19 June, 2021

The Backchannel In Front

Indian soaps, a hit in Pakistan, are cultural factors to reckon with

Illustration by Sorit
The Backchannel In Front

A Lahori housewife was telling me about the erosion of Pakistani culture. I braced myself for a harangue on Facebook and Britney Spears when she laughed and spoke of her friend’s ten-year-old daughter, who on attending a nikaah wanted to know when the saat pheres would happen. Balika Vadhu and Yeh Rishte Kya Kahalate, are, she assured me, the hot soaps in Pakistan as well.

Hindi films uniting India and Pakistan is the stuff of cliches. But the influence of Indian soaps in Pakistan is a newer phenomenon. The converse was true in the ’80s when video cassettes of Pakistani soaps like Dhoop Kinare and Tanhaiyaan were widely watched and considered to be more sophisticated than Hum Log and Buniyaad. But the times have changed and the top three most-watched channels in Pakistan are all Indian—Star Plus leading the pack with an estimated channel share of 21 per cent. In contrast, in May ’10, the most watched Pakistani channel PTV Home had a share of 4.2 per...

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