By Rashid Sami

Cricket, bombs and politics seem to be keeping our nation on its toes with local television reflecting the same.

World Cup Cricket’99 has not only brought jubilation and excitement to cricket fans in the country but also riots and resentment in parts of NWFP and Balochistan, namely Gilgit, Skardu and Turbat as PTV has not offered live coverage of the cricket matches to these areas. Soon after the protest of the locals, however, PTV made the necessary arrangements but only for the matches Pakistan plays. The World Cup series has also brought monetary ecstasy to the parties who have bought time on PTV World as it has become the only channel offering entertainment programming. Sponsors have made package deals with such parties for their commercials but whether they will continue their dealings with PTV World after the cricket season is over remains a mystery. Another question mark is on the fate of NTM as its officers recently went through another sarkari operation.

Yousaf Baig Mirza, Managing Director, PTV has taken steps towards monetary viability of the department. Within a short spell of time he has managed to make his homes in Islamabad very happy. If on one hand he has designed new avenues for private producers and artistes alike, on the other his actions have disturbed the permanent employees of PTV. Most disturbing for the PTV Employees Union was the recent renting out of the Studio D of PTV’s Karachi centre to Broadcast Marketing Network (BMN) for recording a cricket talk show, thus opening PTV’s technical facilities for private rental. Another matter of concern, specially to the employees of the Karachi centre is the shifting of the central marketing office to Lahore.

Muneeza Hashmi, General Manager of PTV, Lahore Centre, is not only occupied with her duties as GM but has also been given a difficult task of introducing Khawateen Time between 9-10 am every day from PTV. Since the introduction of the women’s hour, the introduction package to the private producers and the sponsors has gone through several changes. Initially, branded programmes were encouraged with a repeat telecast without additional charges in the afternoons. This was a good move not only to attract sponsorship but to introduce and project the idea of women awareness. One hopes that attractive packages are offered to sponsors not only for women-oriented programmes but also for children’s programmes as they have been greatly neglected.

Both the parties involved in PTV World – namely Telworld and Weekend World – rely on private productions for their programming. Keeping in mind the previous ironic experiences of the private producers and artistes with such private networks, one would suggest that PTV endorse agreements between the buyer and the private producer. Already, there have been incidents in which one of the above-mentioned parties backed out of a written agreement.

Teleworld is catering to four days of programming on PTV World. Aik Mohabbat Sau Afsanay, a re-make and Such Much are two programmes which did very well on the PTV network and are now continuing with new episodes on PTV World. Among dramas, two serials that need to be mentioned are Payal and Kiran Kahani, again a re-make. Payal is a blend of new and experienced cast members, urban and rural masala, suspense, emotion and thrill. With an impressive cast including Nabeel and Saira Khan, Payal has all the potential and masala to attract viewership provided the storyline is handled well by the director. Kiran Kahani, on the other hand, is a light and emotional serial about a girl (Nadia Jameel) whose personality is shattered due to the separation of her parents. Doing well, both Nadia and Rehan Shaikh create an interesting interaction.

Ghazanfar Ali has contributed greatly towards introducing new talent as well as experimenting with entertainment programmes, two such examples being Aik Mohabbat Sau Afsanay and Kiran Kahani. I would not be doing justice here if the cast including Safia Khairi, childstar Raza Zaidi and newcomer Saleem Mairaj (Safder) are not mentioned.

Other programmes offered by Teleworld that deserve mentioning are Yehi To Hai Lollywood, Family Front, Music Channel Charts and also Smile Time which has been written and directed by Ismail Tara.

Weekend World marketed by Broadcast Marketing Network (BMN) offers its programmes on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays BMN again, rely on Pyramid, a private production house situated within the premises of Tahir A. Khan’s ad agency. Popa, Lolly, Nini Aur Ganey, Weekend Mail and Andaaz Apna Apna are some of the programmes produced by the production house but they have more visuals/graphics and lesser depth. Weekend World also seems to be short of sitcoms and Teen Bata Teen has only last week started with fresh episodes. The recently introduced Tarap with Tahir Nadeem and Khalid Bin Shaheen is yet to make an impact. Dil Darya and Griftaar-e-Wafa are wo serials which have done well to attract viewership. Ask For More  and Music Muqabala are set aside for music lovers.

The two serials that will be aired after the cricket season are Tipu Sultan produced by Qasim Jalali and Umeed-e-Sehar directed by Marina Khan and written by Mohammed Ahmed.
Tahir Kazmi, a newcomer who plays Tipu, bears a remarkable resemblance to the text book description of the hero. Others in the cast include Mishi Khan, Tahira Wasti and Imtiaz Taj.