Goodbye 2015 ~ Hello 2016

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‘Tis that time of the year again, when we pause to look back and evaluate all that we watched on our TVs in the year past, the good, the bad and the ugly of it all.

Before I continue, however, I must confess that in all the years I’ve been blogging, this is the most unmotivated I’ve ever been. Usually, during the year there has always been a serial or two that’s kept us interested and engaged, not because it was so bad or ’cause there was nothing else to watch, but because it was actually really good. 2015, by contrast, was a year where quantity was inversely proportional to quality.

For most part, the quality of what we watched ranged from average to downright abysmal, and this from even the most talented of creatives, who’ve given us some really superlative stuff in the past. Hence clearly this is not about questioning the quality of the talent, this is more about why these talented writers, directors, artists are being dictated to participate in one mindless project after another. The answer, as we are all well aware, is the omnipotent TRPs. The be-all and end-all of what  drives our drama industry these days.

Whether the stories we saw in our serials made any sense or not was not the headache of the drama industrialists (as I call them), that was left for us, the ‘nit-picky’ viewers, to fret and complain about, what mattered for the content heads, marketing departments, producers and channel heads, was the bottom-line. As long as a serial got the ratings and made money all was well. And because it was all about the money, honey, we got long-winded serials that outlasted 99.9% of the shaadis in dramaland. Mitti pao on sense and sensibility, reason and rationale, logic and coherence.

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Even as our lives as Pakistanis, whether living in the country or outside, got more and more complicated, our dramas kept telling us that all that mattered was ‘ishq, pyar, muhabbat. There was no problem bigger than shaadi, and woh kab hogi aur kis se hogi. Supposedly these are the only topics that we, the viewers of Pakistani dramas, want to watch. That we might be interested in more, and if so what that might be, is something no one will ever know because we have no say in the matter and nobody’s bothered to ask our choice. We can only choose from what’s on the menu, or alternatively simply switch to non-Pakistani fare.

So myopic have recent dramas become that if these were your only introduction to a Pakistani woman then you would be forgiven for thinking she was a complete moron, the self-absorbed kind, whose life revolved solely around main, meri and mera.

Check out a few of these drama titles from 2015: Main Adhoori, Main Kamli, Main Baraye Farokht, Mere Ajnabi, Mera Naam Yousuf Hai, Mera Yahan Koi Nahin, Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai, Tera Mera Rishta, Sartaj Mera Tau Raj Mera, Mere Dard Ki Tujhe Kiya Khabar, Tum Mere Kiya Ho, Tere Mere Beech Mein, to name just a few.Collage1

It is interesting to note that even though our drama industrialists appeared unaware of the fact, they remained fully aware they were dishing out the same old, hence the impetus for shiny packaging. Take any recent serial and there is a marked increase in promos that revolve exclusively around the young lead pair, training the spotlight on their ‘romantic’ encounters. That these  scenes might not happen till the final few episodes, or the overall story might not even be the pair’s ‘love story’ per se, or even that the so-called ‘love story’ is actually a deeply disturbing tale is a whole other conversation. What matters is that younger audiences are hooked and eagerly waiting and watching for the ‘romance’ to bloom.

Along similar lines, the almost overnight interest in the lakes and valleys of the northern regions is too coincidental to be a mere fluke. One story after another is suddenly set in the scenic mountainous regions, so much so that at times it almost seems like we are watching an extended advertisement for the Tourism Department of Pakistan.

For now, these strategies seem to be working; despite their aggravation with the same old, many continue to watch for the chemistry between the lead pair and the exotic locations, but for how long?

All this to say that at the end of 2015, in terms of subjects and storylines there was nothing new to write home about, at least for me. That said, despite the overall doom and gloom there were a few efforts that merit praise and deserve acknowledgment.

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Jackson Heights: Written by Vasay Chaudhry, directed by Mehreen Jabbar and produced by Six Sigma, this serial aired on Urdu 1. Falling victim to the malaise of over-stretching, about 9-10 episodes too long, here was a story that engaged constructively with issues of domestic abuse and depicted women with concerns other than pyar and shaadi. Aamina Sheikh shone as the strong-willed Salma, and Marina Khan was fabulous as Michele. Ali Kazmi was very convincing as the menacing Sikander and Nauman Ijaz as the affable taxi driver, Bhatti sahab, breathed life into one of the most well-written characters in 2015.

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Mera Naam Yousuf Hai: It is no secret that this serial was a mixed bag for me; there was a lot here that disturbed me, but then there were parts that I appreciated as well. My issues with content aside, this serial deserves a round of applause for its technical aspects. Qasim Ali Mureed’s brilliant camerawork, framing and lighting was particularly impressive as was the sound design, the placement of the various songs chosen for the serial, and the overall editing. I do hope some of our editors and sound people watch this one and take careful notes on how to do things right.

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Omar from Goya: For a serial that had started off promising much, Goya flailed and faltered pretty badly around the midway point. Despite all its shortcomings, however, Goya gave us the best male lead of 2015, plastic-gold-silver-trophy-cup-1450--3503-p2Omar. In a dramasphere teeming with paragons of perfection and bad boys, Omar stood out for his human-ness and his relatability. Here was a man who was weak and strong in equal measures, neither perfect nor
flawed- he was real.  Given a lot of depth and nuance by writer Mohammed Ahmed sahab and well-directed by Farrukh Faiz, Omar was played to perfection by Osman Khalid Butt.

Hina Bayat: That I am a fan is no secret, but even if I was not I would’ve been after this year. Working within the existing framework of recycled stories and cliched characters, Hina has always endeavored to bring us something new each time we see her on the screen. I don’t think any of us would’ve expected a Khala Khursheeda – burqa clad and paan chewing – type character from her, but she surprised us all with her excellent portrayal. Later we saw her as the sharp-tongued, strong-willed Afia. Starkly different characters, both were performed with equal brilliance and panache. Had I been in the business of giving awards, Hina would’ve been my pick for the best actor award, not just in terms of these two performances, but overall consistency and commitment to her craft.

