Ramzan TV Sightings- mostly pathetic and same old

July 2013
Channels: Geo, ARY digital, Abb Takk, Hum2

Inevitably one had to see what the slick self-styled Islamic televangelist Amir Liaquat was up to in his Geo Amaan Ramzan show. Looking dapper in a sherwani, must say his looks and gut are taut even to this day, he goes up to a kid, celebrating her roza khushai, first fast celebration, and asks if her mom made her clothes. The kid said her mother bought it for her. To which Sick Liaquat says with a patronizing tone of course, didn’t you wish your mother had stitched your clothes?!!!

The show has already garnered controversy when in during an episode he played the role of Bilquis Edhi, the humanitarian’s wife who gives away babies for adoption, Prick Liaquat also gave away two babies for adoption. In another episode he invited an Internet singer sensation Tahir Shah and was reportedly obnoxious towards his guest.


On Hum2 Amjad Sabri, who hails from the illustrious family of notable qawwals –the Sabris, tarnished the art when while doing his naqqara he invited youngsters to dance and one of the youngsters ended up doing a nagin naach (snake dance) to a qawwali and other little kids did their Bollywood thumkas. His father Ghulam Farid Sabri and his brother Maqbool Sabri, one of the topmost qawwals of their time, must have been turning in their graves when their scion did this blasphemous act.

ali haider ramzan
Abb Takk, the new entrant in a sea of TV channels, has pop singer now sufi artist Ali Haider, helming a show Ya Rehman Ya Rahim Ramazan. With a pleasant voice, handsome face, donning well-fitted gorgeous sherwanis on his ageless physique, Ali is a wholesome host asking interesting questions from the panel of ulema that come to his show. Blessed with a melodious voice he often sings a religious song along with an accompanying qawwal groups. He takes live calls from callers who are troubled with trivial religious questions and is giving away gifts for answering questions correctly in his show.


JJ aka Junaid Jamshed and Waseem Badami host the Sehri transmission on ARY digital. The first part of the show is all about the self-styled Islamic scholar JJ, his thoughts and explanations about religious matters and as other Islamic scholars who in order to emphasize that they are truly Arabicised, pronouncing the ains in the Arabic fashion, JJ too utters words such as ashiq, arif, abid in an Arab manner except that it is unnecessary and sound pretentious. Not one to let go of his singing voice he regaled his mostly female audience with Naats and Hamds. Scholar sb in his sharaiee dadhee (shariat beard) and solid colored shallu kameez with the shallu also adhering to shariat along with Waseem Badami chat with a panel of Ulema about conceptual religious matters such as Ibadat and take audience’s questions who are more concerned about practical matters for instance what part of namaz to say if one has had an accident and the likes.



While the liberal-minded journos and celebs and the rest of the progressives are puking all over social media condemning the comeback of Amir Liaquat Hussain and Maya Khan on Geo and ARY respectively, and the discontinuing of Veena Malik’s Astaghfar program on Hero TV, the fact of the matter is that the channel proprietors who probably are closeted liberals themselves, don’t give two hoots about what the miniscule minority think. They have hit the jackpot by bringing these hosts back who by the way like it or not are extremely admired by the masses.

The very public who has been severely hit by high inflation resulting in their increased poverty, an all-time-high unemployment and if through these hosts and especially through these Ramzan shows they are obtaining cash handouts, rickshaws/motorbikes/car, education for their daughters, treatment costs of their ill spouses, you can’t blame them for appreciating Amir Liaquat and Maya Khan.

Also quite shrewdly, the concept developers have strategically developed a kind of inclusiveness by sharing in the grief of the public and mitigating their suffering by asking easy Islamic knowledge questions and gifting them expensive cellphones, LCDs, microwave and other high-end gadgets. With the masses being subjected to repetitive onslaught of commercials on TV screens depicting upper middle class lifestyles and with celeb-dominated red carpets wearing fantastic costumes and having a jet-set lifestyle, it is a life that the masses cannot partake and hence to target them as their audience via these Ramzan shows is deliberately clever and also socially conscious even arguably it is at a superficial level.

