I do not have a post-colonial inferiority complex
Last month my friends were discussing the happy ending of a typical tragic drama where after a lifetime of hardship the selfless poor girl gets the rich guy and all her nemesis beg her absolution which she altruistically grants. I couldn’t help but point out the stupidity of the whole plot and its didactic absurdness. One of my so called patriotic friends chimed in and accused me of falling prey to post-colonial complex by rebuffing local entertainment in favor of exotic pop culture. I was appalled by such an accusation because I have nothing but great regard for our culture and take pride in owning it. It is not the sublime eastern culture I find remotely remorseful, but the way our entertainment industry abuses it to its sensational advantage. But being charged with such an appalling allegation made me dubious as to whether it might actually be true, because we as a nation are eternally cursed with the fate of feeling incompetent and inadequate compared to our more advantageous western rivals. I started doubting my taste in music and drama to be a product of the social forces of duress. This thought haunted me for days until I finally decided to elucidate through this dilemma.
I tried actually watching some of the drama serials which I found so odious just learning about them from friends or watching little parts of them dawdling around the TV lounge. I finished two 24 episodes series in a couple of weeks. Well to sum up the whole experience, I’d much rather stab myself twenty three times in the stomach and join Julius Caesar than be tortured with the indefensibly sexist and chauvinist treatment of bitterly realistic gender roles depicted in these dramas. I am not being totally delusional when I critique this realistic portrayal of domestic roles. The absolute realism in our drama is too blunt and lacks imagination. It’s a complete mimesis of everyday gossip in our society without the tiniest pinch of imagination.
After watching and ruminating on a few more series, I realized they were realistic enough to bring out the catharsis of emotions like fear and pity, as Aristotle said about the earliest Greek tragedies. But the difference was that the tragic heroes in Grecian or Shakespearian plays had a hamartia that in some ways made their misfortunes not so undeserving. Whereas these contemporary Pakistani dramas have a perfect protagonist, mostly a lower-middle class woman who is either too trustful or submissive, and others try to take advantage of her innocence, yet Providence always assists her for her virtues. Or if God forbids, she happens to be disobedient or ambitious she’s destined to be taught a lesson to submit to the will of society and lose her individuality. Even with this catharsis, the social and didactic function of a drama isn’t yet fulfilled.
Art has two functions according to most critics; to teach and to delight. Our drama might be fulfilling the later function but the former is being abused in most of them. The same scandalized portrayal of places such as colleges and hostile workplaces for women is a consistent imagery since the time of Generation X to today’s Millennials. Similarly, little has changed in the plot-lines and characters ever since. In fact it gets worse, the characters in what we call the Golden Age of PTV dramas were much more diverse, powerful and intriguing than today’s. Earlier dramas used to be a lot more meaningful and didactic than today’s, because just highlighting the shortcomings of a society isn’t enough without at least setting some fictional examples of how to overcome those shortcomings without losing one’s individuality and ambitions.
It’s hard to convince people that dramas with most of their protagonists being women might actually be disparaging women, by showing them weak and one-dimensional. Our drama industry has yet to evolve out of the one-dimensional approach to domestic drama and explore the limitless genres of entertainment other than happy ending tragedies and family sitcoms.
There is some hope though, with the emergence of dramas like Udari and Khuda Mera Bhi Hai, not only are these dramas playing their positive didactic role in our society but challenging the obsolete stereotypes as well. Real issues are being addressed in other such innovative TV series and people’s response to them is assuring that there should be similar projects coming forth.
But for those people who think that we turn to Hollywood and other foreign entertainment due to some post-colonial inferiority complex we suffer as a nation, they’re not completely true in their accusatory argument. There are people who turn to Pitbull for same old micro aggressive Rap music that they can get from Billy X, such people might be termed xenophiles but not those who are forced to turn to foreign show biz industry due to a limitation of genres in our local entertainment
By Tayyaba Iftikhar