It’s that time of the year where we revisit some of the best content put out by Pakistani media channels in 2023. As always with these lists, only dramas which have concluded in 2023 will be included. The end of a show can make or break how the audience feels about it, so it is simply not complete without the final episodes. Those looking for shows running into 2024 like “Mein” or “Ishq Murshid” will have to wait for the 2024 list. Now let’s jump into the first group of winners. These are the best shows of 2023 based on content, performances and overall impact/message.
10) Jaisay Aapki Marzi
Writer: Naila Ansari
Director: Saba Hameed
Cast: Durr E Fishan Saleem, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Kiran Malik, Ali Safina, Javed Sheikh, Ali Tahir
When “Jaisay Aapki Marzi” first began, it appeared to be a stereotypical ARY drama with an innocent young girl taken for a ride by a headstrong, manipulative man and mistreated after marriage. Pakistani drama audiences were not aware of what was in store, which wound up being a cautionary tale, taking viewers through each and every step of being married to a controlling clinical narcissist. Durr E Fishan Saleem gives her career best performance as Alizeh, a bubbly woman transformed into a shell of her former self. Of course, Mikaal Zulfiqar is detestable as Sherry, but also does an incredible job of being a realistically toxic husband. A special shoutout is necessary for Kiran Malik in her debut as our narcissistic, stylish antagonist. This story has explored the love bombing stage, the post marriage control, the manipulations, the ugly accusations, the brainwashing and the emotional isolation stages so well before finally allowing our female lead to rediscover herself and find her way back to the light. Sure, there have been some flaws here and there, but the overall story and the way it has been handled is excellent – and triggering for many.
Writer: Sarwat Nazir
Cast: Maya Ali, Bilal Ashraf, Behroze Sabzwari, Deepak Perwani, Uzma Beg, Tazeen Hussain, Tahira Imam, Khaqan Shahnawaz, Laiba Khurram, Manzoor Qureshi, Maha Hassan
With high production values, an excellent star cast and an old-charm kind of romance, “Yunhi” took a bumpy start, but wound up being beautiful. “Yunhi” is a tale of East meets West, the strong, stoic, cultured and religious Dawood (Bilal Ashraf) coming together with the headstrong, blunt, “Americanized” (though lots of issues with this character sketch) Kim (Maya Ali). While these two characters have absolutely nothing in common, a romance between them begins – after marriage. “Yunhi” certainly has its questionable moments, particularly with its initial episodes and some dealing with Kim’s reactions to normal, adult requests. However, the overall message of “Yunhi” is of love, accepting one as they are and an emphasis on recognizing religious practices versus cultural practices – and doing away with the cultural practices which do not bring happiness to our lives. This is a beautiful watch.
8) Kuch Ankahi
Writer: Mohammed Ahmed
Director: Nadeem Baig
Cast: Sajal Aly, Bilal Abbas Khan, Mira Sethi, Ali Safina, Mohammed Ahmed, Irsa Ghazal, Vaneeza Ahmed, Babar Ali, Qudsia Ali, Annie Zaidi, Asma Abbas, Adnan Samad Khan and Sheheryar Munawar
“Kuch Ankahi” is a refreshing watch with down-to-earth writing focused on human emotion, coming across as relatable, particularly with the family setting and relationships. A show revolving around a family and their struggles, this show puts emphasis on female empowerment in a subtle way. From a woman’s right to own property, domestic abuse, workplace harassment and a woman’s right to education, this is all highlighted, but in a light and enjoyable way that doesn’t weigh heavy on the heart. The love stories between Aaliyah (Sajal Aly) and Salman (Bilal Abbas Khan), along with the one between Tanvi (Babar Ali) and Sofia (Vaneeza Ahmed) are also root-worthy. “Kuch Ankahi” has been an incredible show from start to finish, delivering a finale that reminds us that life isn’t perfect and along with wins, there are also losses. This show will be remembered for years to come.
7) Fairytale Seasons 1 & 2
Writer: Sarah Majeed
Director: Ali Hassan
Cast: Sehar Khan, Hamza Sohail, Adnan Raza Mir, Aena Khan, Ali Safina, Saleem Sheikh, Salma Hassan, Tehseen Wajahat, Saman Ansari and Amna Youzasaif
“Fairytale” emerged the underdog during the Ramadan season, a show with fresh or not-well-known faces, competing with bigger dramas. The success of the first season was enough that the show got a second season, within the same year itself, only two months after the first season came to a close – a first for a Pakistani drama. “Fairytale” pulls viewers in with its sweet Cinderella story, following our clumsy, deceitful, not-so-perfect Cinderella, Umeed (Sehar Khan) and her grouchy, uptight Prince Charming, Farjaad (Hamza Sohail). While on the surface, Fairytale is simply a silly love story with some over-the-top characters – specifically the family members -, “Fairytale” also highlights childhood psychology, vulnerabilities and the importance of understanding and communication in a relationship. The Umeed-Farjaad relationship has set goals for many with its true representation of a healthy, loving relationship. This is light-hearted fun with a sweet, endearing romance.
6) Kaala Doriya
Writer: Saima Akram Chaudhry
Director: Danish Nawaz
Cast: Osman Khalid Butt, Sana Javed, Zainab Qayyum, Nadia Afgan, Sohail Sameer, Farhan Ali Agha, Khalid Malik, Samina Ahmed, Khaled Anum, Tamkinat Mansoor
Saima Akram Chaudhry and Danish Nawaz have worked on many comedy shows before this, both individually and as a team. While “Suno Chanda,” “Chupke Chupke” and “Hum Tum” are beloved shows, “Kaala Doriya” gives us characters we feel both attached to and understand where they’re coming from, beginning with the leads. Possibly Saima Akram Chaudhry’s best written female lead, Mahnoor is loud, she’s rude, she’s arrogant and yet….she is human. This is a character who defends her parents while also slowly recognizing her own fault in creating a hostile environment between the families. Asfi is, in turn, the perfect partner, a man who helps her realize her mistakes, but also accepts her as she is. The Mahnoor & Asfi romance deserves credit for being one that went beyond simple attraction. Of course, the family dynamics have been the highlight of “Kaala Doriya” with warring families finally coming back together. Sometimes all it takes is a discussion, self-reflection and an apology, something we aren’t necessarily taught to do in South Asian families. “Kaala Doriya” does a great job of not only showing how easy it is for bonds to be broken, but also how easy it is to mend those bonds when egos are put aside. In all honesty, “Kaala Doriya” has been a treat for viewers who wanted something light-hearted yet meaningful outside of Ramadan.
Stay tuned for the top 5 Pakistani dramas of 2023!