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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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