Hadsa is a creation of Showcase Productions, under the direction of Wajahat Rauf and is written by Zanjabeel Asim. It airs on Geo Entertainment every evening at 7 pm. The cast includes Hadiqa Kiani, Aly Khan, Romaisa Khan, Khaqan Shahnawaz, Ali Dayan, Zhalay Sarhadi, Saleem Mairaj, Juggan Kazim, Fariha Jabeen, Fozia Mushtaq, and Aamir Qureshi.
Of recent, the drama came under the radar as a rape survivor called out the narrative as telling her story, subsequently finding it very triggering, and also mentioned that the makers had not taken her consent in converting the story into an onscreen drama.
Subsequently, PEMRA – The regulatory authority for media content in Pakistan has taken notice of the content aired in Hadsa and halted any further episodes from being viewed till further notice.
Some details from the PEMRA notice appear below
Hadsa was “highly inappropriate, disturbing and not depicting true picture of Pakistani society”. The notice also read, “Furthermore, the public is of the opinion that portrayal of such heinous act will not only trigger the trauma of that unfortunate victim but would also tarnish the country’s image globally and viewers abroad would perceive Pakistan as an unsafe place for women.”
As per the notice issued by the regulatory body, “Broadcast/re-broadcast of drama serial Hadsa is hereby prohibited immediately under Section 27 of PEMRA Ordinance 2002 as amended by PEMRA (Amendment) Act 2007. The matter is further being referred to the Council of Complaints for appropriate recommendations to the Authority for final decision.”
A translation of a statement issued in Urdu by PEMRA read, “The ban on Hadsa highlights the authorities’ commitment to maintaining the quality of content and ensuring it resonates with the cultural and ethical values of Pakistan. This action also serves as a reminder to broadcasters to uphold the standards of content creation and to respect public sentiments.”
Furthermore, “The decision of the Complaints Council will shed further light on the drama serial’s fate, considering the guidelines set forth by the PEMRA Act and the PEMRA Code of Conduct. This incident underscores the regulatory body’s role in monitoring and safeguarding the media landscape in Pakistan, upholding content standards.”
Here’s why Hadsa the drama and the subsequent PEMRA notice both need to be deconstructed. The article does not aim to point fingers at any creator or regulatory body, but merely points at the need for a progression in the conversations that surround rape survivors, rape and what is considered acceptable on-air content for Pakistani and global audiences to watch.
1. Words Can Shape Or Break Perspectives
Why the conversation on rape needs to change.
It is imperative that any drama, story depicting rape or abuse, harassment of any kind be screened for sensitivity on the dialogues employed and sent out to mass audiences all over the nation, and beyond.
Bear in mind, this is merely the data from cases that have been reported in a country where rape cases reporting is generally lower than the actual incidence of rape.
Hence conversations around rape need to change with respect to how a very large community of rape survivors might view them, and also how our society can be desensitized by them.
Dialogues such as the following uttered by a rape survivor in Hadsa need to be screened. And hence, such sensitive topics must be run through by a team of academics and professionals when screened to mass audiences as they can (dangerously) affect mindsets – of those who have survived a heinous crime such as rape and those who are engaged in conversations about it.
Do recall that it is dramas that have the power to influence the way we think and perceive certain acts which is why we now refer to someone who has undergone rape as a rape survivor and not a rape victim. It’s all in the words we use to address a sensitive issue.
Furthermore, such dialogues that often sound the death knell on a survivor unfortunately, and are heavily damaging, must be counteracted by a response dialogue to negate the feelings above, in the event that they are screened. And this should not happen 2 episodes down the narrative but instantly and as firmly if not more than the original.
We would like to mention that the makers have subsequently clarified that the writer spoke to multiple rape survivors who volunteered their story and hence, it has not been written in isolation. Again, we would like to point out that the dialogue above could have been screened for sensitivity and can be hugely damaging for many whose families and the survivors themselves struggled through multiple challenges, might not even have access to therapy and those who do, might be triggered by such dialogues.
2. Hadsa will hopefully initiate conversations
So perhaps the conversations around Hadsa have a silver lining in that it might help us become more sensitive to a rape survivor’s trauma? Assuming that the creators who put out this content did so, with an aim to create awareness, hence, in all fairness, all projects that deal with sensitive topics in future need to be more aware of the nature of the issue they’re addressing – that the story carries multiple layers and must be addressed with the utmost care and research. A conversation with rape survivors, therapists, law enforcers and those who have dealt with the trauma and aftermath or the survivors first hand might be a great way to start.
It would be great that since our dramas are now venturing into real issues, we have real people behind the narrative who can tell the story with better representation. Recall Ruswai that hosted a guest appearance from rape survivor Mukhtara Mai and how powerful was the narrative that injected a real person behind the story.
That is not to say that narratives have always to host real life people, but their perspectives on the issue must be taken as critical feedback on the narrative and its telling.
3. Why it is important to gain consent, we can’t just tell someone else’s story
Hadsa and the conversations surrounding it just made a very significant point – consent from the person who’s story you’re telling is not just a formality but a legal requirement, other than a humane one. And if that is not forthcoming, then change the storyline vastly. A strong, well-knitted script with great execution will stand on its own!
Now the makers might argue that the story had nothing to do with a real-life incident, (please read director’s note below), but the fact that many viewers were quick to point out that the narrative is based on the original, real-life incident is perhaps enough for makers and all those involved in the narrative to know that they need to revisit the storyline. Viewers should not be able to draw parallels to real life stories as sharply as they did. Keeping in mind the closely guarded identity of the survivor in question, it would have been advisable not to use a remotely similar storyline in any part of the plot.
It can be said that stories with sensitive narratives targeting abuse, harassment are triggering for all survivors, but it can also be said that we have witnessed multiple such stories regarding sensitive issues but never have survivors called out the story as their own.
Hence, in summary:
4. Why we need audience age ratings on YouTube & screen such content late night
Hadsa has been called out as a drama with content that might be disturbing for viewers. Agreed. And so is a great deal of other content that is meant for mature audiences. This drama, and many others can make a great case to add an adult or mature rating for our dramas by the creators. One has to start somewhere. Furthermore, we can consider screening the drama after 9pm on channels and also, ensuring that the age rating is present on YouTube versions and channels as well.
It’s high time our content creators (and PEMRA) look into this need of the hour regulation, especially at a time when our creators are fielding OTT platforms such as Netflix which means we must UP our game too! Quality begins at home!
5. And now a final word on the PEMRA Notice
PEMRA’s notice focuses more on how the country’s image is perceived globally when, in fact, such stories represent a reflection of true-life incidents within a society and cannot be brushed under the carpet. Do revisit the stats mentioned above: A rape case every 2 hours is not a statistic to be taken lightly and neither do we feel that the country is misrepresented globally if we aim to throw light and create awareness on issues and causes that need to be highlighted.
Our question, Pakistani dramas field marital abuse in the form of mother in-law and husbands throwing a random slap (thappar) at their daughters’ in-law or wife. Do these acts not represent and /or mar our image globally? Perhaps we need to tell our own stories before someone else tells them. In the event that they are told by someone else, will it not be more a cause of “tarnishing a country’s image globally” as in PEMRA’s words?
We publish both PEMRA’s notice and director Wajahat Rauf’s statement below on Hadsa for a more comprehensive view on the matter.
Pemra Annouces Ban On Drama Hadsa
Director Wajahat Rauf Gives His Statement
Tell us if you have a point of view we missed on the story. We’d love to know in comments below.