbusters, but for the most part it was dominated by Television Rating Point (TRP) 'bubblegummers' that stretched and skewed stories and characters to suit the flavour of the month.
We were force fed second wives and evil mothers-in-law ad nauseum. It seemed as if TV channels were stuck in the rinse and repeat cycle of a washing machine driven by cliches.
The few dramas that stood out managed to showcase old stories with nuanced treatment and made us think beyond the binaries of black and white.
As always, there were some great performances and some genuine surprises. Though the mazloom aurat remains a staple of our drama industry, some male dominated stories like Laa, Pyaray Afzal and Bashar Momin managed to find a foothold amid the rivers of tears.
The more popular channels themselves suffered a special malaise in 2014 — with Hum TV producing one lackluster serial after another; Geo and its potboilers disappearing mid-season and ARY deciding to stretch perfectly constructed serials to breaking point.
In all this, a new channel emerged as a favourite— A-Plus. Fresh off its success with the fabulous Aunn Zara, the channel invested in interesting stories, excellent writing and good production value, allowing it to punch well above its weight and proving that quality will always rise to the top.
Another new channel which made an impact on the drama industry as a whole is the new Zee Zindagi channel from across the border. Introducing popular, high quality Pakistani dramas to the Indian masses, Zee Zindagi gave a new lease of life to many older serials like Humsafar, Durre Shehwar and Aunn Zara winning our artists, writers and directors millions of new fans.
Thankfully, gone are the days when the industry was reeling from the blow dealt by cheaply dubbed Turkish serials which now seem like nothing more than a storm in a teacup.
Historically speaking, Pakistani dramas are at another cusp, the interest in them reaching historical and international heights. Let us hope the industry has the vision and strength not to limit themselves, but to move forward and make 2015 even better and brighter.
Note: you can view the detailed survey results here
Pyaray Afzal became the overall favourite drama for its naik, love struck hero, filmy sensibilities, finely etched characters and a gripping storyline.
Zanjabeel Asim Shah wrote an exceptional script for Marasim. Well-defined characters; strong, moving dialogues and a precisely plotted main narrative allowed for just the right amount of dramatic tension.
Despite the all-too-familiar elements of a controlling mother coming between her son and his true love, this serial rose well above average by seamlessly weaving each protagonist's perspective into one enthralling story.
Equal credit goes to director Owais Khan and the Marasim cast and crew for their flawless execution of this project.
Pyaray Afzal— for all the reasons listed above and for being a serial with heart and soul.
For its eponymous hero Afzal who was not afraid to challenge anyone, for showing us women like Yasmin and Farah, who were never victims or the bholi larki so beloved of our drama makers, for showing us a positive religious figure, for giving us reason to hope and daring us to believe in something better even when all looks hopeless.
Taking in two in a row, Pyaray Afzal wins again with Khalil ur Rehman Qamar as the people’s choice for best writer.
He wins for penning stirring dialogues that reflected his inspirations in love and life with a distinctly filmy touch and the 1970s sensibilities.
There were a lot of good scripts this year; in fact 2014 seems to be the year of the writer. All these three writers gave us stories rich in subtext and sensitive characters.
Bee Gul deserves recognition for deft handling of sensitive subjects and hypocrisies without ever becoming preachy. Her effortless characterisation and seamless handling of the timeline are commendable.
|Faisal Qureshi in Bashar Momin|
Zanjabeel Asim Shah has to be credited for giving us intriguing stories such as Bashar Momin and Marasim that were based on the deepest human emotions of betrayal, loss and ultimate redemption and compassion.
|Hamza Ali Abbasi and Ayeza Khan in Pyaray Afzal|
Hat trick! Pyaray Afzal went strong as fans chose Nadeem Baig as the best director for giving us an excellent execution of a story, keeping all the threads defined, but well integrated, great visuals, acting and production in check.
Most of all here we see the director and the writer exactly on the same page.
|Ahsan Khan and Soniya Hussain in Marasim|
Both these directors deserve a mention for making us watch conventional stories through an atypical lens.
Khalid Ahmed extracted compelling performances, effortlessly wove past and present storylines and visual storytelling in Pehchan with an able and controlled hand to tell a story which blurred the lines between good and bad.
Owais Khan worked some strange magic with the well written, but all too familiar story of Marasim. This drama could have easily turned into a potboiler, but in his deft hands it became fresh, compelling and unmissable.
Honourable mention: Yasir Nawaz (Shukk) for telling a taut story which created tension and a fast pace without being over-the-top, and using visual tools to keep us hooked.
|Hamza Ali Abbasi. – Photo credit: telejelly.com|
Pyaray Afzal on a roll with Hamza Ali Abbasi for bringing the “not so angry young man” back into fashion.
