JUSTICE, TV STYLE

THE episode’s title sequence opens with a view of Gotham City-like place with shadowy skyscrapers looming in the background and ambulances racing by with sirens wailing. The camera then pans to a burly host clad in a military combat vest, with stubble and sunglasses, hands on his hips, standing next to a large bullseye.

This is not the trailer of a Batman movie nor of the Anil Kapoor-helmed TV show 24 but one of several non-fictional crime shows currently running on Pakistani news channels. The hosts of these shows identify so-called social evil in any city, carry out their own investigation and inform the police, who are happy to carry out a raid.

In a recent episode the show’s team stopped college students coming from what was described as a brothel in an apartment block, threatened to expose their wrongdoings to their parents and run their footage on TV. The scared boys handed their mobile phones to the host who proceeded to note the phone numbers of people running the brothel. The host also conducts SWOT-style raids with policemen in tow. At the end of each episode the host admonishes the public for keeping silent and urges them to speak up against evildoers lurking in their mohallas.

Coupled with themes that tap into the moral panic alongside the bizarre — such as mobile text messages are leading young people astray and stealing real hair from graveyards for hair transplants — announced by hyper-excited voiceovers and graphics, all these elements make for vivid visuals and charged drama. The anchorpersons claim their shows are a platform for the common man to obtain justice, whereas for detractors these shows are perpetuating vigilante justice.

“Pakistan is our country and we have to help our people,” says Sherry, the burly host of a crime show. “The poor have nowhere to go and police can do only so much. The people trust us more. They first get in touch with the media as they feel that we are effective in solving their problems.” Sharea Faisal SP Ali Asif, who has been featured in some crime shows, also concurs with Sherry’s view. “There is a [negative] perception of law enforcement agencies but when they see us on television, the medium is such that it confirms that we have indeed done a [positive] job in the form of raids and arrests. It reinstates the public’s faith in the police.”

He may have a point. But the issue is that the shows are going further, as a member of the editorial committee at a TV channel points out, and many of these anchorpersons are blurring the lines between crime shows and policing which is a problem.

“Robberies are a common occurrence. So should one carry out one’s own investigation, nab the culprit and douse him with petrol and burn him alive?” wonders Wusutullah Khan, broadcast journalist and columnist.

“These shows have become the prosecutor, court and judge. This means the police and the government should be disbanded. Raising an issue is a news channel’s job but taking the law into one’s own hands is not.”

Khan is unimpressed with the argument that these shows are quite popular. “Who is deciding what the viewer likes and dislikes and how it is being measured. A few hundred telemeters in a population of 180 million are a faulty way of measurement. If these shows are so popular then why is it that when one goes to social gatherings people express their disdain for these shows? Why are these likes not being expressed on the social media? And if the hosts say that they receive appreciative calls then they need to tell us how many critical calls they receive. Are these not parameters for viewers’ likes and dislikes?”

Khan also points to an ironic situation in this debate: “Instead of confronting the police why they have not been able to eradicate a crime in their locality, the hosts instead express their thanks to the police for letting their team tag along. It seems the police were so innocent that they had no idea what was happening in their area till these hosts showed up!”

Another important aspect of such shows is that they highlight police and crime show team barging into people’s houses without warrants. “How can you do this? When will this stop?”

First published in Dawn newspaper on January 14, 2014

Kaun Banega Meera Pati – Shadow, voice, anything but not as Meera’s husband – episode 1

First aired – May 19, Thursday

Beamed at – Geo (every Thursday and Friday)

Cast – Meera and 10 alleged Meera-struck fans

Meera’s new programme of her quest of finding her husband began on May 19 titled Kaun Banega Meera Pati on Geo. The host Ali Safina (VJ at Aag and currently host of Milk Sheikh and Hun Das) claimed that this was a unique show never shown on television.

Meera’s quest to find a hubby brought to mind all kinds of weird dulhan titles: kunwari dulhan, dulhan banoon main teri etc etc. The set was large and glitzy. Meera made her entrance in a doli with awful dancers with the song “chan ke mohalla”, playing in the background. She emerged wearing an extreme bling outfit. She was all glammed up as if she would sign the nikahnama then and there. Btw the show is a slap to that jerk Ateeq who claimed to be her husband and then went on all TV channels and said all terrible and unmentionable things about her. So maybe this is a middle oongli to him and the likes out there by Meera, who knows?

  1. Mehran Khan Durrani was the 1st candidate. He loves Hollywood movies, has done his MBA with specialization in Human Resources and event management is his passion, entered in a suit, spouting verses, very sweet and gadha.
  1. Shahid Khan was the second chap. He is from Lahore, teaches English, loves poetry, 27 yrs, loves boxing and swimming, hairy chest, wants to be the voice of Meera! Shahid boxer gave a maryal rose to Meeraji. The liar said he had never given rose to a girl. He wore a fanta silky shirt, fanta tie and black suit.
  1. Next Meera’s potential candidate was guy named Abdul Ghani. Had long curly hair, and is a dance teacher.
  1. Meera’s next: Aamir Sohail came from Hyderabad. Is an amateur cricketer. According to him “movies bhi dekh layta houn, jaisay kay main saans lay layta houn.
  1. Tanzil Abbas, the next aspirant and a Karachi dude said that Meera was his dream girl. He designs tuxedo suiting. (chalo ji inki toh dulha bannay ki tayyari hogai). Tanzil tux is not bad looking vaisay, for honeymoon he wants 2 take her to phuket island in Thailand.
  1. Next hopeful was Waseem Rustam from Karachi. He is an interior designer, loves gymming, said that Meera was his ideal and he loved her. Looked sweet and bonga. Meera warned him that he needed to work hard as competition was tough.
  1. After him the contender was a Zahid Shaukat, from Lahore, restaurant manager, loves sufyana kalam, wants to be saya (shadow) of Meera and see the world with her. Hope he is not a stalker…
  1. Next hopeful was Najeeb, a landlord from Jafarabad in Balochistan. He wants to take Meera’s hand to start a new life. Very shyly gave a rose to Meera.
  1. Next seeker was a 24 year old Mohammad Waqas. He is a musician, “just love games, just love my family.” He came in with his guitar, and said that he saw his favourite  on wall papers and now she was in front of him. He was v eager, gave her a rose by going down his knee. Has an awful squeaky voice.
  1. Last guy was Shahmir from Karachi. He is a teacher and became a fan of Meera after watching her film Chief Sahab. He professed his love for her while Meera icily said thank you for coming.