These then are a few of the things that stood out for me in 2015. For an overview of the disturbing trends we saw in our dramas this past year, please check out my piece published in the latest issue of The Friday Times.

I know you guys will have a lot more to add to this discussion, so do chime in and share your take on the year past. Looking forward to reading all your thoughts.

As I sign off on my last post for 2015, please join me in hoping and praying for a happier, healthier and safer year for all, irrespective of who, what and where.

Happy New Year!!

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Written by SZ~

Link to my Friday Times piece

A year of misogyny

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66 replies

    • @Hina: Thank YOU!! Every time I see an Apo or a Khursheeda or an Afia or the Begum from Manto I feel sad that all your hard work and effort is going unacknowledged and un-awarded by our channels, who only believe in awarding hum aur hamarey log 😦
      Hopefully one of the days some brave soul will rise up and think beyond the parochialism shown by channels and institute a true industry wide award show, along the lines of the Emmys and award those who are truly deserving!

      Here’s wishing you a fab 2016, personally and professionally, and we all look forward to many more equally if not more brilliant performances from you in the year to come. xo

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  1. Spot on SZ. Meray dil kee aawaaz.

    As you probably know by now, I “follow” a lot of dramas – whether it be through reviews or promos or actual watching. The fact that I am now not even motivated to watch the promos or read the reviews of so many dramas just speaks volumes of how “interesting” or “engaging” they are. And I am so with you on the misleading promos, overstretched story lines, and dramas that look like a documentary of Tourism Department. Seriously, it’s like rotten peanuts packaged in a lovely glossy gift wrap.

    I was terribly, terribly disappointed in many serials this year. Started watching Zidd and Goya with a lot of hope but both just went downhill. Diyar-e-Dil was bearable in places but even if we stomach the arguments given to justify the disturbing scenes in it, they have now set in place the “trend” – violence in the name of romance which is portrayed in Gul-e-Rana (another serial from which I had some hope but seeing Adeel pull off a Wali-Moiz combo in the promo made me decide I will NOT watch it). And then the “masterpiece” that is Sangat. I agree the stuff on Geo and ARY is worse but we expect something substantial from Hum. I saw an ad in Dawn congratulating Sultana Siddiqui for her honorary degree and praising her for her work in women empowerment. Seriously?

    I don’t have very many hopes from 2016 especially after watching the photos of in-shoot drama serials.

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  2. Very well written as always. Few months back I watched kankar and after reading both your articles I was thinking that probably channels are right and they are showing what people wanted to see. The comments under each episode ( kankar watched on youtube) blammed the lead actress for being stuborn, zuban daraz and shohar sa behaas kra gi tu thapar kaye gi. Without thinking/realizing that physical and verbal abuse is/should not be acceptable. Now that in every popular or high TRP drama hero is abducting and threatning the female lead and people are going laa laa over them. Instead of protesting about the attitude idealizing them. I don’t know but something is wrong. Anyhow a blessed New year to u as well.

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    • @asma: Happy New Year! Good to hear from you – its been a while!

      Ab what can one say .. I feel like we all are on repeat mode complaining about the same stuff but nobody really cares, and actually dekha jaye tau why should they care .. check out the various drama FB pages and there are so many who are loving whats being dished out.. the same dramas that we all complained about here received best drama awards in some many year-end polls and surveys .. so I do wonder at times if it is us who are actually wrong and are too nit-picky or simply not getting it all .. because clearly there are masses out there who thought that so many serials last year were absolute masterpieces ..

      And now i feel like Im getting paid to publicize it, but do check out Preet … I know the lead pair was not very attractive for many of us, but once you start watching all that kind of falls away and you really get into the very intelligent story unfolding in front of you ..

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      • Thank you and Good to know that you are fine. Yes I am watching preet. First few episodes were like forward krta jao but goshi’s get up in the title and sulehri sb presence giving the impression that it will take an intresting turn in later episodes. Yesterday’s episode was very intresting.now looking forward to hamza Maya drama and that amina sheikh’s one. Hopefully they ‘ll break the routine formula flow. Any plans of watching and reviewing ho mann jahan?

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  3. You just spoke my heart out on the 3015 tv dramas…..I was terriblely disappointed in to see few of the dramas the I forced my self to watch and be called love Pakistan and love it’s dog( kidding). But couldn’t do it may be I a rotten case…. Any way as you pointed things are not looking better in coming year but keeping my hand, my toes and my neck twisted hoping for at least one or two set apart enachtodes from someone who is or are thinking out side the box of talaq, dusri biwi, halala the list is so long ……
    Talking about HINA BIYAT is just like “suraj ko chiragh dekhne wali baat” She unmatchable….. I became her fan after watching Telkiyein, what a powerhouse of acting she is…., you have written all that I want to say ..,,., I read your post on The Friday Times….. It’s like what they say ” thore likhe ko bohat jano” It’s enough for the Media Industrilists” jo unke kan per juoon riengh jae tu” ….
    New year new hope new resolutions new dramas new entertainments….. Not giving up Let’s have new start…. Stay blessed in this new year …. “Chao”!!!!’

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    • 2015 made a lot of mistakes…. Not my fault too much but these smart phones try to beat your smartness😀 so you be kind to me ….

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    • @Shamim Hasan: Thank you for your loving concern – you are an absolute sweetheart and such a fab addition to our group of friends here .. I guess we do have 2015 dramas, bad as they were, to thank for the fact that you found us 🙂

      And yes, after a dismal 2015 the outlook for 2016 is not that bright… there are a few things coming up that sound promising but we’ll have to wait and see ..

