Let’s throw back to the time of PTV, a time when the general drama length fell anywhere between 12 – 18 episodes long. What? Only 12 episodes? And yet, these twelve episodes were content-filled, quality programming that came together to tell a solid story. Filler episodes? Those did not exist. Let’s flash back to even the early years of Hum TV, the years when shows would stop no later than 24 episodes at most. These were the years of fresh ideas, new concepts and a style of storytelling that warranted the order for more episodes. However, does the current state of the drama industry focus on quality or quantity?
Lately, TRPs are the name of the game. If a show is successful, the show will be extended in order to cash in on viewership – and, to be quite honest, shows are written with the thought in mind that the show will run for at least 30 episodes. 30 episodes…..for what exactly? One may say “well, maybe 30 episodes are required to tell the story.” If only this were true, but unfortunately, of 30 episodes, at least 5 end up being stagnant, repetitive and entirely unnecessary with the script losing its tightness, the plot developing holes and the project suffering for lack of substance. Channels have lost their focus to deliver quality, well-written projects and instead focus on melodramatic soap-style storylines that can be stretched and test the patience of the audience.
Ramadan saw some great successes like “Chupke Chupke,” “Ishq Jalebi” and “Tanaa Banaa,” which came to a close after Eid. Of course after watching fast-paced, daily shows with quick gratification (no wait time), other shows would pale in comparison afterwards. However, “Raqeeb Se” did not suffer any such criticism – earning the rave reviews of fans each and every week, Raqeeb Se came to an end at 23 episodes. And while yes, there was certainly room for “Raqeeb Se” to continue, it ended with dignity and grace, without dragging the storyline or boring viewers for even a moment. So one is left thinking, if Bee Gul and Kashif Nisar pulled it off with “Raqeeb Se,” why can’t other writers/directors? Is it simply because the show was never that strong to begin with?
Weekends are the highlight for Pakistani drama viewers with the massy popular choices airing on Fridays and Saturdays. However, “Raqs E Bismil,” “Dunk,” “Pehli Si Muhabbat,” “Khuda Aur Mohabbat” and “Phaans” have all fallen into the rut of filler episodes – and not simply one, but it has been two to three weeks of filler episodes for all of these shows. What is the point of a show if the viewer no longer looks forward to the next episode due to repetitiveness?
This is the moment to analyze what is going wrong with Pakistani drama content at present. The runtime and the episode number obviously plays a huge role in why the storylines have become so floppy and lagging. However, one must pause and ask – were the stories ever well-written and clearly-etched out to begin with? This is a concept “Raqeeb Se” has brought back to the forefront, the idea of a shorter run of episodes with a power-packed script – something which should have been the norm all along.