Earlier this year, Pakistani producers were left appalled when viewers gave preference to a foreign film such as; Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness as opposed to local content. A press conference was held, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan was also requested to facilitate and support the local entertainment industry.
The situation raised an important question; why has the local industry failed to attract a mass audience despite all its efforts?
Every year, many new films and drama series are released. Yet the industry is constantly threatened by foreign content. It leaves another question in the locals’ minds; what is the real reason which caused a blow to the Pakistani entertainment industry?
Even though TV series and films have attempted to diversify the conveyance of “romance” as a genre, they fall short in their portrayal and depiction of the realities of life in Pakistan. Most of them are simply fixated on different tropes of love and often present unrealistic situations, which are not captivating enough for the audience to buy a ticket.
Recent shows such as “Ishq e La” shed light on the daring heights journalists go to expose the privileges of the ruling class. However, one of the protagonists Shanaya died too early to send a motivating message to women, which then led to her husband Azlaan trying to seek justice for her, making her actions come off as irresponsible and projecting Azlaan as the ‘hero’.
The repetition of the themes with male characters being the saviours and women as the victims or damsels in distress has become monotonous and demotivating for the masses. Given that women form the majority of the viewers of these dramas and films, they want to see stronger female characters.
Most movies and shows present toxic relationships. Even though most negative characters are met with poor fates by the end of the film or drama, they often glorify abuse and toxicity and fail to communicate a more positive message. Some shows have raised important issues such as body shaming and gaslighting in relationships. Unfortunately, these are overshadowed by the other themes.
Instead of presenting unhealthy values and practices in a negative light, the entertainment industry often glorifies them and helps peddle the narratives. Perhaps, the scriptwriters should focus on presenting healthy relationships to tackle the issue of toxic marriages, domestic abuse, and conservative patriarchal norms.
The recurring tropes in Pakistani shows and movies have driven audiences away. The audience has resorted to foreign content because of a constant repetition of regressive themes. Movies and drama serials are supposed to offer a break to the viewers from their daily lives and act as stress busters. In the eyes of the locals. Pakistani content has failed to present ‘quality’ content and has only stressed harsh and stressful environments.
Whether it’s a primetime drama serial or a commercial movie, the industry’s insistence on focusing on the genre of romance alone has discouraged viewers from watching local content altogether. It feels as if there’s an unspoken consensus; this show mustn’t go on.