An Empowered Female Lead: 5 Characters That Need To Revive Pakistani Drama Stories?
We can all agree that most of the Pakistani dramas are woman-centric. With a large ratio of the audience being females, the nucleus of our dramas revolve around women. Over the past few decades, the characterization of women has evolved. Some dramas show “roti dhoti, mazloom aurtein” who need a knight in shining amour to rescue them, while others show empowered women who take important decisions for themselves and also balance their personal and professional lives.
Firstly, let’s refresh our memories and take a look at female characters in the golden age of PTV television.
Zara in Tanhaiyaan- played by Shehnaz Sheikh
At the onset, Zara, our female lead, is homed in a comfortable, protected life with her parents and her sister, Sanya (Marina Khan). Her life turns upside down when her parents die unexpectedly in a car accident and she and Sanya have to move permanently to their aunt’s house whom they call Ani. Zara is heartbroken by the loss of her parents and vows to get back the house she had to sell to pay her father’s debt.
She struggles day and night to build her business. In her single-minded pursuit to earn financial independence, she alienates her family and isolates herself from any kind of advice for her mental well-being. Zara meets with an accident after which she is paralyzed & wheelchair bound. It is only then that she realizes the significance of family support. The incident proves to be a life-changing moment as her journey comes full circle & she finally comes to terms with her parents death.
Zara is a female lead who serves as inspiration for all women who encounter unprecedented circumstances in life, who are not content to just go with the flow, and who must follow through on their personal journey before they can rest and come to terms with the hand life has dealt them – that the struggle is part of the healing. Zara’s single-minded determination in establishing her garments business & resilience in times where women were not shown flourishing in professional careers showed us that women are fully capable of excelling in all spheres of life and that they have every right to dream and prove themselves.
Zoya Ali Khan in Dhoop Kinare – played by Marina Khan
Zoya is a happy-go-lucky girl. She is raised by her father after her mother’s death. Zoya is full of life and believes in living life to the fullest, she pursues a career in medicine to fulfill her mother’s wish. It takes her time to adapt to the mundane routine of the hospital and understand the nature of her job. The story progresses as Zoya learns important life lessons and matures as a person.
Zoya is shown to have a healthy relationship with her father, friends and colleagues. She is comfortable to express her opinion and stand up for herself. The evolution of her character from a reckless young girl to a mature, practicing doctor, is a female role that needs to be replayed in original story lines. Her character defines progressive-minded working women – a female lead who takes the leap of faith, supported by a trusting parent, to become independent and add a valuable contribution to our society.
Sana Murad in Ankahi – played by Shehnaz Sheikh
Sana belongs to a middle class family and has high aspirations for herself. She envies the comfortable lifestyle of her friend Sara (Misbah Khalid) and wants to live a life of grandeur and wealth. Sana decides to take on a job to support her family financially and save money for her brother’s operation. After being rejected from an interview, Sana is still able to get the job after meeting the chairman, Mr. Siddiqui (Qazi Wajid) on her way back from the interview.
Sana lacks the skills and experience to do the job which causes problems for her boss Taimur Ahmed (Yousaf Kamal). Eventually, she grows as a person and becomes wiser and also develops a professional attitude at work.
The female leads from the 1980s PTV dramas were shown to have a voice. They did not use wealth, good looks or a cunning personality to get ahead in life. They were human like any of us, with their share of strengths and weaknesses. What set them apart was their sense of individuality and not letting it become confined according to what society thought of them.
Khirad Ahsaan in Humsafar – played by Mahira Khan
Khirad is a shy, innocent girl who lives in the small town of Hyderabad, with her widowed mother. Despite struggling financial conditions, Khirad pursues an education and completes her degree in Bachelor of Science. She is also an excellent mathematician like her father. After her mother is diagnosed with cancer, Khirad moves to her maternal uncle’s house in Karachi who is a wealthy businessman. He also has a son, Ashar who runs the family business.
Khirad is coerced to marry Ashar (Fawad Khan) to fulfill her dying mother’s request. After her marriage, Khirad not only tries to fit in and make a place for herself in the household and Ashar’s life, but she also pursues her education and enrolls in a Masters program in Applied Mathematics. When her mother-in-law conspires against her so much so that she has to leave her home, she decides not to lose hope and builds a life of her own. She gives birth to her premature daughter, Hareem whom she raises as a single parent. Khirad attempts to find hope amidst her trying circumstances and starts to teach mathematics.
Khirad’s daughter is required to undergo critical surgery and she eventually sets her ego aside to approach her husband for financial help. In so doing, she proves that a mother’s love exceeds all. This time, her character has matured & she does not surrender to her mother-in-law and does not allow herself to be bullied.
Anaya from Sabaat – played by Mawra Hussain
Anaya is the only daughter of her parents, raised in a close-knit household. She comes from a middle-class family and shares a strong bond with both her parents. She is pursuing a degree in architecture and is a women’s rights activist at college. After her graduation, Anaya marries her class fellow. Her marriage brings a lot of challenges along with it. She has to deal with her father-in-law and her sister in law, Miraal (Sara Khan) who were against her marriage due to the financial disparity between the two families. Anaya does not allow herself to be discouraged and sets out out to make her marriage a success, simultaneously, building a career in Engineering. Anaya goes on to financially support her husband after they decide to start a life on their own without Hassan’s family (and financial backing). She remains postive throughout the situation and does not nag him about the money problems.
After Anaya and Hassan split up due to a misunderstanding, Anaya does not give up hope. She starts a home business and gives birth to her son. She also does not allow her principles and ethics to be compromised in the workspace and publicly stands up for her rights.
Nisha in Jalan – played by Minal Khan
Nisha and her sister Misha (Areeba Habib) come from a higher middle class family. Nisha’s character is strong, yet deeply negative. She is a selfish girl who is envious of her sister. When Misha is getting married to a strikingly rich man, Nisha feels jealous and vows to cause problems in their relationship. Nevertheless, Misha and Asfandyar (Emmad Irfani) get married. Nisha continues to pursue Asfand relentlessly and is soon involved in an affair with him. She forces Asfand to divorce her sister who is pregnant with Asfand’s child and soon after, marries him.
The character of Nisha is an irrational, one-sided depiction. Nisha is never struck by her conscience and continues to plot evil. This not only represents women in a negative light but also contradicts human nature and a psyche that is in constant battle with itself between good and evil.
Characters like Anaya and Khirad are few and far between. Perhaps, our writers need to take cues from the legendary female roles of the past. While more women are empowered now than ever before, while more are participating in the workplace, and holding the fort at home too, are the raw, real-life, chunky roles that reflect our changing ‘gender-scape’ escaping us on reel time TV?
On both counts, we have witnessed an audience appreciation where women have been cast in positive, strong, change-making roles; esp. Anaya, Khirad and now, it remains to be seen – Zohra in Raqs -e- Bismil, and Sumbul in Dil Na Umeed To Nahi.
So march on drama makers and give us the women we see in real life – the inspiration, the game-changers,; the female lead that is Hajra Khan, Sana Mir and Muniba Mazari and many more untold stories are awaiting the power of your pen – take on scripts that make us go wow – not how? You never know, perhaps the men might be inspired too!