Melodrama

Kumail Soomro


The writer is a media studies student with experience in journalism.

Let me first confess that I have not watched a single episode of the much-hyped drama ‘Meray Pass Tum Ho’. I hope that I will be accepted as a member of this society. I also confess that I have hardly attached a Pakistani film except for the two initial ones by Shoaib Mansoor. I certainly don’t believe that the film industry has seen a renaissance or even a revival but rather an improvement.
I do not intend to disparage anyone. I certainly believe that these dramas are overwhelmingly popular, draw huge ratings, and are a success. I just happen to fall on the other side of the spectrum which has remained indifferent to these dramas. You would certainly agree with me that TV serials have come a long way. Game of Thrones, which I consider the greatest show of the decade, cost at least $10 million per episode. With film-like budgets, this is surely changing the way we view television.
Yet somehow we are just being provided mediocrity in the name of entertainment. The drama industry is running on a single genre: Melodrama. This is the lowest form of direction which has been shunned in the West long ago and the term has become a pejorative in modern contexts. It is the lowest form for authors, directors and even performers as the matter lacks subtlety, character development or both. In case you are offended that your favourite drama been downgraded, let me offer a plausible explanation.
A melodrama is dramatic work wherein the plot, which is typically sensational and designed to appeal the emotions, takes precedence over detailed characterisation. The dialogue is extremely sentimental rather than action and is reinforced by dramatic or suggestive music. These are often set in the private sphere of the home and focus on morality and family issues, love and marriage and challenged by an outside source such as a temptress of a villain. Now think about every drama that you have ever watched and all this will fit right in.
Another characteristic of our dramas is that they often look mundane and devoid of film stylistics. There is a general formula which is now followed in every scene. It starts with a wide shot to show the setting, switch to mid-shot, a close-up, again a mid-shot and then back to a wide shot which is often repeated. Directors have no sense of blocking the scene or they don’t want to take a risk. In such circumstances, a great script or cast is completely useless if there is no movement of characters.
If you are still with me, then I have another general observation that dramas are based on a similar theme. Will we ever see drama such as Sherlock, Prison Break, Stranger Things or Money Heist? Or will we take cues from our society and come up with Making a Murder, Ted Tundy Tapes, etc given our obsession with crime? Or will our drama industry keep churning these rom-coms, slapstick comedies, and overdoses of patriotism to keep us contented?
I once heard a film director speaking at my university that people ask him why he made his film (which I’m not revealing) and what was the purpose behind it. He said that there is no purpose and he just made it. People have a lot of stress and tension, at home, work and in their lives. So when they walk into a cinema, they should forget about them. I wondered about what he said and am convinced that we have been long been using media entertainment merely for escapism.
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