I will not get into the past shenanigans of Amir Liaquat and Maya Khan and their hypocrisies and their double standards as several columnists or bloggers have written about those vociferously. (Here are some reminder links just in case you want to jog your memory: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=223683767719939, http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/7508/dr-aamir-liaquat-defamation-of-faiths-dr-jekyll/#.Tkp8IKa-xAw.twitter). I will also not get into their audacity to preach to the television viewers about piety and forgiveness during their Ramzan transmissions, this too has become passé and tiresome. I will also not get into the content of their programs which by the way is a conglomeration of a quiz show cum summer camp cum cooking show cum fund-raisers cum naat competition cum let’s-convert-the infidel show-cum soup kitchen cum roza kushai cum calligraphy contest cum health show cum let’s-peddle-my-heartfelt story.

What I am going to attempt in my blog is to speculate the overall cost of Amir Liaquat’s Pehchan Ramzan’s program and Maya Khan and her co-host Shahid Masoods’ Faizan-e-Ramzan Shahr-e-Ramzan’s program. I am blogging about this because I am awestruck by the extravagance of both the sets, the likes of which have never been seen on local television especially during Ramzan transmission. Never mind that extravagance, boastfulness and materialism are contrary to the teachings of Islam! But then Islam has become a commodity and these programs are a mere reflection of that. Moreover, Amir Liaquat’s showmanship and entertaining hosting skills notwithstanding his daily five-hour show (3 pm to 8 pm) indicates his incredible amount of stamina where he is running around the humongous hall managing 14 different segments. Plus he also does sehri transmission in the same location every single day.

Exotic animals are a part of the extravagant Ramzan sets

Amir Liaquat’s Pehchan Ramzan production has been set up in Ramzan City. Now according to my reliable source that Ramzan City is none other than Expo Centre in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Karachi. The Trade Development of Pakistan (TDAP) built Expo for holding exhibitions to attract buyers and sellers. It makes sense because Geo’s studios are not expansive enough to accommodate around 500 people daily whereas Expo has three large halls each measuring around 6,690 square meters or 7,2010 square feet. Now this large area of space will obviously burn a hole in the pocket. According to TDAP’s 2006 rates the renting out of its halls range from anywhere to 1,60,000 to 2,40,000 rupees per day. In addition 50,000 rupees are to be given as caution money, which is refundable. On the set a mammoth a Noah’s ark replica has been placed. Since I cannot determine the type of material used to create it, the ark could probably have created using cheap wood or formica and then painted all over, let me guess its cost to be 50,000 rupees. Then exotic animals such as peacock, deers, turtle and other birds are seen strutting their stuff. According to an independent exotic animal online seller, peacock prices range from 20,000 to 25,000 rupees. Prices of deer from Dera Ismail Khan costs 1,25,000 rupees per animal. And on Amir Liaquat’s show they are a minimum two if not more. Artificial ponds also have been created complete with garden fountains and studded with live fishes in both Amir Liaquat’s and Maya Khan’s shows. These too could according to my guess be around a lakh rupees. The overall cost of Amir Liaquat’s set comes to around 73 lakh rupees. And I haven’t even added the cost of the pond, other exotic birds and other things that I m sure I must have missed out. I even badgered a friend to ask her friends from the television industry to ask about the cost of Ramzan set design and she came back with a figure ranging from 60 to 80 lakhs for Ramzan sets of other channels. So I m guessing that Amir Liaquat’s show could be over a crore rupees (probably the most Geo has ever spent on a show) and Maya Khan’s show could be under a crore rupees.

Turtles are starring in Maya and Amir Liaquat’s shows

My guess is that next Ramzan other channels will have to step up their game to keep up with Geo and Ary Digital.

