What Can Indian Television Learn From Pakistani TV Series 'Udaari'?
A poster of 'Udaari'.
Of all the things that India and Pakistan have in common, love for the idiot box remains prominent. The viewers - both in India and Pakistan - are interested in shows riding high on mundane 'saas-bahu' plots which only revolve around kitchen politics.
Not that Pakistani shows (which incidentally are gaining popularity in India) are devoid of stereotypes and misogynist themes, but a new Pakistani series namely Udaari - produced by acclaimed Pakistani producer Mumaina Duraid - has tried to break away from the clichéd trends.
The series talks about the most common menace of child sexual abuse, which is on the rise across the world. The sad part is that a lot has been said about this, but little has been done.
This subject may be an issue of debate on the news channels and newspapers, but, has rarely been used on the prime time TV. The subject has rarely been of interest to the makers of TV shows on either side of the border.
The irony in both the countries is that we are good at sweeping the dust under the carpet. So, when Udaari was aired on a top-rated Pakistani channel, and the audience started applauding the manner in which the show was trying to send across the message, it was served with a notice by Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (PEMRA).
The authorities apparently received complaints on Twitter and Facebook complaining against the theme. There was a demand to either ban the show completely or to modify the content.
Pakistani shows have largely been driven by hackneyed plots that talk either about the atrocities on women, rampant divorces or juicy stories of polygamy.
In the past, we have had shows such as Udaan that talked about bonded labour, Balika Vadhu was based on child marriage, Uttaran was based on life of a maid’s daughter, but eventually the focus of the show drifted from the main theme to meaningless sub-plots.
It is high time that Indian channels undertake quick introspection of the shows which revolve around unrealistic and regressive plots. Besides the saas-bahu staple, the content of the shows has stooped to a new low ever since nagins and dayans took over. A show like Udaari highlighting a subject as vital as child abuse might come as a whiff of fresh air.
Here’s what Udaari is all about
Enemy is inside the house: A little girl called Zebo gets raped by her step-father Imtiaz (played by a popular Pakistani TV star Aksaan Khan) when her mother is away for work. Zebo fails to reveal her agony to her mother fearing her father, who threatens to kill her.
Difficult to spot the culprit: For a long time mother Sajida, played by Samiya Mumtaz, fails to realise the real reason behind Zebo’s sudden aversion from life. Though Zebo’s gesture gives clear indication of being fearful of her father (she avoids going to the school with him), the mother fails to identify the hints dropped by her.
Rising threats in small town/villages: The sub-plot of the show narrates close friendship between Sajida and her neighbor Sheedan, played by Bushra Ansari. The friendship between the two gets sour when Imtiaz tries to molest Sheedan’s teenage daughter, and the villagers choose to give him to the police. The show manages to highlight how vulnerable underage women are in villages.