Pakistani TV drama industry can be considered as a success story. From one or two TV drama shows per week in 1970s, more than 30 drama shows get telecasted every day on various tv channels, daily with a collective viewership of approx. 110 million for the more popular one. (Source: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bda5/045eb76939905db62e337df2ede80c12bc0d.pdf). Assuming a total population of 200 million if a show is viewed by even 100 million people it’s a 50% ratio. By any standard it’s a great penetration rate.
Topics of these TV drama shows very from mundane domestic disputes stories of domestic, in-laws and boy/girl love triangles or challenges to various social, moral and even religious issues. Bit by bit the TV writers are becoming stronger, bolder and more confident to write on more sensitive topics which were considered taboo previously such as child abuse, rape and aftermath, transgenders etc. With this newly acquired confidence TV writers can handle these sensitive topics in a subtle way without disturbing the highly conservative nature and family setting of their TV audience. Similarly, TV audience is also becoming more and more accepting of few topics that they had not seen being discussed earlier. Changes in the social and moral fabrics of the general society also support the above.
Same way that any other established and big industry generates and supports its own downstream industry, PTV Drama industry is no exception. Popularity of the TV drama shows can also be gauged from the fact that these PTV drama shows also feed several downstream TV shows as well as tons of other online contents. One can come across several other TV shows that are based entirely to present and discuss the key players of this industry and their contents. On internet there are tons of websites offering recorded PTV drama contents and discussion boards that engage a huge number of audiences commenting on each and every character and show in detail at a threadbare level. Video sharing sites as Youtube and Dailymotion have lots of videos that are based on these shows, their characters, their storyline, their dialogues, their sets, their dresses and what not. Nothing, and I mean literally nothing, gets unnoticed.
Point this article is trying to make here is that PTV dramas have proven to be a very very effective and engaging entertainment channel. Its audience include Pakistanis from all walks of life, men, women, kids, bid cities, small cities, villages, educated, less or completely uneducated etc. etc. Seems to be an advertisers’ paradise.
The question is if we have such a strong and well penetrating channel to reach general public, why can’t this channel be used for another constructive purpose, such as education?
Haha, who likes to be educated? Of course, no one, only if they know it’s coming!
World over there are tons of examples where people started doing good, or even bad, things after watching the same on TV. Intentionally or unintentionally we all make changes in our dressing style, talking style, walking style, hairstyle, our everyday lifestyle and our overall behavior and personality to match our favorite or not so favorite TV and movie characters. Such is the power of media; it influences societies for better or worse. It’s a tool, its up to us how we want to use the same, for improvement or otherwise.
TV drama writers, directors and producers have a great role to play here. It is in their hands to use the power acquired by them thru these popular TV drama shows to use this power to educate masses. Intention here is not to ask them to directly write moral, preaching or educational stories that no one likes. It would hurt them, their interest and the overall industry as such stories never sell and they will lose their popularity and hence their power of influence. Also, it will be ineffective as the moment people realized that they are being educated their minds get blocked and the message losses its potential benefit. The writers, directors and producers should continue writing, directing and producing whatever they want to offer today and that sells but should also start embedding few indirect and subtle educational messages thru their dialogues and/or thru some actions by the characters without necessarily spelling it out. Not only the frequency and size of these educational messages and actions should be very less but it should also be very natural not to distort the flow and quality of the show.
Through these lines I urge Anwar Maqsoods, Faiza Iftikhars, Samira Fazals, Bushra Ansaris, Umera Ahmeds, Farhat Ishtiaqs and Kahlil ur Rehman Qamars of PTV Drama industry to make it their policy to include some simple, small but very important messages such as make a line, wait for your turn, avoid littering etc. in their dramas. These messages can be embedded either in the dialogues or in the physical actions of leading characters that creates a demonstration effect. If each and every writer follow the above policy, and each and every director ensure including such contents in their dramas, common people will consistently listen and watch their favorite characters say and do certain things day after day, several times a day and they are bound to follow. Bit by bit, from one person to the other things will definitely improve.
Lets be fair and keep the entertainment as entertainment. Let’s not mix civic and social education with moral or religious preaching. I hope the message reaches some who are in a position to make a positive contribution to this society by influencing the masses developing good and healthy civic and social practices and change in our society for betterment.
December 14, 2019
The writer is a professional marketer and engineer with good work exposure to governments, and businesses and industries in the private sector in several countries. Idea is to take the first step in adding value to anything that one gets exposed to instead of just complaining about the same.