Most expensive films/TV series


  • Waar, a Hollywood-Lollywood film collaboration is estimated to have been made for 17 crore rupees
  • The first 10 episodes of Game of Thrones had an estimated budget of 60 million US dollars
  • The pilot of Lost cost 14 million US dollars
  • NBC forked out 180 million US dollars for the final season of Friends

Real people in Quddusi Saheb ki Bewa-episode 5


Timings: Every Friday at 8 pm

First broadcast on: February 10, 2012

Hina Dilpazeer Khan as Badrika Jehan/Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewa/Rooh Afza/Bengali Baji

Shehnaz Parvez as Khajista Jehan, desperate to get married but her mother wont let her

Badar Khalil as Aqeela bhabhi, a stinky matchmaker gossip khala and a vege robber!

Uroosa Siddiqui as Shagufta Jehan, a hysterical laughing maniac and works in a family planning clinic

Waqar Hussain as Wudud Ahmed, only son and feels trapped in a male’s body



Haathon main mehndi lagi hai

Gharaz ka baawla

Apni hi gaway

Nak kati bazaar main

Meray ghar ko khabar mat karna

Kaala moonh

Karela daant

Dil dooba jaana: sinking heart



Ganji aurat

Tapi! Tapi!

Antiquated words:


Utawala hona: getting restless

Baalizh bhar ki laundiya: little girl

Naqahat: weakness

Words/phrases coined:


Khariya aurat

Neelay aankh vali hathni: blue-eyed elephant

Fasadi aurat: aggressive woman


Do naina matwaray niharay

Hum par zulum karain

Singer: K L Saigal

Picturised on: K L Saigal

Film: Meri Behen

Original song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_URwqxX5lE

Kyun paisa paisa kartee hai

Kyun paisay pay tu marti hai

Singer: R D Burman and Selina

Picturised on: Katrina Kaif

Film: De Dana Dan

Original song link: http://www.indicine.com/movies/bollywood/paisa-lyrics-de-dana-dan/

Abhi aap ki umar hi kya hai

Singer: Runa Laila and Ahmed Rushdi

Picturised on: Shabnam and Shahid

Film: Anmol

Original song link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1DAaVWnb5Eww.youtube.com/watch?v=xG5sXYBZ-0Y

Kya ghazab kartay ho jee

Pyar say dartay ho jee

Singer: Asha Boshle

Picturised on: Vijayeta Pandit and Kumar Gaurav

Film: Love Story

Original Song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH2OYfCqcb8

Cultural artefacts/references in terms of furniture and clothing:

White gao takiya

Silver surmadaan

Silver ughaldaan

Old model radio


White gharara


Antique telephone

Links for episode 5:

Watching Quddusi Saheb ki Bewa-episode 3, can drastically improve your Urdu



Timings: Every Friday at 8 pm


First broadcast on: February 10, 2012


Hina Dilpazeer Khan as Badrika Jehan/Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewa/Rooh Afza/Bengali Baji


Shehnaz Parvez as Khajista Jehan, desperate to get married but her mother wont let her


Badar Khalil as Aqeela bhabhi, a stinky matchmaker gossip khala and a vege robber!


Uroosa Siddiqui as Shagufta Jehan, a hysterical laughing maniac


Waqar Hussain as Wudud Ahmed, only son and feels trapped in a male’s body




Daer aye durust aye

Better late than never


Janam kay aandhay

Naam nahi such

a blind wouldn’t know

what happiness is


Ullo ko ullo jaanay

only a shrewd would know

another shrewd person


Kawa chadha baithee misrani

Ghar main na anaaj na paani

Even though there is nothing to cook at home

But the stove has been switched on


Aankhoun main dhool jholna

To betray someone


Rang ralliyaan manana


Kamar main choori ghonpna

Stab someone in the back

Raiwadh ko khula chodna

Leaving the cattle free


aankh dekhay makhkhi

kaun niglega

Who would deliberately

Buy a faulty thing




I aym tawantee faur [24] awnlee tawantee faur!


