By: Rashid Sami
It is ironic that the humans labeled as the third world have become victims of their own circumstances. Owing to the views of our masters we now stand decades behind our fellow humans of the West in almost every progressive department of life. Considering entertainment alone there are innumerable avenues available to the Westerners. Whereas we desis, in large, are subjected to self-imposed limitations and restrictions. The principal means of entertainment in our country is televisions.

With the turn of the century and the millennium, the month of January has a lot to offer on our mini-screen. The speculations regarding the launching of new, Pakistan-based satellite television channels, license to the cable operators, Pak-India confects, Zee-based Indian propaganda against Pakistan, Launching of the news channel, the run-of-the-mill dramas focusing on foreign locations with desi actors, cricket mania and  obviously the Khabarnama, has been the very part of our present routine.

There are approximately 250,000 households in the country having cable connections whereas according to a survey carried out by a private firm there are approximately 8.5 million televisions sets owned by our population of over 140 million. In Karachi alone there are over 100,000 households which have switched to the cable with the largest cable company catering to almost 70,000 households, mainly in the Clifton and Defense areas. At present, these cable companies perform their operations in a small room in a vicinity with decoders and receivers. from this room cables are extended to the different subscribers, offering 20-24 channels for Rs. 250-350 and Rs. 1000-1500 as initial registration/ connection charges.

In the first ever address to the nation, the Chief Executive emphasized on the “importance of Private channel networks” and now the first major step that the government has taken is to legalize cable network. only recently the government hostled a seminar in Islamabad on media matters of the country. With emphasis on the role that television can play in improving the overall standards of our society and to combat the media aggression from across the border. The list of invitees which numbered 16 was increased to about 40 by the time the seminar took place. It was indeed a group of hardcore media lot which attended the seminar, but the major contents of the seminar being the personal grievances that the “lasser fortunate” lot had against the alleged “accumulators of opulence”.

In the sarkari seminar on media affairs, the statement made by the very official host of the event is also worth noting in which he party rested the future of Pakistan film-making in the shadi and valima videowallas.  

It is also speculated that the much-announced private satellite channel that is owned by a major print-media group might make its entry in May-June 2000 “Geo” has been a much discussed private satellite  channel and already has the tentative infrastructure available.

Islamabad media circles are also awaiting the decision regarding the much needed news channel. There is uncertainty whether PTV World is going to be transformed into a news channel or STN is going to become a news channel linked with the satellite. The current affairs department is quite excited and energized about the whole affair, as they were never allowed so much limelight in the post.

Karachi being a host to all sorts of seekers has also provided opportunity to the performers. Presently, Nadeem, Rehan Sheikh, Nauman Aijaz, Nabeel, Maria Wasti, Faisal Qureshi, Salman Shahid and other actors are almost permanently stationed in Karachi for the recording of respective dramas. Another group of actors who are on a visit to Karachi is the Family Front team. They are here to record the 75th episode of the comedy serial.

Last week saw the launching of two mega television serial. Tum hi to ho, a private production directed by Marina Khan, written by Mohammad Ahmed and produced by Humayum Saeed. The other serial is the long-awaited Tipu Sultan a Pakistan Television. Karachi centre production. This historical play has been directed by Qasim Jalali and is written by Khan Asif. PTV, Karachi centre has already produced historical plays Shaheen. Tabeer Aakhri Chattan, Aabgeenae and Tareekh-e-Tamseet in the past.

The launching ceremony of Tipu Sultan was impressive and was coordinated and recorded for television by Zaheer Khan. Guests were seated well in time and Salamat Ali. Azra Riaz and Nafees Ahmed (on sitar) presented ghazals and geet before the programme.

Anwar Maqsood with his not so witty comments, at times, was host of the event and invited Obidullah Baig with the words: “Now I am going to invite a person who can even Tipu Sultan’s parson’s name within 20 questions. “If only Anwar Maqsood could realize that the event and a great historic Muslim personality like Tipu Sultan deserves more respect and should be spared his punchlines.

Thirteen episode Tipu Sultan, to go on-air on Friday, Feb 4 2000, has taken over 18 months to produce. Khan Asif took six months to write the script. There are eight songs composed by Laved Allahditta and over 200 characters and over 1800 actors who took part in the play. The notable actors include debutant Tahir Kazmi as Tipu Sultan, Mishi Khan, Fazila Qazi, Ghazala Khaifi, Khayyam Sarhadi, Tahira and Rizwan Wasti, Javeria Jalil, S.B.Y Younus and Gulab Chandio.

Yousaf Baig Mirza, Tahir Khan, Sajjad Gul, Mohsin Ali, Sohial Hashmi and a number of artists and PTV officials attended the launching ceremony.