When Dr Aamir Liaquat Husain (ALH) appeared in the teaser for Geo’s Ramazan transmission, playing a martyred soldier, you knew this was not going to be another holy season on TV.
The good doctor is known for not flinching when it comes to grating the nerves with TRP boosting antics – remember the aam khayega episode two Ramzans ago? So, no one blinked when he upped and died in the shadow of the Pakistani flag in the teaser for his show Pak Ramzan. You could have questioned the wisdom of showing the death of the man who virtually owns the Ramzan slot, but you didn’t need to, because things got better when Dr ALH set Twitter on fire with the behind-the-scenes photos of the teaser. The picture of him wearing army fatigues and combat gear over... wait, is he wearing a shirt? Or is this some kind of bad BDSM joke? Before Ramzan? An oddly coloured T-shirt and an imprudent pose rendered the whole thing unintentionally funny so that ALH’s tribute to the army and Zarb-e-Azb went horribly wrong and helped churn out a thousand merciless memes.
By now the unstoppable doctor has proved that controversies are water off a duck’s back as far as he is concerned. He turned a deaf ear to all naysayers as he geared up to... hold your breath for this one... break the world record for the longest TV transmission ever! Surely you didn’t expect any less than a world record from Aamir bhai?
This year Aaj TV plunged into the lucrative Ramzan transmission slot with actors Hamza Ali Abbasi and Ayesha Khan as hosts for the Ramzan Hamara Iman show. Abbasi and Khan are appearing in Hum TV’s top-rated TV serial Mann Mayal and it seemed Aaj TV had pulled a casting coup by roping in the two stars. And it would have been a casting coup had it not been for Abbasi’s love of all things controversial and his tendency to stir up a storm. True to form, Abbasi stepped into a hornets’ nest when he used the platform to question the second amendment, broach the Ahmadi issue (in a room full of ulema!) and air his reservations about the State’s right to declare anyone non-Muslim. Of course, he was out-talked by the ulema and a few minutes into the ‘discussion’ it became clear he wasn’t going to win this one.
Soon after, in the grand old tradition of TV wars, religious scholar Kaukab Noorani arrived on rival channel TV One’s Ishq-e-Ramazan (hosted by Shabbir Abu Talib) and issued a death threat to Abbasi for talking about that which must not be mentioned. Consequently, Abbasi, Abu Talib and Noorani were banned by PEMRA from hosting and appearing on Ramzan shows, to ensure interfaith harmony and a peaceful Eid.
Unfortunately, the murder of celebrated qawwal Amjad Sabri provided enough fodder to fuel the barely-scripted Ramzan transmissions for a few days.
However, all didn’t go wrong this holy season. Thankfully Hum TV did away with their Ramzan transmission. Hosted by the overly earnest Ahsan Khan, Hum TV’s transmission has not worked for the past few Ramzans, especially in the face of star anchors and bigger shows on Geo and ARY Digital. This year, actor Ahsan Khan is doing way better as the most reviled man in the country, in his role as the villain in the TV serial Udaari, and the lack of a Ramzan transmission from Hum TV served the channel (and all of us) well.
Ultimately, with hours of uninterrupted, cringe-inducing live transmissions, a hunk playing with (hell) fire in a studio packed with ulema, unintentional BDSM and death threats... enough happened on TV this holy season to keep Ramazan transmissions from becoming boring, blessed and peaceful. How will TV outdo itself next year? Maybe we shouldn’t tempt fate by asking that.
Shahrezad Samiuddin is a pop culture junkie and a scriptwriter.