I dawnt maind



Antiquated words:


farbandaam: bountiful




tan badan main aag: burning up


rupalli: money


aahazari: grief-stricken


tehes nehes: destroyed


paash paash hona: wrecked


aag lagay toh lagay: let people get jealous


pingoray: cradle


jhooti lapadan: liar


beheshtan maan: my mother in heavan


uchaal chakka: scoundrel



Words/phrases coined:


badi allama bani hai: acting really highly educated


Chaawal raj ke khana: eating rice with great relish


Chail chabeli naar:


Shaitani charkha: Telephone


Bayghairti ki bakwaas: sleazy rubbish


Neechay ilakay ki paydawaar: low caste harvest


Choohay kay gharwalay: kith and kin of rats


Laanat hai umrain vali chinaroun par: curse on sluts who hide their ages


Ham palla khandaan: family of equal status


Matakti thirakti aa mari hai yahan: swaying and twirling has come dying here


Teri kya mayya mar gayee hai: Has your mother died?


Shab-e-barat kay patakhay say us ka moonh jal ho gaya hoga: His face must have got burnt by crackers in shab e barat that is why it is so dark


Paidashee gharib: poor since birth




Mehndi Hai Rachni wali

Singer: Alka Yagnik

Picturised on: Farida Jalal and Karishma Kapoor

Film: Earth

Original song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j8k2mBXnCw


Ab yahan koi nahi aayega

Singer: Noorjehan

Picturised on: Nayyar Sultana

Film: Baji

Original song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SdqBkGnUr0



Cultural artefacts/references in terms of furniture and clothing:

White gao takiya

Silver surmadaan

Silver ughaldaan

Old model radio


White gharara


Antique telephone


Links for episode 3:





Quddusi Saheb ki Bewa-episode 2, treasure trove of urdu proverbs and creative phraseology

Channel: ARY Digital

Timings: Every Friday at 8 pm

First broadcast on: February 10, 2012


Hina Dilpazeer Khan as Badrika Jehan/Quddusi Sahab Ki Bewa/Rooh Afza/Bengali Baji

Shehnaz Parvez as Khajista Jehan, desperate to get married but her mother wont let her

Badar Khalil as Aqeela bhabhi, a stinky matchmaker gossip khala and a vege robber!

Badar Khalil

Uroosa Siddiqui as Shagufta Jehan, a hysterical laughing maniac

Uroosa Siddiqui

Waqar Hussain as Wudud Ahmed, only son and feels trapped in a male’s body


Hosh kay nakhoon layna: get your act together

Taak par baytha ullo

Bhar Bhar mangay chullo

Andha kuwaan: bottomless well

Katnay ko daudna: angry and irritated

Aadhi ko chodh, saari ko jayay

Aadhi rahay na, saari payay

Dhobi ka kutta

Na ghar ka na ghaat ka:

A dog that runs after two bones catches neither



Pure Mard



Antiquated words:


Zanana: women

Zankha: eunuch


Khasam: husband

umar raseeda: old

laundya: virgin girl derived from laundi, a slave girl


Words/phrases coined:


Sharifunnisa Begum: Miss Decency

Neem auratain: Shemale

Bhanwain mundwana: shave off eyebrows


Do number ki madam: Dubious brothel madam


Aaday tirchay log: reference to men with womanlike body language

Bayhangam qawwal ki batain: Conversation of a disturbed qawwaal

Kameeni fitrat: Sly personality

Gosht ki tahain chadhawain: Put on layers and layers of meat

Pehalwan jaisay niwalay: Morsels of a wrestler

Koiloun pay kyun baithee ho: why are you sitting over coals? Meaning why are you so upset?

Sabra sultana type of makeup

Behayaee ka burqa: Donning a burqa of brazenness

Behayee ka pajama: Donning a pair of trousers of unembarrassment


Mujhay apnay dil main jagah daynay walay

Tera shukriya

Meri dhadkanoun kay

Naya rang bharkay

Abhi dhoondh hi rahi thi

Tumhay yeh nazar hamari

Kay tum aagay achanak

Badi umer hai tumhari

Singer: Noorjehan

Picturised on: Shamim Ara

Original song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGeL9JIr6Wk

And a link with Madam singing on a show, resplendent in her gorgeous sari and OTT make-up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOdn8S0h1Kw

