2014 is the year that Pakistani dramas reached larger audiences than ever before. With many of the best dramas from recent years being picked up by Zee Zindagi, our dramas and actors now have huge audiences across the border.
Pakistani serials have been a breath of fresh air to Indian audiences, particularly as the limited number of episodes allows for tighter storylines than never-ending Indian dramas.
Funnily enough, more Pakistanis also discovered our own dramas through Zee Zindagi via satellite. Recent classics like Bari Apa, Zindagi Gulzar Hai and superhit Humsafar have reached new Pakistani audiences this year through Zee Zindagi.
But what of this year’s new dramas? What were the best dramas on Pakistani channels this year? With such limited runs, each channel puts out dozens of dramas every year. Increasingly it takes a star name or major advertising to pull in audiences. However, while some of the most anticipated dramas of the year did do well, there were several surprise hits.
1. Jackson Heights
|Jackson Heights – Urdu1|
Easily one of the most talked-about serials this year, Jackson Heights follows the six expat Pakistanis living in Queens, New York. Directed by Mehreen Jabbar, the drama has star power in the form of Marina Khan and Aaminah Sheikh. With a storyline that features everything from immigrant struggles to domestic abuse, the ongoing serial is engrossing and intriguing. The pace has slowed at times but the multiple storylines have depth and nuance. The drama is abetted by brilliant performances from a strong cast, particularly Ali Kazmi as the malevolent Sikander.
|Pechan – A Plus|
Writer Bee Gul and director Khalid Ahmed, who gave us Talkhiyan, produced another gem in Pechan. Every second serial deals with infidelity and love triangles but Pechan stands out for its brilliant writing.
A multi-layered script follows the stories of protagonists who have many shades of grey in their characters. Iffat Umar excels as Kuku, who is failed by both her free-loading husband and her faithless lover. Alishba Yusef is similarly excellent as Laila, the naïve wife who undergoes a journey of self-discovery through the story.
The non linear script is beautifully handled and the excellent visuals help make Pechan a serial that is as appealing as it is engrossing.
3. Digest Writer
|Digest Writer – HUM TV|
Hum TVs Digest Writer is one of the most popular dramas currently running. Saba Qamar plays Farida, a talented but impoverished girl who takes up digest writing to help her family out of financial difficulties.
Dealing with the theme of a young woman forging a career for herself and trying to gain acceptance from her family and prospective suitors, Digest Writer is a story that has appealed to many. Well written and absorbing, this atypical serial is a deserving hit.
4. Pyaray Afzal
|Pyaray Afzal – ARY Digital|
Starring Hamza Ali Abbasi and Aiza Khan, this tale of unprofessed love was far-fetched yet captivating. Afzal, the son of a maulvi falls for a mill owner’s daughter, Farah. Their melodramatic love story sparked a huge following with its own memes on social media.
Hamza Ali Abbasi once again proves his star quality – his Afzal and the beautifully written script kept viewers tuning in to a story that was implausible yet gripping.
|Shanakt – HUM TV|
Shanakht tells the story of a girl from a modern family who dons hijab, against the wishes of her family. It charts her struggle for acceptance and has struck a chord with many viewers here and abroad. Despite the somewhat preachy message, a heroine who resolutely stuck to her spiritual awakening appealed to many viewers.
Despite having no known stars it’s a play that did well, particularly abroad. Interesting for its depiction of liberals as fairly intolerant, the serial’s unusual storyline made it standout.
Although 2014 had no superhit drama serials, it was generally a good year for Pakistani TV – with different stories, excellent production values and strong acting. Here’s hoping 2015 is even better.
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