Some of the Turkish shows feature actresses wearing miniskirts and showing cleavage, a far cry from the billowing shalwar kameez garments worn by most Pakistani women that hardly reveal skin.
The shows, which have taken Pakistan by storm over the last year, are attractive to local TV operators because they are much cheaper to buy than Pakistani dramas are to produce, and also feature more elaborate costumes and sets.
“It is a big challenge,” said Abid Ali, a veteran Pakistani TV star, while filming his latest show, Mere Apne, or My Loved Ones, in the southern city of Karachi. “Turkish shows have very expensive productions our industry can’t afford.”
The spartan set of Ali’s show, which chronicles the sad life of a young girl after her parents die, helped prove his point. The entire episode was filmed in the living room and driveway of a small rented house in an upscale area of Karachi. The actresses used the only bedroom on the ground floor to apply their makeup, and the kids who lived in the house were scolded for making too much noise while they were filming. Since there was only one camera, they had to shoot each scene three times from different angles.
One of the most popular Turkish shows in Pakistan right now is Mera Sultan, or My Sultan, a period drama about the powerful Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent. The show is no Game of Thrones, but it does feature ornate Ottoman-style sets, scenes with horses and archery and beautifully designed costumes.
“There are multiple reasons behind the success of Turkish drama serials,” said Athar Waqar Azeem, a senior vice president at Hum TV, one of Pakistan’s leading entertainment channels. “Freshness, better and beautiful locations and new faces attract Pakistanis.”
One episode of a Turkish drama costs a Pakistani TV station about $2,500 to broadcast, while the production of a Pakistani show can be four times that amount, Azeem said.
The popularity of the Turkish shows has sparked concern from Pakistani politicians. The Senate committee responsible for information and broadcasting said at the end of last year that it was worried the shows would harm Pakistan’s TV industry and featured content that ran counter to local cultural norms… see more