Throughout the first episode Meera looked bored and the host Ali Safina was quite thanda. Three to four contestants are from Karachi. Have yet to see more episodes of the show before I make any judgment. All I am asking is for an entertaining show and I hope that is not too much to ask.

Kaun Banega Meera pati airs today at 9 pm on Geo

Kate and William’s royal wedding, which local TV’s coverage was the best (read cheesiest!)

On April 29, Friday, everyone in my family gathered around the telly to watch one of the most anticipated joyful events in modern history. A big television moment there was no way that we were going to miss it. So naturally we tuned it to BBC and CNN to watch the dignified and well-informed coverage. Piers Morgan who recently joined CNN to replace Larry King as the new talk show host was in the CNN panel that was giving living commentary of the event. And it was fun listening to him for he kept making snide remarks (look at that person’s big nose!), made naughty jokes (I’m telling you the next royal wedding is between Harry and Pippa) or he kept gushing over Britain’s big moment ( I feel proud to be British)…

But then suddenly I wanted to know what our local channels were covering at that point of time. There was no way that they wouldn’t capitalize on it. So everyone from Dawn News to Samaa to CNBC to Dunya to Express 24/7 and Geo News were covering it live in Urdu. But while they all covered it a very dry and somber manner, Geo ensured that they made it as colorful and Pakistani as possible. The set had magenta sofas, the two male hosts were dressed in suits and the female host Nini was wearing an elegant white outfit. They titled the wedding as “Raja Ki Baarat”, although one wanted to tell them that William ain’t a raja yet but a shehzada anyways that’s Geo News for you, factual inaccuracies are damned. Red rose petals popped out of the gold-framed portrait of the couple. During the news bulletin, “shadi mubarak” with the couple’s pictures kept popping from the bottom of the screen and of course how can I forget there was jhankaar music that kept playing in the background.

As their picture would fade away, there would be a pop-up of crackers. The red breaking news ticker with “Shahi Shadi”, the translation of Royal wedding, sounded more like Shahi Supari, the saunf concoction that has been around with us forever. And when Kate entered Westminster Abbey with her father, Geo’s screen went all crazy with shades of pink and ran a side box of “Shahzadi Dayaana’s gown”. After they took the vows, Huma Adnan, a fashion designer, was invited to analyse the wedding dress and size of the ring. They took live calls one of them was Fareshteh Aslam, who was curiously credited as wedding planner, again a typical geo-inaccuracy.

Then finally they played songs along with a commentary documenting their relationship such as when they met the first time at St. Andrews “Teri meri dosti pyar main badal gayee”, “Choti si umar main lag gaya rog”, when they broke up “Rothay ho tum ko kaisay manaoun piya bolo na”, when the queen called both of them to meet Kate “Shayad meri Shadi ka khayal dil main aaya hai, isi liyay mummy nay meri tumhay chai pay bulaya hai”. Basically they played those songs when the boring hymns were going in the cathedral. Unfortunately I cannot find the Geo clip when Kate and William come out together as a couple from the abbey and when they played the song “Desan da raja meray babul da pyara, Amrie dhay dil day sahara, Nee veer mera ghorri charraya, ghorri charraya nee saiyon ghorri charraya”

Only Geo News could have done this kind of cheesy coverage.

 THE LINKS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17Q7x5ZKrFs

watch the following link from the 40th minute

Should Meera trust Geo?

Ah so impressed are we by the Indians that Geo is running promos of a new reality show of Meera’s quest for her prince charming, clearly inspired by Swayamwar in which the foot-in-the-mouth diseased dancer Rakhi Sawant was seeing doing the same back in 2009. She did settle for an NRI businessman but nothing came of it (unsurprisingly) and Rakhi is still single and ready to mingle.

Meera’s new reality show Kaun Banega Meera Pati is interesting considering the fact that not so recently she was embroiled in a controversy when a Faisalabadi man Atiquur Rehman claimed her as his wife while she denied it all along. It then became a free-for-all in the media, where atrocious-english speaking anchorpersons ridiculed Meera’s smses in english to Atiq, and once caught her off-guard while begging a shady white-suited reporter (never seen before in Geo) to understand her point of view etc. It was most upsetting to watch her, a woman, being harassed in such a disgusting manner by the electronic media manipulating her to get maximum TRPs.

Now Meera in her promos of her show, decked up in a red and gold outfit and gold jewelry is asking potential male suitors to participate in the show hoping that she finds a man who values her as a person and not as a film-star. Geo the channel that is behind Kaun Banega Meera Pati show, was the channel that was in the forefront of shamelessly publicising her alleged marriage with Aqeel. Geo is known for its deceitfulness but can Meera really trust it to be fair to her this time?

Here is the promo of the show for those who are interested:

http://thecurrentaffairs.com/meera-show-kaun-banega-meera-pati-registration-form.html