      Will be waiting to read your feedback on Preet, sorry to have kept you waiting all these weeks — itna kuch ho gaya!

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  4. Excellently written.. All that we witnessed in 2015… And your article in Friday times too.. That was just brilliant too.. I agree with you on everything, specially Hina Bayat and Omer being hero of 2015 ..

    This is such a shame that from whole year there are just few things that we can easily count on our fingers that were pleasant to watch… JH, MNYH (latter half.. And all thanks to Afia’s character) and Goya.. Thanks to Omer character.. And no thanks to DeD… Remaining all dramas were just trash seriously..

    Keeping up the bachi kuchi spirit high for 2016 ..A comparatively better year for dramas.. 2015 was more great for films than for dramas..

    A happy new year to you and my DRNR gang..

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    • @Rehmat: First off, soooo sorry!! My sincerest apologies to you and @VZ and @FA and @Sonia I honestly thought I’d responded to every comment on this thread but afsos! So please know it was an honest oversight and not an intentional slight 😳

      And yes, back to your comment: Its getting harder to remain optimistic but yeah, hoping and praying for a better year ahead .. there are a few that look slightly diff but the overall view looks bleak .. bt dekho umeed pe duniya qaim ha #fingersandtoesfirmlycrossed !

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      • @SZ: aray please dont be… I know you v.well.. You cant ignore anyone intentional 🙂

        Yes lets wait n watch but had to tell you, @VZ and @FA that thoroughly enjoyed discussions between you people.. Thats why i love this place so much.. So much fun to read thoughtful points 🙂

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        • Rehmat, long time yaar, it’s such a hopeless scene at the moment as far as dramas are concerned. I am lagging behind on Preet, will try and catch up soon!

          Hope you are well, what plays are you following these days?

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          • Hey VZ… Indeed long time.. I was so wishing to reply you @FA on your comments but just couldn’t it.. Im doing good thanku 🙂 yaar filhal tou Preet and then there is this serial Mujhe kuch kehna hain on Geo.. I dont know why but i am hooked to it.. Lol..

            How are you doing:)

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  5. Happy 2016 SZ and to hoping we have better dramas this year. Couldn’t agree more with your analysis. And with the comments posted by DB.

    There weren’t enough quality ones to refer to our Indian friends this year. No stand outs. Yes, Diya-re-dil was popular and Sadqay Tumharay and Jackson Heights but couldn’t help but feel they were dragged on unnecessarily. Tbh, haven’t even watched any of the 3 in its entirety. Will probably finish JH cos I wanna see where the characters ended up. And of course for the stalwarts, Marina khan and Nauman Ijaz’s brilliant portrayal of Bhatti sahib.

    Everyone involved should think of finding a way to return to the short but sweet storyline of the 13/14 episode. If we are considering all the million time slots one has to fill I think it shouldn’t exceed more than 20 episodes.

    Is the lack of variety of stories also due to the fact that the actors do not take a risk with their image? So writers do not write such a script? Seldom have I seen someone really adapting all the characteristics in their portrayals. Or as much as they can. It is not just physical appearances, I find the language and the dialogue delivery do not correspond.
    The most we see, is young to old characters.
    (The exception being as you rightly point out is Hina Bayat khan and I think I can also include Hina Dilpazeer in that same category.). Maybe that is the trick.
    Get more Hinas please.

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    • @Arisha: Hello! Thanks for reading a commenting.

      Re: your question abt lack of variety in stories etc, we;ve talked about it quite a bit here, but basically its the marketing dept that dictates what the masses supposedly wants to watch and then writers are given plot lines to write their stories .. and then writers are also told what all to include – tears, mazloomiyat, mar pitayi, etc – and so in this scenario where is the place for creativity. Also when actors are appearing in so many dramas and there is rish to get the project completed and move on to the next one, where is the time to experiment with characters and work on creating them … this is precisely the reason why I have such high regard for Hina Bayat, where she does take that extra step into making each of her characters stand out.

      I agree, Hina Dilpazeer is a gifted actress as well, but I would love to see her in a role where she is playing a “normal” character that she elevates to another level, without resorting to props or facial contortions or OTT acting.. I guess I would like her to spread out and move beyond Faseeh Bari’s characters ..

      Re: Interviews: To be very honest, those take a lot of arranging and managing and Ive been burnt by one really bad experience so am very wary of hosting these sessions .. but that said, who would you like to interview? Let me know your wish list and who knows … 🙂

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      • SZ, I am sorry to hear about your bad experience re: the sawaal-jawaab section. The answers are so honest, the respect those artists have for you and this forum really comes through. I hope once you’ve healed, you’ll re- introduce the segment, and my fondest wish will be for a session with the immensely talented, humble and hard-working Hina Khwaja Bayat. There’s just no one like her when it comes to versatility, but hey, I guess I am preaching to a convert here 🙂

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        • @VZ: Re: the bad experience: Had it not happened publicly, I would’ve not even given it a second thought and mitti pao-ed and moved on, but the fact that it happened was beyond irresponsible and unprofessional on the person’s part and had people questioning me and accusing me of putting up fake announcements for cheap publicity, really had me rethinking this whole exercise.. That said, Hina B is in a class all by herself and so such things would not be a concern at all ..

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  6. You summed it up perfectly in this post and also your article for TFT. Besides Jackson heights, I think the only other story that is giving me some hope is preet na kariyo. But given how quickly our dramas derail, who knows where that will land.

    And sangat… Let’s not even go there. I am hoping someone lodges a formal complaint with PERMA

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    • And I did enjoy dooriyan a lot. *spoiler alert* my only issue was that the main lead didn’t divorce his wife before moving out of his house and remarrying. Everything else was perfectly and sensibly done.