Pyar ko hum banaingay aisee misaal

Jis ko dohrayaga zamana saal ha saal

Singer: Ahmed Rushdi

Film: Suhaag

Picturised on: Nadeem and Shamim Ara

Original song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLh5c82G3L8

Cultural artefacts/references in terms of furniture and clothing:

Gao takiya

Gao takiya, in QSKB it is covered with a white cloth

Silver surmadaan

Silver ughaldaan

Old model radio


White gharara


Links for episode 2:


Quddusi Sahab ki Bewa-a black tragi-comedy that is a must-viewing for its cultural references amongst its other several qualities


Channel: ARY digital

Timings: Every Friday at 8 pm

Writer: Fasih Bari Khan

Director: Mazhar Moin

First broadcast on: February 10, 2012


Hina Dilpazeer Khan as Shakooran or Amma or Quddusi Sahab ki bewa, the controlling matriarch of three daughters and a son

Hina Dilpazeer Khan as Badrika Jehan, a school teacher who financially supports her family and is desperate to get married and leave her family

Hina Dilpazeer Khan as Rooh Afza, a buck-toothed with the spirit of a Pakistani film heroine and the tenant of the Quddusi’s

Hina Dilpazeer Khan as Bengali Baji, a black magician

Shehnaz Parvez as Khajista Jehan, a homeopath, her mother would have preferred that she become a ward boy!

Badar Khalil as Aqeela bhabhi, a stinky matchmaker cum gossip khala

Uroosa Siddiqui as Shagufta Jehan, the only sister with no career except for having a keen eye on observing the funniness in everything even in morbid situations

Waqar Hussain as Wudud Ahmed, the only brother of Khajista, Badrika and Shagufta, who cooks for the women of his household and who is caught up in the unfortunate battle between his masculine and feminine side



There is a reason why some women remain unmarried and according to Quddusi Sahab ki Bewa (QSKB), it’s because the mothers don’t want to for their source of income will dry up and they will have a hard time running their household. In this era of economic recession this is a valid concern and this biting and almost savage serial highlights this fact through its wonderfully sketched characters played brilliantly by its talented cast. What also stands out in this serial is the liberal usage of unheard mohavaras (proverbs or sayings) that makes the watching of this serial essential in this day and age.

In the introduction to her book: Dilli ki Khwateen ki Kahavatain aur Mohavray, Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah says that  there was a time once that the conversations of women of yore would be incomplete without the usage of a proverb or a saying. She further explains that these sayings and proverbs were loaded with sarcasm and acerbity that was a form of outlet of expressing their frustrations. In Urdu language this is known as ta’na which literally means to wound someone. Daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law and second wives were usually the target for these ta’nas but daughters were treated with the milder versions so that they were taught the niceties of life through these sayings.

Sayings/proverbs/muhavaras used in first episode of QSKB:

Kaheen ki mitti kaheen ka rodha

Paan main thee na kunba joda

Bain na kooda koodee kaun

Yeh tamasha dekhay kaun

Muflisi main ata neela

Old-fashioned words used in first episode of QSKB::




Words coined in first episode of QSKB:

Kaanee Dajjalnee (one-eyed anti-christ!)


Besides the language it is the constant referencing of Pakistani film songs especially by the wonderful crooner Naheed Akhtar that makes QSKB an engaging watch.

Songs in first episode of QSKB:

Bijli bhari hai meray ang ang main

Joh mujh ko choolay ga woh jal jayega

Film: Koshish

Singer: Naheed Akhtar

Original song and its link:


Meray sapnoun ki rani

Tu hee tu hee

Meray Sapnoun ki rani


Garam gulabi sham hai

Tarumba ka rumba

Sab kuch teray naam hai

Tarumba ka rumba

Singer: Naheed Akhtar


Tuturutut tara tara

Bolay yeh dil ka ek tara

Meray humdum pyar ka mausam

Singer: Naheed Akhtar

Original song and its link:

The widespread usage of modern technologies have meant that several items of furniture and clothing that nearly 40 years ago were a part of our lives are no more. In QSKB we see several such pieces in a household that is apparently stuck in a time warp.

