With the vast number of Pakistani dramas currently airing and several more about to make their premiere in the coming weeks, it is becoming harder to weed out what’s worth watching and what’s not. Often the star cast has been enough to guarantee a good watch, but as we’ve seen in several shows over the past year, the cast is no longer a pull without a strong story. Here’s a list of the top 5 Pakistani dramas currently on air which are worth the time.
1) Jaan E Jahan
Bringing back the “Pyarey Afzal” duo, Hamza Ali Abbasi and Ayeza Khan, is reason enough to watch “Jaan e Jahan.” Adding to it is the brilliant supporting cast, including Asif Raza Mir, Savera Nadeem, Noor Ul Hassan, Emmad Irfani, Maryam Nafees, Haris Waheed, Nawal Saeed, Saqib Sumeer and others in a story written by Rida Bilal and directed by Qasim Ali Mureed. Quite often, we see the story of a timid, downtrodden young girl waiting for prince charming to rescue her from her abusive family. In “Jaan E Jahan,” we’re seeing a flipped version of this story. Shehram (Hamza Ali Abbasi) is the heir of his father’s estate, but Kishwar, his stepmother, has won his trust over the years only to drug him and render him in competent. Enter Mahnoor (Ayeza Khan), a lively young girl who develops an instant bond of respect and admiration with Shehram. Will Mahnoor be the one to save Shehram from his stepmother? The greatest strength of “Jaan E Jahan” is the love story, a sort of pure romance that’s been missing in Pakistani dramas for a while, and one built on friendship and a strong connection. The entire cast comes together to make this a riveting watch, probably the best show on television at present, but special mention to Hamza Ali Abbasi, Ayeza Khan and Savera Nadeem for their performances.
2) Ishq Murshid
In a fairly heavy sea of competition, “Ishq Murshid” stands out for its light-hearted romance with a fairytale feel. Starring Bilal Abbas Khan, Dur E Fishan Saleem, Omair Rana, Noor Ul Hassan, Salma Hassan and others, the show has been written by Abdul Khaliq Khan and directed by Farooq Rind. “Ishq Murshid” follows Shahmir (Bilal Abbas Khan), a politician’s son is set to take over as the face of the party. Things get complicated when Shahmir falls in love with Shibra (Dur E Fishan Saleem), a middle class girl, for her simplicity and honesty. Recognizing that she would never fall for a person like him, he adopts an entirely different persona, begins working for her father and moves into the family home. Shibra and Fazal Baksh fall in love – but what will happen when Shibra realizes she’s not only in love with a man who stands for everything she’s against, but she’s also in love with a fictional persona? “Ishq Murshid” is thoroughly entertaining and it’s rare that we don’t reach for the forward button in an episode these days, but “Ishq Murshid” keeps us glued to the screen with this lovable story which puts a smile on our faces. Being a Farooq Rind show, the angst is sure to enter the fold at any moment once Shahmir’s reality is exposed – but for now, we’re enjoying the ride.
When the promos for “Khaie” first went on air, it was clear that Pakistani drama viewers were in for yet another Pukhtun story complete with fake accents and overdone stereotypes involving violence and multiple wives – and yet, what has played out has come as a pleasant surprise. Written by Saqlain Abbas and directed by Syed Wajahat Hussain, “Khaie” stars Faysal Qureshi, Durr E Fishan Saleem, Khalid Butt, Uzma Hassan, Laila Wasti, Osama Tahir, Shamyl Khan, Saba Faisal and others in prominent roles. “Khaie,” a Pashto word which basically encompasses revenge through generations, follows Zamdaa (Dur E Fishan Saleem) and her educated family when they decide to move back to their ancestral village. With the family’s long-standing vendetta against a rival family (“khaie”), tragedy falls upon the entire family when Duraab Khan (Khalid Butt) and Chanaar Khan (Faysal Qureshi) murder Zamdaa’s father and brothers– on Zamdaa’s wedding day. Forced to marry Chanaar Khan, the once free-spirited, educated, progressive Zamdaa is now manipulative, calculating and bloodthirsty, not sparing child from adult. There’s a lot to appreciate about “Khaie.” What’s on display is a violent, intense, terrifying story of revenge where generations of animosity are passed down. Despite the stereotypes, “Khaie” is, so far, an excellent story with unique characters and a narrative which keeps viewers on their toes, unable to guess what will and could come next. Har Pal Geo has a winner on their hands with this one if it maintains this pace and level of storytelling throughout its run.
4) Standup Girl
“Standup Girl” is an interesting story, balancing conservative values and the life of an artist. Following an amateur stand up comedian and an amateur rapper, “Standup Girl” is the journey of struggling artists to success – and the families behind them. Starring Sohail Ahmed, Zara Noor Abbas, Daniyal Zafar, Adnan Shah Tipu, Saba Faisal, Saqib Sameer, Tamkinat, Saad Azhar and others, the story has been written by Awais Ahmed and Adeel Afzal and directed by Kashif Nisar. Zara (Zara Noor Abbas) is a bright aspiring standup comic who finds that her world has been ripped out from under her when her single mother passes away and she’s forced to move in with her mother’s immediate family, family members she never knew existed. The greatest strength of “Standup Girl” is its cast, particularly Sohail Ahmed and Saqib Sumeer, who keep the audience in stitches during their exchanges – while Sohail Ahmed also effectively brings us to tears in his low moments. With the perfect blend between traditional and modern, “Standup Girl” delivers on cultural and ego clashes with family drama and turmoil along the way.
5) Serial Killer
“Serial Killer” is a female-oriented show about, well, you guessed it – a serial killer. When the foreign-educated Sarah Sikandar (Saba Qamar) returns to Pakistan to serve her country, the first case that falls her way is the murder of Zarish (Sabeena Farooq). Her body abandoned at a bus station in a suitcase by a woman, the race is on to discover who the killer is – especially as the bodies begin to pile up. Directed by Fahad Noor, “Serial Killer” also stars Faiza Gillani, Sabeena Farooq, Danial Raheel, Amna Malik, Ahmed Randhawa, Fahad Hashmi and others in prominent roles. Faiza Gillani is the heart and soul of “Serial Killer,” the antagonist who keeps us – and Saba Qamar as Sarah Sikandar – on our toes. The entire cast is excellent and with Pakistani lacking so severely in the crime show department, “Serial Killer” almost leaves us wishing it could continue for a longer period of time and tackle different cases. Still, it has been a joy to watch over the last several weeks with its final episode, episode 11, airing next week. “Serial Killer” will be missed and is a must-watch!
Of course, there are a couple of shows worth giving a special mention to, such as “Khushbo Mein Basay Khat,” which is excellent. There’s also “Akhara,” which is only 3 episodes in, but greatly picking up in storytelling. We are currently in a pretty great phase regarding content with many worthwhile shows. Which of your favorites were not mentioned on this list?