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    • @Sonia: Thanks for reading and commenting .. as I write above, sorry for the delayed reply 😦

      Re: Preet, indeed, it is going fabulously well .. and so far so good, hopefully will stay the course and not disappoint

      Re: Sangat and PEMRA: I know I am very cynical but from where I am seeing it, as long as everybody concerned is making money there will be no change… why should they change? We as audiences say we dont want to see it, but clearly ppl are hooked.. look at GeR… its getting the highest TRPs and no just that, look at how much of a buzz it has on social media .. so much so that even an otherwise disinterested viewer is made curios enough to go check it out.. and hence it keeps getting ‘popular.’

      It is up to us to switch off such dramas .. as long as we keep watching and commenting such dramas will keep airing.. social media and viewers are all equally complicit .. lets stop waiting for someone else to take steps, here what we should do:
      as viewers stop giving shows any of our time and stop watching, switch it off ..
      as social media users, stop responding to GeR related posts …

      Ultimately it will die a slow death … no channel will show stuff that does not invite public interest (good or bad doesnt matter). I realize I come off sounding idealistic, but pause and think back, this is precisely how intelligent drama has died out, just because not enough people were watching and backing them, hence no ‘buzz’ was created and hence drama makers get the message that such shows are not worth backing.. Many may disagree, but this is the mantra that I have followed on my blog: I refuse to provide a platform for such dramas and join in the frenzy, I’d rather write less and about less popular dramas and talk about issues that are real and relatable for me and others who are likeminded.

      Also, complaining now about dramas like Sangat and GeR seems to me a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted .. and here I will not say more just point towards DeD, a serial massively popular among popular critics and masses, that was equally, if not more so, disturbing because of how insidiously so much was justified, and think back to how many justifications and rationalizations were provided then by so many for all that was wrong there.

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  7. Thanks SZ. Happy new year. Alas my hopes for 2016 are not high.

    Hope to catch up on Preet Na Kariyo but my husband is hesitant after Dayer-E-Dil.

    (We will be watching Pehchaan shortly.)

    Who watches these dramas? Who creates these TRPs?

    I read an interview with Marina Khan when she had just started working for GEO and when asked about the storylines for these dramas, she replied “these dramas are not made for you and me”, the implication being that they are made bored housewives or something. I read somewhere that the drama Saada Suki Raho got the highest TRPs for this year. Even the title of this drama makes me shiver in fright and throw up.

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    • @NKhan: Hey! Long time! Fab to hear from you again.

      Do check out Preet, I highly recommend it .. its nothing like DeD, infact as I have written in the latest review it is like those dramas of a few years ago where we took quality as a given and never thought a thing about them …

      Pehchan, as you well know, is an absolute favorite of mine. Do write and let me know what you thought of it ..

      Re: TRPS: There was post I’s done a year or so ago where I had linked to an academic write up about TRPs and where these meters are put and how rankings are measured etc … but TRPs is basically just an easy answer handed to us viewers .. basically its the channels who have given in to their marketing departments who tell them what topics to address .. and this is so silly because it should be the complete opposite, where it should be the marketing depts job to sell to the corporates what the channels are producing .. thats how marketing works in the real world .. but yahan tau qissa hi ulta hai ,… :/

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  8. Hey, SZ. This has been such a dismal and frankly, disgraceful year for Pakistani TV dramas. Your piece on TFT is spot on. The only serial I followed this year was Diyar-e-Dil, and at least all of us here understand the disturbing stereotypes that one made abundant use of, and that too in the name of family values and romance. I had the fortune of skipping all of the mazloom aurat serials, so the little sanity left post-DeD was preserved.

    That every next serial is going to follow the same formula for ‘success’ is a foregone conclusion, what is more of a concern is that viewers are now incapable of comprehending that they’re being fed wrong ideas in a way that they appear right..or just not wrong, which is the worst thing that can happen. Do I make any sense? Lol.

    And now pretty lead actors strolling around pretty locations, like you said, are supposed to make up for the glaring dearth of engaging, complex and relatable stories & characters. No one should fall for that effortless trick but the majority has lost all sense of discernment and critical judgment. Personally I have stopped watching serials altogether. The new Hamza Abbasi-Maya Ali starrer..don’t know the name..may bring me out of the self-imposed exile, so to speak, but even then past experience has trained us not to have high hopes. So, until the next good one comes along (seems unlikely that it ever will), it’s just mindless consumption of the same old garbage through TV screens.

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    • @Nashra: Hello! I wondered where you’d disappeared!

      How come you’re not watching Preet, I dodn;t think Id be saying this about any recent drama serial but it has surprised me and I highly recommend it. Its something totally different from our typical run of the mill dramas.

      The new HAA and MA starrer looks like yet another version of the same old.. wohi pyar muhabbat ishq shaadi, all combined with pretty visuals and great cinematography, the GeR Kotri bridge visual makes an appearance here as well .. so I’m not holding my breath for it .. I’ll check it out but I would be really surprised if it engages me intellectually the way Preet has .. Do give it a shot .. it is admittedly OTT in the first couple of eps, but it all makes sense in the later context of the story and its going really well, where we actually have stuff to discuss — would love to have you join in 🙂

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      • Heyyy SZ! Good to know you’re well now 🙂

        I’ve missed the discussions here too, but I haven’t entirely disappeared. I’ve been reading your reviews of Preet even though I haven’t followed the serial. Now why I am reading reviews of a serial I haven’t properly watched can only be testament to my feelings – I missed reading you so!
        I don’t know why I’m not following it lol – even though it seems different and not run of the mill – besides having watched bits of some episodes. I guess I totally gave up on TV after DeD and others at home have gotten used to monopolizing it all the time now. Will try watching it from now on for sure.

