Finding it depressing to watch on every channel the mounting figures of Corona across the globe (especially when I carry all the conditions of morbidity: a heart condition, diabetes and high BP) I started finding ways to keep myself occupied.

Having watched all four parts of Money Heist with my son I switched channels and saw that the Pakistani serials I would watch so fervently had made a comeback, and for me it was love at second sight.

There is a bouquet of plays currently on the digital platform in series like Yeh Dil Mera, Behaad, Rabba Mainu Maaf Karey, Souteli Maamta,Tera Yahan Koi Nahin, Mehboob Apke Qadmon Mein, Jo Tu Chahay, Gelat Fahmi, Tarap, etc.

A week later, my wife and I were engrossed in watching one of these plays when suddenly there was a ‘protest demonstration’ in our room.

Instigated by my son, my four year old granddaughter and her friend were shouting Vande Mataram.

A new convert to the Modi brand, my MBA son had been nagging at me for some time for allowing Pakistan entry into our homes.

And then it struck me how conditions had changed so dramatically in the country in just three years. More specifically, as a film junkie I realised how totally life had changed our thinking between May of 2017, when Hindi Medium was released, and 2020 March, when I was lucky to catch the morning show of Angrezi Medium at a theatre before the lockdown took hold that night.

Being the comeback film of Irrfan Khan, who had returned to India after a long battle with cancer, it was a much awaited event. That he is no more with us is only one significant change that I was talking about.

Khan’s last film before he became ill, Hindi Medium had been a super success, minting money all over the international circuit. Its successor was no patch on that.

One thing led to another. I remembered that the heroine of that film was Saba Qamar and she was the perfect foil to Irrfan in the film. I realised how till mid-2017 Pakistani superstars like Fawad Khan and Mahira were teaming up with Indian stars and people were welcoming them with open arms.

In fact I had the chance recently to watch Kapoor and Sons in which Fawad Khan was in the lead role. But Hindi Medium was the last film of that genre which had a Pakistani heroine.

I have no quarrel with the success of Money Heist, which is a cat and mouse game between the cops and the criminals. Its huge viewership is no surprise and people of all ages are eagerly waiting for its next part. In fact already speculative casting is on for its Bollywod version and as of now Ayushmaan Khuranna is hot favourite for the role of the gangmaster Professor, while Shahrukh, Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt etc. are being considered for important roles.

But there is a very healthy and powerful alternative to the kind of series that Money Heist and similar ones of the same genre are promoting.

I don’t understand this hostility, towards these series on social issues just because they are produced by Pakistan TV.. has Art Knows No Barriers become a cliche?

When I started watching the series in 2017 they presented a very healthy though unfair competition to our own Ekta Kapoor Saas Bahu variety of serials. Most of these series were using references to Indian films, Indian songs and Bollywood personalities. In fact one of the best serials I watched during that time used the tagline ‘Janey wo kaise log they.../ Pyare Afzal’ as its title.

Zee Zindagi had added plays to their regular list from Pakistan as also Korea, Japan, Afghanistan and many other countries which got them a huge audience response.

And then came the next hostilities between India and Pakistan, and Zee was the first to stop its highly popular programme to show it had nothing to do with anything like Pakistan or even Muslims.

The voluminous growth of access to data over the internet has brought these plays once more into the public domain, and the choice is increasing for the viewer in lockdown, as it should be.

The titles of these plays themselves show the kind of subjects popular in the subcontinent. Most of these gripping series are all about love, marriage, domestic violence, divorces (a little more than on Indian TV, but shattering lives nevertheless) and rich vs poor – subjects with which Indians should relate more than with the Euro-US series made popular on Netflix and other platforms.

Interestingly, even though these Pakistani series also depict shooting, violence and killing there never is any use of obscene or vulgar language.

With vastly talented actors and directors, these series have been written by scriptwriters who have great command over Urdu.

Were the uninitiated like my son to listen to the dialogues in these series I bet they would become addicts like us.

In contrast, Money Heist type series start with an explicit warning about violent language and sex and you can't watch these with family if they include young children.

For those who argue we should not watch the Pakistani series because Pakistan is hostile and the USA is our ally, I have very serious doubts on this.

Incidentally, in some of the Indian short films which are providing employment to a lot of out of job actors like Jackie Shroff, I was quite shocked to find a star like Manoj Bajpai struggling to utter the F word at least ten times in a short film of about 20 minutes.

There will be other viruses left behind long after we have found a vaccine for Corona.