Thank you, Khalil Ur Rehman Qamar and Hamza Ali Abbasi for bringing back that old fashioned masculinity that never really died—the gentleman— the man who honours what is good and protects those who need it without ever losing his humility.
|Ahsan Khan in Marasim|
If only we could just vote for all of them. Pakistan has such a pool of amazing talent they should all take a bow.
However, because we must choose a few above the rest.
Ahsan Khan for Daud of Marasim, who like the rest of us weaker mortals learns humility all too late, who despite his best efforts is never able to make any of his dear ones happy.
Ahsan Khan has saved himself from becoming the generic hero by proving he is a fantastic actor once again in this literally mesmerising performance.
Hamza Ali Abbasi for all the reasons listed above, he is now and forever our iconic Afzal Bhai.
Honourable mentions: Adnan Siddiqui (Mere Humdum Mere Dost), Faisal Qureshi (Bashar Momin)
Tired of the demanding, petty men that most of our dramas present, Farhat Ishtiaq’s heroes are like a dream come true and Adnan Siddiqui played Haider Masoud in Mere Humdum Mere Dost like a well tuned instrument. Suave, handsome, kind and honourable – if only we could see more like him on screen.
Faisal Qureshi for making a dark character of Bashar Momin so sad, so desperate that even as we watch him crush and destroy one character after another, we feel his pain. This was an extremely difficult role that only few could pull off; as usual Faisal made it look easy.
|Ayeza Khan. – Photo credit: trendymods.com|
Ayeza Khan wins for playing a heroine with pride and integrity and a complete lack of sentimentality.
Khalil ur Rehman Qamar wrote the character of Farah Ibrahim as an arrogant beauty who refused to acknowledge Afzal till the very last minute.
Ayeza played her role with an unfaltering determination that showed how good an actress she has become. Cool, controlled but still somehow vulnerable, Ayeza held her own against the stories powerful hero.
|Ayesha Khan (L) and Saba Hameed|
This has to be one of Ayesha Khan’s most memorable roles.
She is “every woman” confronted with a situation spinning out of her control. Brilliant, restrained, moving and always unforgettable is all we can say for her fabulous performance.
Saba Hameed in Marasim made us cry for her and then cry against her. How many actresses can lay claim to such power? She is an enchantress who can captivate audiences, swaying them to like or dislike at will.
Honourable mention: Soniya Hussain (Shikwa)
Soniya Hussain is a young actress with a depth of talent that should be mined. She single handedly made Shikwa one of the more interesting dramas this year coupled with her standout work in Marasim— she is a delight to watch on screen.
|Firdous Jamal as Molvi Subhanallah in Pyaray Afzal|
While in most dramas the hero's father is a side note, here he almost overshadowed the hero with his undeniable screen presence and fabulous, heartfelt characterisation of Molvi Subhanallah.
Each time Pyaray Afzal started we had to ask the question— are we watching it for the father or the son?
While other dramas show dour, forbidding men of religion, here was a character who cared, understood and forgave while never compromising an inch on principles, and Firdous Jamal played the role flawlessly.
Yasir Mazhar for playing a rather weak character with such deadpan efficiency that he seemed grounded and reasonable compared to the melodrama around him.
Not just a handsome face, this hard working actor makes each of his performances significant.
|Sana Javed. — Photo credit: catodato.com|
Sana Javed added spunk and filmy flair to her portrayal of Lubna in Pyaray Afzal.
Always the voice of reason and even if it seemed to follow a rather tortuous logic, she had a plan for every situation. The beautiful Sana gave a wonderful performance that was the perfect foil to her rather ziddi but equally lovely sister Farah.
|Ushna Shah(L) and Hareem Farooq|
Ushna Shah and Hareem Farooq are both talented actresses who surprisingly made their mark by playing the 'bad girl'.
Hareem Farooq’s self absorbed, almost pitiably evil Sajeela from Mere Humdum Mere Dost was annoying and fascinating in equal measure. Hareem is another new face sure to shine in the coming year.
Ushna was an effective heroine as Rudaba but as the manipulating villain of Rukhsar she made this serial much more entertaining. Ushna Shah is an actress with great potential and we cannot wait to see the star she becomes.
"Jaane woh kaise log the jinke pyar ko pyar mila.."
Waqar Ali breathed new life into Sahir Ludhianvi’s classic lyrics. Like all the very best serials the music was an integral part of its success.
Invoking the bitter-sweet ride that was Pyaray Afzal, here was all the promise, the blind resilience of youth and inexperience as it met the harshness of this world head on, encapsulated in one beautiful song.
Shehzad Kashmiri is simply one of the best cinematographers in the industry.
His visual sense is unmatched, from beautiful exterior shots which integrate the subject into the scenery without overpowering the essence of the story; to interior shots which capture the characters mood in a way dialogues never can.