        Yep that serial is a love story. I actually loved HAA in Pyare Afzal, so want to give it a go for his acting and yes, not much else looks new. Firstly, I don’t understand why these imminent insta-popular serials don’t go for anything beyond the love/marriage angle, if only for a change! (It feels like we’re stuck in constantly reproduced inferior desi versions of Pride & Prejudice, what with the unending preoccupation with matrimony and romantic attachments). The writers/makers here have horribly circumscribed both themselves and the audience. Secondly, in all honesty, I don’t dislike a good love story *provided* it offers something fresh and doesn’t evoke anger and disgust in me at every turn, like a certain recent ‘blockbuster’ serial did – but chances of that happening are so slim so as to be almost nonexistent.

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        • @Nashra: Because these PnP remakes work and there is an eager audience out there that laps it up so they will keep churning these out, why shouldn’t they? Why should they bother with diff stuff when all people actually want to see is an uncomplicated love story with two beautiful people in picturesque surroundings..

          Re: non-domestic stories, LOL come to Preet, can’t complain and then not watch 😉

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    • @Obi: Congratulations on a fab 2015 and here’s to wishing you continued success and hoping that 2016 turns out even bigger and better for you!

      Best wishes also for BaluMahi.. will be looking forward to that one!

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  9. First of all wishing @SZ and the gang a great year ahead. thank you @SZ for proving this forum and thanks to the gang here for being there so we could rant and rave our hearts out and mostly bang our heads together and share our concerns.

    First of all hats off for ur Friday Times pc. Thank you for your voice of sanity that seems so to have gone missing aaj kal when it comes to serious dramaland issues.

    The year of misogyny – That it was.. And the really sad thing is this was deemed ok, a norm and infact cheered upon. How did we as a society regress this far? Who is to blame? – I think the drama industry as a whole needs to sit back and look a the dangerous trend they have set this year. Infact it probably started with Bashar Momin last year. @NKhan mentioned Sada Sukhi raho. It’s a real shame if that’s the case that it actually topped the charts..I caught a few precaps and promos on Geo and it’s BM and domestic abuse all over. And what’s worse, this year this trend was shamelessly glorified and repackaged by Hum as ‘romance’ in Ded and GeR.

    If you see the initial trailers/promo material for GeR it seems like a romantic saga.. but in fact it’s quite the opposite. Isn’t this misleading audiences? Let alone all the other issues with the presentation of the story, my real beef here is : how can they promote a story about abduction and domestic abuse as romance? Surely there must be some sort of guideline against this kind of misled marketing..?!! ..

    Unfortunately, people will keep watching, TRPs will keep going up and we will keep getting more of this irresponsible behaviour. The channels will carry on with this until they get a DANDA.. I think that’s where some one like PEMRA should intervene.. Abb billi ki gardan main kon bandhe ghanti? How and who and can bring it to their notice?..

    The reaction we saw during DeD was mind boggling. We as an audience have been slow poisoned to that extent.. that in an age where we claim to be progressing as a society…

    Like you mentioned, pyar muhabbat and domestic issues rule the dramaland.. We get something out of the box like Preet na Kariyo koi and audiences go cold.. Dramas like Waris, Chand Girhan, Hawain, and more recently Mera Sain and Mastana Mahi managed to capture the audiences. Why now, are we so hooked on mindless romance and domestic issues that gems like Preet don’t seem to be making any impact.

    We keep hearing the argument ‘that’s what the audience wants..’ :
    I feel perhaps we are not getting enough of a healthy mix. The channels have fed the audience on romance and domestic issues so much so that the audience is not ready to accept any other flavour any more. Perhaps our ‘drama industrialists’ need to keep up with a variety of subjects and genres until they wean the audience off this diet .. I hope and pray that we get to see a variety of stuff this year…

    On a more positive note , I felt this year the mazloom aurat’s tears were toned down, after voicing our concern last year endlessly we did see a change in the direction. We get to hear ‘main mazboot aurat hoon’ and mazboot vs kamzor aurat quite a lot this year. Yes, the channels got the depiction and balance quite wrong (and what makes a strong woman is a debate in its own), but I do see this as a positive step. We did see some change…tabdeeli aa rahi hai.. It proves to me that if people like you keep giving honest critique, eventually they will hear you…. So I’d say @SZ keep it up!!!

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    • @FA: Again, repeating my apology to you as well – sorry!

      Agree, 1000% with you and your read on all that went on this past year. Re: PEMRA; I just responded to a comment above on why I dont think PEMRA is interested enough … also, I dont know if you remember the Maya Khan Show, where she went around chasing couples etc.. where civil society intervened and the show was banned,,, but then give it a year or so and lo and behold she was back again, different show, different avatar but with basically still the same thoughtless. sensationalist programming.. my point is that even if PEMRA intervenes, they will ban one show, perhaps even take the step towards banning ‘rapes’ , but the problem still remains .. what abt shows like DeD? I dont know if you read the director Haseeb Hasan’s interview in Dawn a couple of days ago, but if you haven’t do read it and appreciate how adroitly he begins with smoothly he distances himself from those trying all means possible to gain high TRPs, then rationalizes the kidnaping scene and finally says that the kidnapping scene did infact bring in viewers and they got hooked after it… ab in this scenario, where a very troubling serial gets designated the best serial of the year and is applauded for portraying Pakistani cultural values, then there is not much PMRA can do, unless it sits down to censor every episode of every serial, which is not possible. Hence my recommendation, and what I am personally doing these days, is to stop watching these serials .. why are we giving them our time of day?

      Re: tabdeeli, lol sure, when you put it that way, there is tabdeeli, but if this is tabdeeli then do we really want it?

