The programming that kept audiences glued to their screens in 2012.
From reporting the latest buzz in town to creating its own buzz, this year TV frequently took centre stage. Like a ringmaster, who bored with the samey ‘ness’ of the circus acts, decides to leap through the ring of fire himself, the electronic media was caught in the spotlight, sometimes as it descended to pathetic lows and at other times en route to dizzying heights. Whether it was religion (and more often than not, it was), or sneaky TV show clips that mysteriously surfaced on YouTube or a serial that became a surprise traffic stopper, the electronic media made its fair share of news in 2012.
Veena in the nude, Veena frolicking with B-grade Bollywood star on Bigg Boss, Veena dissing moulvi for dissing her on live TV. So you thought you had seen it all? Errr, not quite. Hero TV, not known for discretion, at last found its heroine, just as Ms Malik was getting restless about making her next characteristically unsubtle move. Jaws hung open as Veena Malik appeared in the promo for the channel’s Ramazan transmission, beseeching viewers to join her for a spot of repentance in a show, indelicately titled (yes you ain’t heard nothing yet), Astaghfar. The promo soon became the darling (or pet peeve) of the social media as it was posted and discussed endlessly on various networking sites. As expected, audiences erupted in disgust – Veena’s last transgression, an almost-nude photo shoot for the cover of FHM India, was still fresh in their minds. The show was pulled, before it even aired. But a buzz had been created, and the channel adopted a policy of wait and watch as the mob settled and the question that formed in many minds for the first time was, ‘What is Hero TV and why is Veena hosting their Ramazan transmission?’ And so the show that had been pulled due to public protest and mammoth disapproval was aired, thanks to an even more powerful phenomenon: public curiosity. Veena appeared on our TV screens and entered our living rooms, dupatta and improbably sombre expression in place. Exhibitionism at its modest best? It got better as she refined the art of cultivating the controversy, by saving a suicidal girl’s life (remember, it is Hero TV after all), receiving a marriage proposal and speaking to a ‘real’ jinn, all on air. Her mantra: Anything for TRPs.
The nine lives of Aamir Liaquat Hussain
And just as Veena’s FHM shoot was morphed, you do of course know that Aamir Liaquat Hussain’s expletive-ridden (complete with lewd hand gestures) video that was leaked last year was dubbed by the ‘master of synchronisation’. Now here’s another personality who regularly falls from grace and doesn’t flinch from staging stunning comebacks. And there is a career trajectory that deserves to be made mandatory reading in PR courses around the country. It was the return of the avatar, as Hussain returned to his original playing field, Geo – and how. With a promotional campaign that confidently enticed the audience with ‘someone is coming’, Geo tightened its grip on the nation’s pulse as Pakistan’s favourite televangelist arrived laden with boxes full of iftaar goodies and bottles of Jam-e-Shireen to screaming crowds that perhaps only Oprah could have rivalled. Loathe his oily brand of ‘charm’ or love him for his Oprah-meets-Tariq Aziz brand of televangelism, you couldn’t just sit on the fence when it came to having an opinion on the man who has been accused of nearly everything, including harbouring fake degrees and inciting the murder of minorities in his last life as Geo’s Aalim Online. Hosting both Geo’s iftaar and sehri transmissions this year, Hussain cooked, anchored, and pop-quizzed his way through the Ramazan transmission to win the crucial ratings game by a landslide. Did we mention that he also rode a motorbike onstage to charm a public eager to lap it up? He’s spontaneous and willing, if nothing else. All past allegations of Geo tarnishing his credibility, via the YouTube expletive-ridden clip, conveniently forgotten, the former estranged fellows became fond bedfellows and naturally laughed all the way to the bank.
‘Hum’ming to the tune of success
In a country where it seems entertainment channels are almost fated to lag behind current affairs, the unprecedented success of Hum TV’s serial Humsafar was a phenomenon few could explain. Pakistani drama viewers, generally used to subsisting on a diet of victimised and weepy women living in raggedy old holes, were treated to the story of a beautiful woman who becomes stronger, post a marriage gone wrong. Working with a slew of beautiful actors, gorgeous locations and a great title song, director Sarmad Khoosat lifted the cliché rich in-laws versus poor protagonist storyline to traffic halting levels of popularity. That’s something that’s eluded TV producers for a decade and a half now.
Dubbed and divine
And the other show that’s been unashamedly flaunting beauties and creating waves is the addictive soap opera Ishq-e-Mamnun on Urdu 1. Literally ‘forbidden love’, this Turkish soap with a storyline as straight as a jalebi has been dubbed into Urdu, flouting all rules about dubbed shows lacking conviction and hence the power to keep your hand off the remote. The show’s cast of beautiful actors, most of whom are currently nurturing one variation or another of (forbidden) passions in their sorry hearts, keeps everyone and their dog hanging on edge and panting for more. Urdu 1 has taken a leaf out of MBC’s phenomenal success with dubbed Turkish software in the Middle East and run with it. And run with it, they have.
From vigilante to auntie
The gaping hole Aamir Liaquat left behind at the ARY Digital Network, was quickly filled by the woman who is fast becoming the queen of reinvention, Maya Khan. Yes, she of park vigilante fame. Maya’s year began with a bang as she stirred up a hornet’s nest when she chased after and intimidated dating couples in a park, to ‘make this park safe for families’. That proved to be the last straw for her morning show on Samaa TV, which had become something of a legend in the world of moral-brigading-to-boost-the-TRPs. Post public uproar and a neat exit from Samaa TV, an unrepentant Maya resurfaced at ARY Digital Network. Come Ramazan and she proved that the move was definitely Samaa’s loss. Parking herself alongside another cult TV figure, Dr Shahid Masood, Maya hogged the limelight during the channel’s Ramazan transmission and also stole her co-host’s thunder. And if you thought that the park episode in Maya’s last outing was sensationalism at its worse, not to mention the height of irresponsibility, Maya outdid even herself when she used the platform of ARY’s Ramazan transmission to broadcast live the conversion of a Hindu boy to Islam. Sunil became Mohammad Abdullah (egged on by the audience) as religious minorities and the liberati went hoarse screaming blue murder.
The anatomy of a plant
And while on the subject, 2012 will also be remembered as the year when Mubashir Lucman and Meher Bokhari took the (three-tiered) cake when it came to unprincipled journalism. The Dunya TV duo seemingly had it all: two hours of talk time with real estate tycoon Malik Riaz on their show, Khari Baat. Lucman and Bokhari would grill Riaz on the controversy surrounding the deals between him and the son of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Arsalan Iftikhar. Fairly straightforward? Or so it seemed until a film surfaced on YouTube (where else?) revealing the off-air conversation between Bokhari, Lucman and Riaz. Indeed, the one directing the show was none other than the property mogul himself, as revealed in the video posted by one ‘investigative reporter’. The clip sent shockwaves around the country as the footage showed Bokhari and Lucman discussing and rehearsing questions with Riaz and receiving ’advisory’ phone calls allegedly from Abdul Qadir Gilani, the ex-PM’s son. At one point Lucman even asks Riaz for a villa similar to the one he allegedly gave Geo’s Hamid Mir. And Bokhari is heard saying, “Say what you want… what question should we ask? It will appear as though it is planted… it is, but it shouldn’t appear that it is.” Post show, all hell broke loose, as Lucman was fired and Bokhari went into overdrive trying to explain away the incident on live TV. And like his other fallen-from-grace counterparts, Lucman has also recently been sighted on the ARY Digital Network.
Shahrezad Samiuddin is a pop culture junkie and an aspiring screenwriter.