Shazman Shariff reports that Indian fans of Pakistani drama serials are excited about the possibility of Pakistani television channels being allowed in India...
Anybody who remembers the hilarious skits from Pakistan's hit comedy show Fifty Fifty might still get cramps in the stomach from laughing, remembering the antics of Ismail Tara and Majid Jehangir. Living in Bangalore now, I find that the show has many admirers here too. They still get the giggles when they watch the videos.
Voice actor and script producer Zia Ahmed from Bangalore enthusiastically recalls the skit of Ismail Tara dancing to Boney M's hit "One way ticket..."
"He is moving like a rock star but when the camera pans down, we see he is actually scrubbing a huge pot with his feet. It was so entertaining," Zia remembers, laughing. He is one of the many Bangalorians who have followed Pakistani TV shows since the in the good old video-cassette days. Of course now everything is available on CDs or the Internet.
Recent reports about talks being underway to lift India's ban on Pakistani channels sent a wave of excitement among Indian fans of Pakistani dramas. They look forward to watching Pakistani channels live on their sets, like Pakistanis who watch Indian channels, without having to rely on relatives bringing CDs or searching for shows on YouTube.
"My mother would be delighted if that really happens," exclaims Zia. He remembers when he became an ardent viewer of Pakistani TV serials, about twenty years ago. He finds them absorbing and engaging. Areas where dramas across the border really excel, he says, are "characterization and acting, not overly melodramatic", and they "go easy on background music". Indian dramas, he adds, have improved by taking a cue from Pakistani shows.
The serial Dhoop Kinarey, he recalls, featured an actor with a beautiful voice, who reminded him of Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. Of course he is referring to none other than the charismatic Rahat Kazmi.
Having watched over a dozen popular Pakistani serials, his favourites are Tanhaiyaan, Dhoop Kinarey and lately, Humsafar, which he declares "excellent". Referring to the possibility of the current ban being lifted, another artiste, Sameena Shariff, is also "just waiting for it to happen". She too became a fan of Pakistani dramas years ago, after watching the classic Waris.
She finds Pakistani television dramas "very clean" and "the way they portray love is beautiful. Story depiction is fine and realistic, the Urdu is chaste..." The fact that they don't stretch on for years wins her approval too. "They don't drag the story unnecessarily; it ends after a fixed number of episodes." Plus "it is such a relief to watch a drama without jarring background music and blitzing camera shots".
She recalls Haseena Moin's famous serial Dhoop Kinaray, which kept viewers hooked till the end. The Indian adaptation, she says, failed to recreate the charm.
Mohammed Abdul Haq, a retired engineer stationed in Hyderabad is regular visitor to the USA where he often watches Pakistani dramas using a device, called jadoo that makes it easier to watch old serials. He is among the millions who watched Humsafar ardently and feels it deserves all the praise coming its way. "I have learned the director is a young fellow and the drama is based on a novel by a young writer," he says.
Credit for the standard maintained by Pakistani dramas, he thinks, goes to the educated middle class that is involved in these serials - as an acquaintance from Karachi told him. "The same people are not into film making, that is why there is such a contrast in quality."
Pakistani TV serials reflect a refined taste - shaista-pan, as Haq puts it. "For certain situations the directors leave things to the viewers' imagination rather than portraying them explicitly," he says, appreciating their sensitive and 'decent' treatment of situations that require the proximity of male and female characters. This makes Pakistani serials good family viewing. Sangeeta Mehrotra, who runs a creche, agrees. "Pakistani serials are very clean, no filth at all, in terms of characterization and styling."
Like many Indians, she started watching these plays some two decades ago as a teenager. "There would be just one video cassette so we would gather at some friend's house to watch it together."
Her favorites are serials penned by Haseena Moin. "I just got the latest one, will watch it as soon as I get some time," she says. Pakistani serials provide a window into the culture for those in the neighboring country. Some entire families are hooked, like Zia Ahmed's.
"I like the way they depict their lifestyle. Their clothes are simple and Urdu is pure," says his septuagenarian mother Mohsena Ahmed from north India. She's happy to see her granddaughter's Urdu improve because of watching these serials.
Zia's wife Nazeefa adds that there are many words that youngsters pick from these serials, which are not just a source of entertainment but a way to revive and intact the purity of Urdu. "My daughter would stay glued to the TV till the cassette ended. Even if meant going to bed at midnight. Dialogues from Moin Akhtar's Rafta Rafta are at the tip of her tongue."
Since Nazeefa is in the clothes business, the serials give her a clue about the fashion trends in Pakistan. "People like styling of Pakistani dresses. Humsafar really helped me get some ideas about clothes in vogue there."
It's nice to see that the Indians I've met here people appreciate Pakistani talent with no streak of bias or prejudice. What matters to them is quality entertainment. It seems borders are shrinking and hearts are opening up to embrace each other as friendly neighbours.
But many of those waiting with open arms and bated breath for Pakistani channels to begin broadcasting on their TV sets, feel that only entertainment channels should go on air. News channels, they feel, may accentuate differences and exacerbate tensions between the two countries.
Meanwhile, let the entertainment roll.
The writer is a Pakistani married to an Indian, living in Bangalore.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
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