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      • @SZ Aray no worries!
        Re PEMRA: I didn’t mean to say that there should be 80s style full on censorship, but there has got to be some sort of guidelines somewhere. I understand that there can’t be blanket ban on rape issues and other subjects like that, but surely someone can take action against mislead advertising.. We need a Good Wife to bring forward a lawsuit lol

        Yes I read HH interview and it angered me! That’s basically summed up my issue with DeD. I am not condoning GeR or Sangat in any way but atleast they do not claim to condone actions of Adeel or Shehroze (or whatever their names are). Their actions are being portrayed in a negative light. Wali on the other hand was portrayed, sold, accepted and CELEBRATED as a true hero… I feel it’s the repackaging and false advertising that is more damaging….
        It wasn’t just Wali and his kidnapping and his gun-trotting cowboys ways, there was Sohaib and his kali raat, and Behroze with his shananiguns that were all neatly swept away under the carpet with no apologies or consequences.. It’s the acceptance of such behaviour that is truly worrying. Apart from all the female characters the only character who apologized for any of his actions was AJ, and his mantra was also ‘mitti pao’… Unfortunately just because everyone worked hard doesn’t mean that project is above and beyond all criticism and we must all mitti pao on all the serious issues with it…

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        • @FA: Re: PEMRA, your comments abt Haseeb’s interview is the precise reason why a body like PEMRA would fail . its all about perspective and as you can see everything we found problematic was seen as totally fabulous by an overwhelming majority of viewers and the creatives associated with it, so where would they even go about correcting issues …
          Also, on a side note, we all see the ’80s as a very oppressive time for the media, and it may well have been so in terms of information censorship etc, but look at the quality of stuff produced, Ankahi, Waris, Tanhaiyan .. infact our golden age of dramas is from that period … and yes they showed women wearing dupattas and they had double beds for married couples, but look beyond the cosmetics and it becomes evident that they talked more boldly about social and civil issues and the aurat on screen then was more mazboot then she is so many decades later … our so called empowered heroine, Fara (as many saw her), is not even a speck on someone like a Sana Murad; those women then were aspirational role models and yahan tau the less said the better …

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  10. Wow I ended up writing soo much..
    Just want to add the Pakistan ki sair vid is fab! I lm a travel junkie and love sights and sounds, but please drama makers try and make an effort in contextualizing these exotic locations too…

    @Hina Khwaja Bayat hats off to you to you for bringing some variety in this bher chal of a year!

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  11. @SZ. Nice wrap-up of 2015! And I had a good chuckle at @FA’s response…”we are being slow poisoned.” What would you say if you saw what Bollywood dished out? It’s DDT all over again! That’s why people like myself have crossed the border and become fans. Though I must say it started with ZGH for me. And that’s been a tough act to follow.

    I loved your TFT’s piece SZ. Perhaps you can be our Rachel Carson.

    Since I haven’t been able to find anything current that holds my interest, I’ve been catching up on old dramas and Anwar Maqsood/Moin Akhtar, so 2015 wasn’t that bad for me since I was time-traveling! Happy Near Year all.

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    • @JR: I do actually watch quite a bit of Bollywood and am dismayed at what we see there as well, but the big difference there is that with films/cinema you have an option as to whether you want to go or not, there is a rating system in place and so if you know a film is sexually explicit or shows violence ir what not you can choose not to go.. but with tv dramas they are airing in our houses where unsuspecting children are sitting with their parents and watching dramas where heroes are brandishing guns and stories revolve around DNA testing, rapes and halalas .. it is this the routinization of this type of stuff that really bothers me now …

      Re: ZGH: Now you can hate me but even when that had first aired I had talked about Zaroon’s behaviour as borderline sexual harassment – his forcing Kashaf to talk to him, deliberately invading her personal space, etc – and at that time I was scolded for misreading his friendliness etc, but now as I look back it is clear that a lot of what we have been excusing over time has gradually evolved into what we see happening these days, its not a sudden happening as many commentators seem to think .. and so I do feel that drama makers need to take stock ..

      And yes, time travel is a good way to spend your time since there is really not much out there .. Preet is an exception and I know you are watching it .. but other than that I have not seen anything new as yet that has me holding my breath… lets keep our fingers crossed that there is something good coming our way …

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  12. Dear SZ, friends,

    Very belated Happy New Year to everyone… Can’t believe it’s 2016 already!

    SZ, your article in TFT was fab. Thank you for being the sane voice, fighting for some quality in our plays. You have always been responsible in your writing, that is something that resonates with us viewers and the artists. The sincerity that you put into your writing, the immaculately set out reviews, the warmth with which you welcome comments and the time you give to each and every comment is so rare, almost as rare as finding a decent play these days! Just love this space you’ve created 🙂 Thank you!

    For me, last year, in TV dramaland, was the year of the great makeover. Everything and everyone had a makeover: we went from Karachi to much cooler, scenic locales; the mazloom aurat transformed into stronger than steel mazboot; our heroes toh went from being gentlemen (shareef) to gun-trotting cowboys; the definition of “mard” got a makeover too, as did the “hooks” that were used to bait the audience: we got promos of young stars with terrific on-screen chemistry, we got “family values”, we got more social media hype than ever before for products that would hardly deliver… The list goes on.

    But one more thing got a makeover, for the worse: channels’ greed. Stories stretched like rubber bands, characters with hardly any depth, mundane dialogues, and the icing on the cake: irresponsible take on serious social issues like rape and domestic violence – makes us wonder if things can get any worse…

    The one party that got short-changed was us, the audience. It’s like, we got this brand new eatery, wonderfully polished, gleaming new vessels, but inside it was stale khichri for our consumption. Most of the audience quietly consumed what was served. If some of us protested, we were ignored, or we got a stock answer: this is what the majority want, so there. The sad fact is, most of the critics too enjoyed this stale food being served. And all the while the health inspectors (PEMRA and other regulators) were probably sleeping.

