The Turnover of Pakistan’s Media Content

Why are we catering to the lowest common denominator, where base humour and submissive women are the order of the day?

Once upon a time, watching Pakistani television meant at best four to five hours of programming a day, including two news bulletins, Azaan breaks, and a hadith. Apart from that, entertainment covered an English comedy programme, English cartoons, a late night English drama serial and an Urdu drama serial, comedy programme or variety show.

The comedy was sharp and witty, often a satirical review of life as we knew it. Shows like 50-50 and Studio Dhai written by Anwar Maqsood. Surprisingly, Zia’s regime did not kill the satire pioneered by Shoaib Hashmi in the 70s. Anyone remember the reruns of Taal Matol? Regressive Islamisation and a clampdown on speech simply made the writers and actors smarter. Perhaps Zia and his cohorts had a funny bone underneath their starched sherwanis? Or they decided to turn a blind eye.”

-Aurora 2004

Switch on the television today and you understand why it’s called the idiot box. Twenty-four hours of programming and most of it awful. Comedy is woefully absent. Compared to the shows of three or four decades ago, Hum Sab Umeed Say Hain is weak and banks on cheap shots. If you are lucky you will catch a mildly amusing moment but it will not be half as memorable as the skits on 50-50 or Taal Matol. Most jokes are going to be offensive, you just have to look closely. Nobody relates the story of an old show over dinner with friends dissolving in laughter.

Forgettable, disposable television.

Instead of true comedy shows with heroes in their Awami suit, we are blessed by Aamir Liaquat, his manic, beaming visage and base sense of humour. Instead of Amjad Islam Amjad, an MA in Urdu literature, poet and college lecturer or Haseena Moin, an MA in History, pioneer of Radio Pakistan and school principal, we have a host of bitter and tired housewives or frustrated mothers who’d spin up theories on Shagufta’s daughter and her mannerisms.

The Turkish dramas arrived two years ago and sent everyone into a tailspin. Writers, directors, and actors were up in arms. Op-eds were written about how the Turks were ‘damaging’ our culture. In truth, the only thing they damaged was the complacency our writers were basking in. The Turkish dramas had intelligent and strong women as protagonists, women who were not afraid to challenge the status quo and carve out their own paths. Archaic conventions were set aside and a modern outlook was encouraged.

Whereas the Pakistani drama, Roag, showed a girl who had been sexually abused as a child and who then marries her abuser due to a cruel twist of fate, the Turkish drama Fatma Gul depicted a young victim of rape who succeeds against all odds to get her rapists imprisoned, falls in love, marries and has a family of her own.

You would think the success of the more progressive Turkish drama would have given our local producers some food for thought. But no. They have persisted in doling out the same trash.

Channel heads will turn around and say that this is what the public demands. No. This is not what the public demands and neither is it true that they do not accept sophisticated storylines.

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