The Pakistani film and television industry has always been called a women’s medium. The audiences are mostly women, the major channel holders as well as writers are mostly women. Characters and stories are also female-driven; yet somehow there is a constant criticism on the industry of internalizing misogyny and celebrating the damsel in distress. When it comes to film, the flavors have seen some semblance of change. Gone are the days of the angry young man and the cursory heroine prancing around in the fields. The big screen is allowing plenty of space for women of all ages, classes and backgrounds to tell their story. 2018 was an interesting year for women in Pakistani television and film screen.
On the television screen Armeena Khan played a young besotted wife to Zahid Ahmed in ‘Daldal’, but there was more to her than just that. “Hira at first seems meek and spineless, but as the play progresses, she very much turns out to be the anchoring force of our ‘drifting’ hero,” Armeena says. “[Hira] is resolute, fiercely loyal, fiery, strong willed, ambitious and stands against all the negative elements and divisive forces that are thrown her way. Hira, in my opinion, was a strong willed character who wanted to make her own money, refused to get bullied by her in-laws and yeah, we should show more of that on the screen.”
Television also saw many other groundbreaking female roles such as Noori in ‘Ranjha Ranjha Kardi’, Kiran Haq played an outspoken wife in ‘Dar Si Jati Hai Sila’. On the big screen, films like ‘Motorcycle Girl’ and ‘Cake’ told completely female-oriented stories and did well with the masses.
Hareem Farooq played a strong female character in the film ‘Parchi’. “Our media is a reflection of our society – be it films, theatre or TV – and our women are strong and powerful, they are fighters and survivors,” said Hareem referring to the various roles women portrayed on-screen this year. “It is our responsibility to show and tell the strength that lies within a female … and 2018 was definitely the year of the Shero in Pakistanî cinema which I am so happy started off with Madam Sb in ‘Parchi’.”
The big screen also saw a fantastic film called ‘Load Wedding’ that was centred around the problematic concept of materialism and dowry. Faiza Hasan, who played “Baby Baji” in ‘Load Wedding’, said, “In ‘Load Wedding’ what I did in the end I can say it was my dil ki awaaz. I really loved the script and concept and the moment I read the full script I was absolutely sure that I had to do this.”
Faiza’s role was of a young, lower middle class woman who is slightly overweight and having trouble getting married. She is bitter but has a good heart. “I feel we seriously need to portray calm, educated career oriented female characters, not a brigade of rebellions,” Faiza says about the current stereotypes. “We need to promote education, freedom to choose career, financial independence. Dramas, films & celebrities should not promote ULTIMATE SHAADI GOALS/FITNESS GOALS/COUPLE GOALS/BRIDE GOALS. I consider it all rubbish.” Films and dramas today are too focused on marriage being the ultimate goal and Faiza believes that, “We as women should stop blaming men for the problems. Be strong change yourself and the men around you will be fine.”
Hajra Yamin and Kiran Malik starred in a Dubai based story, ‘Pinky Memsaab’ which also was based on female protagonists. “The female voice in cinema is where our empowerment lies so we need to take full responsibility for it”, Kiran Malik opined. “We need more powerful narratives for our women to take inspiration from.”
Hajra Yamin, who has been portraying various roles in television as well, said, “I’ve been very lucky that most of the characters I did in 2018 have been very diverse.” Hajra’s current play ‘Baandi’ is also on air where she is playing a young woman trying to cope through a difficult marriage. “They’re not usual or typical roles that have been assigned to women in this industry, or society for that matter. Even as Pinky in Pinky Memsaab. All the characters have been very strong. They did not need support, they were their own support system. They picked themselves up, they took life as it is, they learnt from it and moved on. Only when they achieved something, only then did they take the comfort in sharing that with another person.”
But is this trend taking off? Hajra thinks so. “Audiences are welcoming these characters. It’s at a slow pace but it’s gradually happening. They’re connecting with these characters. The perspectives are changing.”
We hope for the sake of womankind that this is what the future holds for Pakistani screens!