Pakistani dramas (Urdu: پاکستانی ڈرامہ) refers to televised miniseries produced in Pakistan, with distinctive features that set it apart from regular Western television series or soap operas. Pakistani dramas can be set in contemporary times or in historical settings. Different genres apply to these two types, from romantic comedies and action series to fusion science fiction dramas. A majority of Pakistani dramas are produced in Urdu; however, over the past 10 years an increasing number of them are being produced in other Pakistani languages such as Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi, Kashmiri and Pashto. The short miniseries format has been a trademark of Pakistani dramas since they began broadcasting on television in the 1960s. Pakistani dramas are popular worldwide, mainly in countries with a large Pakistani diaspora and also in the Middle East and India.
Pakistani dramas are known for being relatively short, and usually end after a run of less than one year. This makes them shorter than soap operas, but still much longer than serials. Most Pakistani dramas are based on Urdu novels, however, sometimes the story line tends to deviate from the novel's plot in order to be television compatible. They have also been used repeatedly to transmit sociocultural messages, by incorporating them into story lines. Traditionally, Pakistani dramas have been more appealing to women rather than men; however, the newer action dramas have slowly attracted younger male audiences in recent years. Overall they have helped to attract a wider audience across the country. Recently, Pakistani drama plots have evolved and the themes they address widened. For instance, women are now seen having more non-traditional roles. Moreover, previously taboo themes such as divorce, sexual abuse, and racism are now beginning to appear. However, kissing on screen is still considered unacceptable for Pakistani TV.
Pakistani dramas tend to fall within these six categories:
Original soundtracks (OSTs) are made specifically for each series and play an important role in Pakistani dramas. They are generally recorded by professional playback singers and tend to enhance the reputation and popularity of dramas. OSTs help to heighten a situation, accentuate a mood, provide relief, or serve as background to an interior monologue.
List of Pakistani dramas
A number of Pakistani dramas over the past few years have become immensely popular, including but not limited to Diyar-e-Dil (IMDB 9.1), Zindagi Gulzar Hai (IMDB 9), Humsafar (IMDB 9), Udaari (IMDB 9), Pyarey Afzal (IMDB 9.3), Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan (IMDB 8.9), Mata-e-Jaan Hai Tu (IMDB 7.2), Shehr-e-Zaat (IMDB 8), Durr-e-Shahwar, Maat.
In 2013, the Pakistani drama Humsafar was dubbed into Arabic and broadcast by MBC in the Middle East under the title Rafeeq-Al-Rooh. The show was an immediate, popular, success and, after the broadcast of its first few episodes, became the most watched drama on the channel. Prior to this, Pakistani dramas were not broadcast in the Middle East. Following Humasafar, other shows such as Malaal (aired as Hob-Wa-Nadam) and Zindagi Gulzar Hai (aired as Asrar Al Hob) were also dubbed into Arabic and broadcast by MBC.
Pakistani dramas have been popular in India for decades, even though the Indian government has imposed a ban on the airing of Pakistani television channels in India for over twenty years. Many dramas such as: Deewarein, Alpha Bravo Charlie, Waris, and Jungle were popular in India. In 2009, the Pakistan Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting appealed to the Indian Parliament to allow airing of Pakistani television channels in India. In 2012, due to increased pressure from civil society, India began debating whether it should reverse the ban on Pakistani government and private television channels, both news and non-news. India assured Pakistan that it will consider a proposal to lift the ban on Pakistani television channels. This was a consequence of a strong pitch by the Pakistani foreign secretary, Jalil Abbas Jilani, who proposed the same. However, as of yet, nothing has happened regarding the ban. On 23 June 2014, Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) launched its new entertainment television channel, Zindagi. The channel airs syndicated television shows from Pakistan. The channel, and its content, has been very well received by Indians. But, at the same time, the channel as been criticized for showing dramas consisting of a shorter number of episodes. So to assuage viewers, the channel has aired many notable Pakistani television shows such as: Aunn Zara, Humsafar, Kitni Girhain Baaki Hain, Maat, Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan, Mere Qatil Mere Dildar, and Zindagi Gulzar Hai. Zindagi Gulzar Hai became so popular, because of public demand, it was re-run just one month after it ended its premier run in India. After the 2016 Uri terror attack, Zindagi dropped all Pakistani shows from their line up. Shailja Kejriwal says that in India, Pakistani dramas have a reputation for "being slightly classier than the local fare".
Pakistani dramas are also very popular in Afghanistan Bangladesh and among the Pakistani diaspora. Pakistani television shows are aired on certain cable television channels in various countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway, United States, and Canada.