By: Rashid Sami

As announced by the Chief Executive of the country, accountability and self-reliance is the motto of our new government. The dismissal of the previous government and its calm aftermath are indeed a sign of relief and the trust on the new regime but need of the time is conscientious intentions and transparent procedures.

If ethical accountability is to take place then it must start with the powerful. The last two weeks saw a series of notices from the tax department to the actors whose outstanding revenues to the government, at an average, do not exceed rupees fifteen-twenty thousand. The list includes almost all the prominent names of the mini screen including Nauman Ijaz, Humayun Saeed, Nabeel, Atiqa Odho and Rubina Ashraf, whereas according to the actors the tax is deducted from the artists fees at the time of payment. This is not all as artists also complain of verbal and telephonic notices on account of their cellular telephone and other utility bills. They are warned of dire consequences including printing their names as defaulters in the newspapers ‘as per strict directives of the superiors’, one official stated. One is not against the recovery of the outstanding amount but it is the wrong end of the default that the officials are concentrating on.

Revenue seekers should concentrate on more lucrative subjects. It is alleged that by not selling marketing time on STN, the national exchequer is not only losing the cost of marketing time but is deprived of the excise revenue also. This forfeiture which can exceed the seventy-five crore mark would have been a great contribution to the national interest.

With the exit of the Nawaz government one expected to see some change in the management at Pakistan Television also, but that is not happening. The new government has not only continued with the services of Yousaf Baig Mirza, Managing Director PTV, Tariq Aziz Show, which was once proud of being His Master’s Voice, is also being continued after a brief halt. Sohail Hashmi, who is stated to be an old friend and colleague of Yousaf Baig Mirza, continues as the Director Marketing. The General Managers and the Programme Managers are the same, the only one to go was Athar Waqar Azeem, Director Current Affairs who succumbed to the blatant remarks made by a fellow columnist in  a talk show.

Before coming to the programming offered on the mini screen one would like to comment on the behind-the-scene activities relating to the television operations in Pakistan. Advertising and sponsorship are the backbone of the media activities almost everywhere in the world, specially in the democratic society. Presently we might not fall in the cadre of a democratic society but the state-owned television is still the largest medium of advertising in Pakistan. There are mainly two mediums of operation, the print and the electronic media. As time progresses advertising is becoming a very technical affair requiring a lot of calculation and precision.

The concept of ‘Combine Media Buying’ (CMB) has now been introduced. Through CMBs the advertising agencies and the sponsors make bookings on television. This is a very professional approach towards advertitsing on the mini screen but some elements have made attempts to mutilate this system for personal gains. Certain quarters which are neither lawfully accredited nor capable of handling the situation that they are creating have started offering preposterous discounts directly to the sponsors. This practice can lead to a discount offering race that would not only have an adverse effect on the production quality of programming on the mini screen but would also be unhealthy and unethical to the system for which many institutions, business organizations and advertising individuals have worked for.

Now coming to the programmes. There are two dramas that were introduced on PTV Wrold last week. Bandagee, written by Amjad Islam Amjad and directed by Haroon Rasheed. Bandagee is a story about expatriates living in the Middle East and their sense of patriotism for the country. With a mega cast, this serial is expected to do well.

The other serial worth mentioning is Misbah Ishaq’s Sila, a 16 episodes serial which is aired every Thursday, marketed by Broadcast Marketing Network (BMN). Sila, an adaptation/inspiration of Woman of Substance, is the story of a young girl less fortunate in life. By a twist of fate she transforms into one of the most powerful persons in society and settles with the agonies of her past. The first episode which concluded last Thursday provided an excellent opening with powerful performance by Nighat Choudary, playing an intense, insecure and depressed character. The cast is a mixture of new and veteran actors including Amna Haq, Mahnoor Baloch, Adnan Siddiqi, Shakeel, Yasmin Ismail, Nighat Chaudary, Arjumand Rahim and Faraz Maqsood.

Khabarnama not only has a new look but is also transformed into lesser sarkari spokes medium. The new Chief Executive seems to have said ‘so’ to the mini screen for himself and his companies. One might start missing the “said and the besstiful” of our political scene who have used television for the promotion of their political events.

Coming to the musical video, Junoon recently launched their music album and their video for their title song Bulleya on a satellite channel. Junoon prefer to be known as the sufi musical group of Pakistan – no doubt it adds to the marketing gimmick both here and abroad. But in ones opinion, the only thing sufi in Bulleya is Bulle Shah ka kalam. One was shocked to see the video of this number with the barely dressed Resham wearing a scanty choli and the male model reminding one of Kama Sutra, the film that is. One’s advice to Junoon is to kindly spare Sufism from commercial exploitation.

Last week the preview show of Junoon, the play, was presented by Evernew Entertainment. Junoon is the story of family and group of expatriates living in the United States. The hopes and apprehensions of the expartriates come to an end when they find out that all is not as it seems in the US and neither is it the and where dreams can come true.  The cast includes Sitara Aur Mehrunnisa fame Atiqua Odho and Anwar Maqsood ki jori, Jiya Ali, Tanweer Jamal, Seemi Zaidi, Qavi and other. It is directed and produced by Noor Najmi and written by Shoaib Hasan. The preview show was followed by a mehfil-e-ghazal by Shakeela Khorasanee.

The Pakistan Television Karachi station was the venue for the concluding ceremony of Kazim Pasha’s Sham Se Pehle compered primarily by Sajid Hasan. Hair, in all its different forms, seemed to be the talk of the show as it was Sajid Hasan’s first appearance after succumbing to the temptation of hair grafting. Moreover, shortly after the commencement of the show, a girl carrying a ---almost set a aflame another’s fuzzy mane while settling down in the aisle, which another dolled up creature could be seen struggling to keep her false lashes in place, at least till the programme ended. The cast was invited on stage while Shariqa Fatima and Adnan Jilani walked away with top credits and billing. Bushra Ansari’s chirpy comments and usual razzmatazz while she lip-synched a Punjabi pre-recorded number brightened up the proceedings no end.

Ed. Note – One item in the ‘Starbuzz’ section of our previous issue titled ‘Cooking up a storm’ mentioned Rubina Ashraf as the producer of Pas-e-Aaina, whereas it is Haroon Rasheed who is the producer/director of this series. Rubina Ashraf was merely one of the stock characters.