    I agree with FA, it’s time the regulators rein in the channels. I can’t see any other way out of this mess…

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    • @VZ the year of the great ‘makeover’ – Zabardast! Trust you to come up with this! 🙂 … tabdeeli aa nahin rahi tabdeeli aa gai hai… Goodness gracious! now that’s pretty scary! lol…
      Our Alpha male and his female counterpart, the psuedo mazboot aurat, were the leads this year! One goes on about his mardangi aur uss ke taqaze while the other wouldn’t stop ‘calling’ herself mazboot… I mean honestly the the channels worked on the theory if the audience hears it enough they will eventually buy it.. And sadly it paid off for the channels.. awam bought this nonsense and misogyny ruled our screens this year!
      I’d like to think that this mazboot aurat is still evolving and our drama makers will eventually find a good balance… I really hope and pray that this was only a transitional phase and this new makeover won’t be here to stay for long…

      @SZ Have yakhni and fried fish (as seen on TV) – IA afaqa ho ga. 😉 – Stay warm and get well soon 🙂

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      • @FA: Hahaha!!! Ab agar aap or rather Fara type dost huey tau dushmanon ki kis ko zaroorat hai! That reference to fried fish was brill!!! Uff kiya kiya yaad dila diya… and now with Mann Mayal on its way I wonder if we are in for a few more such doozies 😉

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        • Hawww abb dushmanon ki qatar main khara kar diya aap ne tsk tsk!! lol
          Glad u got the fried fish ,) .. Yakhni was Madiha and step mom’s recommendation in MNYH.. An entire episode dedicated to yakhni ke fawai’d…
          Mann Mayal lets see.. Story seems whatever and doozies apni jagah, but i must admit I do like the period / rustic feel.. how long that will keep me interested is another matter.. lol .. btw is it a period drama or just set in a rustic setting like PA?

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          • FA, Hum log have been plastering the promos for Mann Mayal so much it’s impossible to miss. After the “masterpiece” that was DeD, I am once bitten twice shy lol. The promos being full of the leads is also bringing out the sceptic in me…

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            • @VZ oh yes defo! But khair, TBH the only reason I did end up torture myself watching DeD to the end was for OKB, warna even the location and cinematography didn’t do nothing for me, infact from day dot I had said that was rather flat for me. That department, seems much stronger in MM… but of course that alone can’t carry a serial anywhere…… I hear there’s a huge stellar cast, that I’m yet to see in the promos, and all we hear is pyar muhabbat romance… So yes all the reason to be sceptical.. I wonder what the real deal is this time lol

              Baqi having said all of that, we did have a whale of a time with Wali man, the haveli tour and all the rest .. abb kuch nahin tou we might just have a good laugh at motorbike wala romance 🙂

              Pakeeza seems blah too… U seen Ali Kazmi’s Sehra main Safar? What a huge disappointment that is!!!… If people like AS and AK, who are very selective, are appearing in such projects I dread to think what that says about the state of our drama industry.. Sigh!

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            • @VZ: Here is my latest theory on why we are getting those kinds of promos from HUM:

              So if a drama is not targeted to the TRP awam (read GeR, Sangat, doosri teesri biwi, mein bezubaan mein bechari types) then HUM marketing hypes it up with promos of ‘cutesy’, ‘romantic’ (GeR features in this category too) scenes featuring the lead pair, all other characters are pushed back and the spotlight is squarely trained on good looking hero and heroine .. this, acc to me, is done with the singular intention of grabbing the attention of the teenyboppers and the not so teenyboppers, a generation of viewers, in Pakistan and the diaspora, that has been weaned on Bollywood and Hollywood social media and is very familiar with technology Hence, barely have the promos or even the BTS pics released and we are inundated with VMs, GIFs, all creating a viral buzz, which in turn draws attention on the social media and ppl go crazy shipping their fav star couples and twitter and fb are all abuzz with oohs and aahs ..and so by the time the serial itself launches the hard part, drawing attention to the serial, has already been done for the production house/channel .. when the serial launches, it inevitably starts off with a bang, then TRP numbers dip or rise according to what that section of the awaam wants, but the stir remains constant on social media. DeD is a perfect example of this, where the numbers never matched up to the hype on social media, those picked up only when the TRP awaam got hooked (after Wali’s mardaangi came to the fore), and by the end both numbers aligned to give us a mega hit serial.

              This is now happening with Mann Mayal also … ab lets see what happens when the serial actually starts, because so far, aparts from the stunning visuals there is not much to write home about… Maya has been on TV nonstop, and so have Ayesha Khan and Gohar .. Hamza Ali Abbasi is the other novelty, but honestly I am so turned off by his off screen rants that I dont care one way or the other .. the serial will have to be something really out of the box to get me to look beyond the ghissi pitti frame story.

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        • FA, SZ, could one of you give me the link to Haseeb Hasan’s interview? Thanks. I searched for it, but got an old interview, not the latest one… Thanks!

          FA, haven’t watched Sehra – I saw some promos and they were the same old same old, so gave that a miss. Trying to catch up on Preet to join you all 🙂 seems like the only silver lining, and we must make a din at least here…

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    • I agree with you totally about Zaroon. I loved the many-layered characters though. Kashaf’s mother unfolded for me and I thought that was the pivotal character in telling the story of patriarchy.

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    • @VZ: A very very belated Happy New Year to you as well along with a very very belated jawab – so sorry!!!

      First off, 👏 👏 👏 🏆👏👏👏
      2015 as the year of makeovers .. such an epic and apt description!! Wah! #ChhaGayiVZThaaKarKe !