Cultural artefacts/references in terms of furniture and clothing in first episode of QSKB:

White gharara

Silver surmadani (kohl canister) Image

Silver ughaldaan (spittoon)

Old model radio

Takhat: Shaista Ikramullah Suharwadry explains its best in her book From Purdah to Parliament: “These were raised wooden platforms, covered with an embroidered or woven material, or only with clean white sheets. They had elaborately carved or lacquered legs, very often of silver. On special occasions masnads [=large cushions] would be placed over them. Takhats were always placed against a wall, and had several bolsters scattered over them for one to recline on. The takhat was, literally, the stage of all household activities. Ladies sat there making and eating paan, cutting chalia [=betel-nut], and gossiping. The more industrious ones brought their sewing or embroidery, and stitched their daughters’ trousseau while listening to the gossip. Even shopping was carried on from there, for women vendors brought their goods and spread them at the foot of the takhat. Children also had a corner for themselves, and their toys would be found littered all over it.”

Paandaan (Betel leaves box)

Links to the first episode:



Cable channels are no longer insulting the intellect of viewers as they forge their identity with quality dramas


2003-2007 are arguably the worst years of television history when the culture of soap operas that were mostly rip-offs of Star Plus soaps, besieged the satellite channels. With wafer-thin plots and high glamour quotient, these dramas were insulting to the average viewer who was used to high quality plays authored by Hasina Moin, Ashfaq Ahmed, Bano Qudsia, Noorul Huda Shah, Amjad Islam Amjad and their likes. The classic plays such as Man Chalay Ka Sauda, Parchaiyan, Nangay Paon, Waris, Khuda Ki Basti, Tapish and Hawaain had powerful screenplays, memorable dialogues with outstanding performances.


However storylines during the anni horribiles revolved around the shenanigans of either the business class and feudal lords or the conflict between the in-laws and the daughters-in-law. Besides soap operas, other forms of dramas such as the 15-22 episode serials also took on the flavour and structure of Indian soaps that were devoid of meaningful content. Rishad Mehmood, a former staffer at the Herald magazine (part of the Dawn Media Group) and covered culture extensively for the publication, in one of his pieces was extremely critical of the dramas that were being shown then. He had spoken to students who were disgusted with the ridiculous material that was being aired in the name of dramas.


Apart from that brief interlude, the last couple of years have seen a revitalisation of telly plays which even though are not outstanding in terms of content nevertheless, are drawing impressive viewership. Moreover, no longer can one hear people lamenting over the content of the plays in fact the viewer is now spoilt for choice. “For me it is a tussle between Hum TV and Geo TV when I am watching dramas, as both are producing some of the best plays at the moment,” says Gulrez Soomro, a mother of four kids and self-professed TV addict. Facebook pages are now created of every play where fans discuss the merits and demerits of every episode, as is done on several web forums where fresh episodes are promptly uploaded with the option of those who want to catch up on the play that they have missed or want to watch without ads also have very high viewership that runs in thousands. Desidramas.com and vidpk.com are two most popular web forums where viewers tune in to catch up on missed episodes. Hence Bol Meri Macchli, one of the most successful dramas of 2010 had average views of 6,000 on desidramas and 3,000 on vidpk per episode.

There are a couple of reasons behind this revival: new writers who are penning bold scripts, new directors with contemporary sensibilities and superior production values. Novel subjects are being explored which was never the case earlier even during the glorious days of the state-run television channel. Khuda Zameen Say Gaya Nahi (2009, Hum TV) and Bebak (2010, Hum TV) revolved around terrorism and its consequences. Partition Stories (PTV, 2008) a series of 12 plays, highlighted the loss and tragedy of every community during Partition and the humane values displayed by all of them at the time. Bol Meri Machli (Geo, 2010) grappled with exploitation of young vulnerable women in the showbiz world. Band Khirkiyoun Kay Peechay (TVOne, 2010) explored the goings-on of rich married socialites. “Zip, Bus Chup Raho on Geo was a very bold soap that was about a single parent who becomes a high-society escort to sustain the lifestyle of her kids,” says Soomro.