Mere Humdum Mere Dost is just one more in a line of beautifully crafted serials from this highly talented individual.
Naeem Mustafa's brilliant and realistic aesthetic veers, never interfere with the narrative but add another layer to the story telling.
Great play of light and dark in keeping with the tension in Shukk, he is definitely one to watch out for especially if he shoots a noir film.
Qasim Ali created scenes that haunted our thoughts long after we would have forgotten the serial. He has that rare talent of being able to pull viewers out of their complacent, comfortable seat in front of the screen and drown them in the visual before them, enmeshing actor and audience into one single emotion.
Honourable mention: Naveed Malik (Pehchan)
Naveed Malik is able to translate written words into visual poetry in Pehchan. His shots are beautifully composed and visually astute, and he manages to create magic with his writer and director, in translating their vision. Audience would love to see his work on the big screen.
Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewah for its sheer brilliance. This theater of the baroque was dotted with fabulous performances from the amazing Hina Dilpazeer, Waqar Hussain and many others.
This soap opera ran on the best traditions of satire, which have always allowed the clown to speak truth to power in a way the strongest warrior would not dare.
Skewering our societal hypocrisies, not only challenging accepted norms but literally inverting them, acting like a mirror that laughingly showed us all our weaknesses and foibles.
Honourable mention: 'Sheher-e-Yaran'
Special mention for Sheher-e-Yaran for a thrill of a minute story that twisted and turned enough to keep even the easily bored, fascinated. For weaving so many disparate threads with an in-your-face audacity that defied logic but made it eminently watchable. Couple this with some fabulous cast chemistry and a catchy original sountrack (OST), made it a soap we waited for every day.
For all the other things that we weren’t able to mention, here are some 'Award of the year' categories that stood out for being good, bad or just plain old so-bad-they-were-good.
|Bi-ji. – Photo courtesy: Janam Jali's Facebook page|
Bunty from Bunty I Love You
For well, weeping.
Sumbal Iqbal in everything with strong competition from Mawra Hocane in again, almost everything.
For dramas that went undetected but deserve a mention
Ghundi: Written by Faiza iftikhar and directed by Kashif Nisar, Ghundi was outrageously funny but somehow flew under the radar.
Rung: Colour us impressed. It showcased the lives of a career oriented overachiever doctor wife (Kiran Chaudhry) and her laid back but awesomely cool husband (Imran Aslam) and dad to their wonderful kids.
The natural acting of the cast and the realistic characters and situations they were in was wonderfully directed by Ali Tahir.
Taar-e-Unkaboot: Written by Fasee Bari Khan was a fascinating drama which touched on many taboo subjects such as prostitution, black magic and sexuality. Never overtly vulgar in any way it seemed that even a discussion of such topics became offensive for some.
However, our culture needs to mature and learn to address difficult issues as long as the arguments are aesthetically presented.
For stretching a drama beyond its elasticity in aiming at TRPs:
Shukk: For starting on a strong note and then bending to the whims of the ratings game crashing and burning well-built characters and story.
For the most outlandish dialogue and dialogue delivery of the year.
Romaisa from Muhabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai for spouting dialogues such as "Kaash main machli hoti, kash main batakh hoti.”
Stiff competition got all these ladies in – Romaisa from Mohabbat Subh Ka Sitara Hai, Laraib from Lado Main Palli and brainless Haya from Ahista Ahista.
Dil ka har faisla theekh nahin hota
Aik shareef aurat ka dil uskey ikhtiyaar mein hota hai aur aik badnaam aurat apney dil key ikhtiyaar mein hoti hai.
Ek tha Afzal jaan se bhi pyaara bhai magar jaan pyare nahin thi usey
Three-way tie between Molvi SubhanAllah, Sheikh sahib of Pyaray Afzal and Qazi Wajid as an Army dad from Pehchan.
From Sannata to Qudrat there were peer babas and kala jadu along with dramas such as Bunty I Love you and Adhoora Milan with this season’s latest accessory butlers and uniformed help.
Two-way tie between Ahista Ahista and Laa.
Ahista Ahista for playing shamelessly on every cliche in the book.
Laa was a primer in how a good story can be ruined .
|Ahsan Khan and Sonya Hussain in 'Marasim' and Ayeza Khan and Hamza Ali Abbasi 'Pyarey Afzal'|
Simi Raheal in Laa
Zee Zindagi TV for winning hearts and minds, dispelling preconceived notions and allowing all of us to learn, live, laugh and cry together — “What Fawad Khan has united, let no man pull asunder.”
Note: you can view the detailed survey results here
Sadaf Haider and Sadaf Siddique are pearls of a pod, fellow freelance writers and drama buffs. Find their musings at dramapakistani.net