Lahore Literary Festival recently commenced in London for the South Asian community. British and Europeans along with Pakistanis attended the event to hear conversations and panel discussions on Pakistan’s contemporary culture and literary thought.
Actors Armeena Rana Khan, Ainy Jaffri and Adnan Malik were also part of a popular session on Pakistani drama and its outreach to the diaspora. The session ‘Go West: Pakistan’s Global Screen,’ was moderated by BBC World Journalist Fifi Haroon. It also featured BBC entertainment reporter Haroon Rashid.
During the session, the actors shared that Pakistani dramas are popular overseas and they are loved by South Asian diaspora.
“Pakistani dramas are being watched globally either through subscription based platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime or through free forums like YouTube. Pakistanis and foreigners are getting to see what is indigenous to Pakistani culture. It also shows how talented Pakistanis are,” Ainy Jaffri said.
“The fan base for Pakistani dramas in London and the UK has grown immensely. When Bollywood approached Pakistani actors like Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Saba Qamar and Sajal Aly for their films, British Asians — who weren’t aware of Pakistani artists — started searching more about these stars and saw their work,” Haroon Rashid said adding, “There is a big problem of domestic violence in British Asian communities, so women at home relate to these issues. Pakistanis who are living in London usually belong to the working class and they relate to all these problems shown in our dramas.”
When asked about the repetitive subjects addressed in our dramas and the constant glorification of misery, Armeena and Ainy both had a lot to say.
“The people in charge believe that this is the only way to sell a product, but we are not ready to experiment yet. We have seen that most Pakistani films featuring a woman as a protagonist when fared well at the box office,” Armeena said. On the contrary, Ainy asserted that it’s alright to accept and portray that “we are a patriarchal society where gender norms are clearly pre-defined, however when we make dramas on such themes, we shouldn’t justify these practices but rather raise questions about them and provoke a discourse,” Ainy added.
Armeena shared an interesting anecdote about a recent project she was approached for. “The script featured a foreigner girl and when I questioned the writer about a few things, he clearly told me that he doesn’t have the exposure to know how a foreign girl behaves so he expects me to add all those elements and fill the blank spaces in the character. That was unfair to me as actor; we need to have more good writer who can at least go in the depth of writing. When you have lazy writing and acting, then you can never have a good product in the end,” she said.