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Dear Director: Do I Really Need To Hate My Sister?

While Pakistan may be famous for its mangoes and depreciating currency, it is also famous for its dramas. Where some like Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Humsafar have gained worldwide fame, unfortunately, the industry still feels the need to portray two female characters that hate the guts of each other. After all, we require the TRPs too.


However, over time, this phenomenon has reached an extent that is getting out of hand; the depiction of sister rivalries.


Here's a scenario: An innocent elder daughter that follows all the rules and regulations her parents and society have set for her. On the other hand, a younger evil sister, that ends up falling in love with another man that does not happen to be her cousin. What happens next? We all know.

Reading this scenario might have jogged up your memory and made you remember many dramas that portray this plot. I can think of a dozen at the top of my head: Ishqiya, Mere Humsafar, Tere Bin, Khamoshi, and the list goes on....and on....and on.

In the early years of Pakistani dramas, the depiction of evil female characters revolved around themes of jealousy, greed, and manipulation. These characters were often scheming individuals who would go to great lengths to ruin the lives of others. Classic examples of such characters include the conniving "Farida", played by Atiqa Odho, and her niece Sara, in the popular drama serial "Humsafar.” Farida's character in "Humsafar" portrayed a woman who conspired to separate the two main protagonists, Ashar and Khirad, out of sheer envy.


As Pakistani dramas evolved, the portrayal of evil female characters shifted towards highlighting sister rivalries. One common narrative trope is the contrast between an "innocent" sister and her "evil" counterpart. The "innocent" sister is depicted as the ideal daughter, while the other sister is shown as rebellious or conniving.


An example of this trend is seen in the drama “Mujhe Pyaar Hua Tha” where Maheer, which is played by Hania Amir, is shown to be an innocent, nice girl, but only up until the moment where her lover makes an entry into the plot. After that, she’s considered as an embarrassment for the family that has put a shame to their name. Moreover, the plot worsens when Maheer’s cousin, Neelo, who lives in the same house as her, has marriage proposals rejected when the groom’s families find out that they are related to Maheer; the girl that ‘had a lover.’ The plot furthers when Neelo's mother makes a remark saying “meray baitay ki zindagi tou barbaad kar hi chukki ho, ab meri beti ko bakhsh do.” The narrative of the drama is driven forward by driving a wedge between both the ‘sisters’; from being the best of friends to enemies that can’t even stand in the same room anymore.


Another popular drama that showcases this trend is "Khamoshi.” The character of Zara Noor Abbas is portrayed as the ideal daughter who sacrifices her dreams and aspirations for the well-being of her family. In contrast, her sister Naeema, who is played by Iqra Aziz is portrayed as selfish and materialistic, always striving for personal gain. The dynamics of their sister rivalry intensify when Naeema is envious of her sister, Arsala, since two men are in love with her. One of them, unfortunately, also happens to be a cousin and the guy Naeema likes.


While drama directors and producers may be looking at creating a ‘hit TV show that garners attention’, unfortunately, what they do not realize is the damage it is causing to society. This trend perpetuates negative stereotypes about women, reinforcing the notion that women are inherently envious, vindictive, and prone to sabotaging each other. This portrayal can potentially harm real-life sisterhood and promote unhealthy competition.


It is important to critically analyze these portrayals and consider their impact on societal perceptions. While drama serials have the power to entertain and captivate audiences, it is crucial to promote healthier depictions of sisterhood and avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes. By diversifying storylines and portraying multi-dimensional female characters, Pakistani dramas can contribute to a more balanced and empowering representation of women in the media.

After all, is it really necessary for two girls to constantly hate on each other?


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9 Comments


Great article! This plot device is far too prevalent in Pakistani dramas. The creators of these shows have a responsibility to be conscious of the messages they convey through their work. I think by prioritizing these repetitive storylines, the industry really misses the opportunity to explore so many other more complex and diverse narratives.

This narrative choice reinforces the notion that women's primary conflicts revolve around their relationships with each other; particularly multiple women fighting over a man, as depicted in Humsafar. Dramas have the potential to showcase positive and supportive relationships between sisters/women but they consistently provide one-dimensional dynamics. I think by diversifying storylines, dramas can present more realistic and empowering representations while also ensuring that high viewership and…

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I agree! I was also amazed at how I was OBSESSED with Zindagi Gulzar Hai but as I grew up I realised how problematic Zaroon’s character was and how Kashaf gave in way too quickly. Like you said, it’s important that viewers demand change because we ARE the clients; we pay to watch this content, and its important that we get good content out of it, rather than just the bare minimum

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This analysis was greatly needed. Pakistani dramas have for the most part capitalised on rivalry between two women for TRPs. Be it the famous saas-bahu rivalry, sister-in-laws hating on each other or two sisters turning enemies as you pointed out. These representations of female relationships have reached to such dangerously repetitive levels that they have become the norm and clearly give out the message that two women cannot inherently stay friends and wish the best for each other even if they are sisters. As you rightfully pointed out, it depicts women as being envious of one another by nature. Even worse is the fact that such hate between sisters originates from their love for the same man (majorly, a cousin).…

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Thank you Sarwat! I‘ve analysed way too many dramas at this point and honestly, been disappointed by all. I hope certain dramas such as Kuch Ankahi create a new standard for the industry and everyone else follows in the footstep because we REALLY need to bring about a change in the storyline. I understand romcoms are extremely in demand but I think we can do them in a better way too. Here’s to hoping, I guess

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Mubashir Mémon
Mubashir Mémon
Jun 22, 2023

Interesting read! While this trend has been increasingly prominent in Pakistani drama serials, we could now see it projected onto our movies as well. An example of a movie that comes to mind is Jawani Phir Nahi Aani, wherein we see the character played by Humayun Saeed with two prominent love interests - given he is the lead male character, we see him being given the luxury to choose between the two women to marry the one he 'likes more'. And what's problematic is that the fathers of these women were in fact trying to win him over to choose their daughter despite knowing the kind of character he plays in the film. This goes to show how this narrative…

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I agree! & another problem with all these movies and dramas is how the females start behaving like they have no other goal in life except of that to bag the man they like. It honestly only shows that women have no worth and their only purpose in life is to find a man and settle down. All this is so disturbing and extremely harmful, especially for all the young girls watching, that will at some point in time start believing that this is all that they were made to do. We need more films and TV shows that portray women in higher positions of authority, so as to set a trend that “marriage” or “running after a boy” is…

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This is such an important issue, thank you for highlighting it! Quite frankly, I find such portrayals incredibly irresponsible and unneccessary. In a world where men are already against us, do women need to be too? I think drama serials should focus more on the depictions of female friendships and how powerful and uplifting they can be instead of driving rifts amongst these women- that too over a man. The film Lajja that we watched for this course is a pretty good example of such healthy representation, where women actually come together and help each other in an attempt to overcome the oppressive conditions they have to live in because of the patriarchy.

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So true! Hate the way there's always female rivalry in dramas, all that scheming and jealousy and fighting, for what? A man.

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