The writer-director duos of Umera Ahmed-Mehreen Jabbar/Babar Javed, Fasih Bari Khan-Mazhar Moin have played a critical part in drawing the viewers back to the small screen. Ahmed and Khan write scripts that revolve around regular issues faced by middle and lower-middle class people resonating with many of them. Deglamourised performances, powerful dialogues or even crude ones but very much rooted in Karachi’s authentic lingo especially in the case of Khan’s scripts, multiple problems faced by characters are the highlights of these two writers’ screenplays. Whether it is Mann-o-Salwa, Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan, Malaal, Jhumka Jaan and Doraha, all penned by Ahmed and broadcasted in the last couple of years, have been highly popular because of their subject matter.


Malaal directed by Mehreen Jabbar, explored the relationship of an older woman and a younger man along with the marriage of two incompatible individuals who have a wide age gap. Weaved into the storyline was an internet-based relationship that is abruptly ended when the girl decides to get married to a handsome US well-settled man whom she barely knows. Mann-o-Salwa directed by Javed, chartered the rise of a woman from humble origins to a high-end escort who is spiritually and emotionally distraught. Most of these plays have been shown by Hum TV, which was launched by Sultana Siddiqui in 2005, a respected former director in PTV, a channel that has played a significant role in drawing back viewers with quality dramas. “Hum TV has played a major role in diverting people from routine dramas. I still remember fondly Lahasil and Mann-o-Salwa which the channel showed,” says Soomro.


Following the lead of Hum TV, other channels too have started to invest in strong plays. For instance last year Geo showed Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan (MZZBN). This was scripted by Ahmed and became a massive success. With its central theme on taking false oath over the Holy Quran and its consequences, skilful acting especially by Samiya Mumtaz and Samina Peerzada, a heartfelt title song by Rahat Fatah Ali Khan, scored a five on the rating system where normally a scoring of two or three is considered a hit for a drama. This rating was unprecedented in the history of satellite television, according to Abdullah Kadwani, the head honcho of Seventh Sky Productions that produced MZZBN. The serial received a phenomenal 1, 68,000 emails and 6.3 million hits on various websites. “We were selling an average of 100 DVDs of MZZBN every month,” says Naseer Ahmed, salesman at Laraib music and film shop.


Another duo who must be credited for this resurgence is writer Fasih Bari Khan and director S. Mazhar Moin. Their focus on lower middle class themes shorn of artifice has been a successful formula. In fact it has done so well that their telefilm Burnes Ki Road Neelofar (ARY Digital), which was about a lower-middle class harassed housewife and a mother of nine kids, that it garnered a best supporting actress award for Hina Dilpazeer Khan, incidentally her debut, at the 7th Karafilm festival in 2009. Specialising in tele-films the duo has explored a range of ground-breaking topics. In Lunch with Lubna (Hum TV, 2010) an emotionally weak veteran actress breaks down under the insensitive questioning of a celebrity anchorperson and Karakti Bijlian (Geo, 2011) depicted the struggles of ageing stage performers.


Besides the scripts, improved production values with bigger budgets have contributed significantly to the scope of dramas. Crisp and clear images, superior sound quality along with authentic set design and costumes have also increased viewership. “The period play Dastaan was very well-made,” says Soomro. A high-budgeted drama, Dastaan was an adaptation of a well-known book authored by Razia Butt set during the Partition. “We invested heavily in the costumes and the sets of Dastaan that each episode costed us an average of 10 to 11 lakh rupees,” says Siddiqui, Chairperson of Eye Television Network. She also adds that the drama even attracted several advertisers, so much so that she had to decline quite a few since too many commercials irritates viewers.


The question that arises is will the good times last? Mehmood thinks that they will. “We have come back to topics related to our lives and have salvaged what we lost,” he says. Siddiqui however is not optimistic unless the television industry adopts some long-term measures. “We will have to invest in improving technical skills of our human resources. My fear is that there will be deterioration of quality if we don’t set up television academies where people are trained in all aspects such as cinematography, set design, acting, script-writing and direction. And we as in the media houses need to do this,” says Siddiqui.