      You are spot on in your anakysis of 2015 and in a year where the industry was happily applauding itself for being so fab and how much better our dramas are than Indian ones (can somebody just ban that line, like forever and ever?!?) the only party that ended up being shortcharged was us, the viewers, and more particularly those of our ilk.. the rest of the awaam seemed pretty thrilled.. so I don’t know of the problem lies with us or the industry and the awaam #perplexed

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  13. @ VZ…. Happy New year…..
    I loved ur take on 2015 drama land it was absolutely rib tickling….. the makeover thingy was so fun to read. the new eatery, sparkling ambience, sparkling utensils but severed the same old near to rotten kichri…… Mostly being thank full for what was on their plate but those who protested ( like you, me and others on DRNR) were totally ignored…….TV walas tag line ” we serve what the majority wants” is self acclaimed statement, this same audience had been watching the 3 years back dramas which had substance n value, good scripts and acting….. Now the Tv Lords are thinking we all had enough of good stuff now feed us all pullution and gandi milawat…… These TV Lord have made RAPISTS the heros, STALKING girl is a heroic deed and called romancing…..HALALA is so ISLAMIC that one can practice it like other Islamic rituals often not to please ALLAH but to pleease the real GODS on earth (yuck,disgusting)….. Women writers, women directors women producers abusing women in the hands of women and showcasing to the women audience (irony) For God sake wake up we are all BIG GIRLS now in the 2016, don’t do this to us……. Show the stronger side of this “sinf e nazuk”…. I think I am getting out of control in expressing my self so let me end with lots of hope in 2016……. PEACE……

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    • Dear Shamim, it’s good to hear from you. I’ve not been around here much after DeD ended, I’ve missed interacting with all of you…

      Yes, you are so right when you say that three years or so ago, we were treated to much better content, suddenly the channels feel we won’t be able to take it anymore! See where we have come – even under stifling conditions of 1980s, we had content to be proud of, now it’s completely deteriorated.

      For all the glossy packaging, dramas just end up serving regressive stuff. And your point about women writers, producers and channel owners is so true – case in point DeD… In fact, most of the plays on air are such poor quality, that I end up reading instead of watching TV, at least I can take charge of what books I choose instead of being fed all sorts of dumb and dumber content.

      Honestly it’s gone too far, it’s time atleast regulators like PEMRA start to take some action, but again, not sure how much they can really do… Like you, I too hope this is a temporary phase and we get some good quality shows in 2016…

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    • @VZ: Also, Really appreciate all the very sweet comments. You all are so generous and kind and thank me for this space, when it is really the positivity from readers like you all that makes DRNR the space that it has evolved into, Also, I don’t say this often enough, but it is you guys who keep me on the straight and narrow, and most importantly empower me to speak my mind and hopefully give voice to your thoughts and concerns as well… thank you!

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      • SZ, your reading of this social media hype and hoopla is absolutely right. It has come down to the popularity and chemistry of the leads to sell the story to viewers. Content has been shown the door. More than the blatantly rubbish plays it’s the DeD style plays that are more dangerous, or as FA says, slow poison.

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  14. SZ, what happened to you? So sorry to hear u r ill…… I thinks u over stressed yourself with guests from overseas….. All my duas for u… Get well soon we miss u here……

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  15. @Hello hello!

    Thank you all so much for all the lovely get well soon wishes and the messages of inquiry about my health. I am feeling much better AH and now rushing desperately to submit a grant by Fri, but other than that it’s all good and my guests are all gone as well so its back to my usual no-matter-what-I’m-always-behind life.. aap log sunayen how have you guys been … Its so weird, I’m so used to our regular chats that it had started to feel like I was missing something important.. Thank you all for making this space so very warm and fuzzy ❤

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  16. @FA: There was no space above, but had to say ke I was laughing at your comment Mann Mayal .. errr are we reviewing it?? 😱 Yeh decision kab hua?? 😂 😜 FYI, in case you were wondering, Mann Mayal starts on 25th of Jan.

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    • Sorry to hear you were sick. I barely have time these days but just saw you were in poor health. Hope you are feeling better, I hope it is not the bad state of dramas making you feel this way😝. Anyhow hope 2016 brings some different entertaining stuff, this year has been a drag! You are so right about this past year, barely anything to talk about.
      I’m still catching up on Preet slowly lol, that’s definitely an interesting one. Will try to comment on your reviews soon InshAllah!

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    • OMG!!!! Just caught the bts promo for MM… HH was talking about MM is the same league as DeD because this is also a detailed thesis on life.. WTH!!! First of all what thesis on life? kis ki life? kaisi life? kahan ki life? and secondly they keep comparing MM to DeD and selling this on DeD’s name.. Couldn’t have made it more obvious if they tried!!!
      Aur tou aur there’s also a Roohi type badzaban bahoo, an AJ type boorha beemar ameer kabeer susar… They might as well have called it DeD 2…

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      • @FA: hahaha sorry to jump in.. But your description made me watch that bts promo … LOL @ kis ki, kaisi and kahan ki life… Un logon ki jinoh ne itna sarahya is drama ko… Way too obvious they want to ride on DeD success( the so called one) .. You know Talat Hussain made me excited for a moment but then i know it wont be any different…

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    • @SZ Re MM review : lol aray behen hum kon kote hai descision lene wale lol

      On a serious note though, I get your point of boycott and not giving these dramas the time and publicity etc, but tbh I honestly feel there should be a voice of reason. eg. if it weren’t be for you no one would’ve spoken up about issues with DeD. Ppl are now talking about ‘rape culture’ and GeR and Sangat, but they fail to see that DeD was worse because it was advocating this culture. I’m not saying you should review every episode but I don’t think silence will help the cause either. You should write where you think there should be something worth writing.. good or bad.. A balanced and healthy critique that is hard to find these days.. Someone will need to say it as it is..

      I can see all the rubbish being swept away under the red carpet again.. (I can just abt visualize HAA and MA walking the ramps this yr.. oops yeh kia the rubbish has piled up so much someone just tripped! – sorry im going nuts)

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