By Fouzia Mapara
First published in May-June 2007.
Her fans had never really forgotten Marina Khan, nor her many incarnations. She has been the cutie pie Sanya in Tanhaiyan, the solemn Dr Zoya in Dhoop Kinaray and in the mid-1980s, the debutante alongside Pilot Officer Farooq Iqbal in Shahzad Khalil’s Rashid Minhas.
For them, it was a dream come true to have Marina Khan start their day with ARY Digital’s morning show Marina Mornings.
As we sat in her office surrounded by an assortment of cats, we chatted away about her show and her view on life.
Marina had just finished directing a play for ARY Digital when she was offered the morning show on ARY Digital, which she refused initially.
“I did not want to be on the screen. However, as my husband had just left MTV, we decided that if he produced the show, then I would host it. I am comfortable with someone sound on the production side.”
For the morning show, Marina’s day begins around 5 a.m., although getting up early is not a problem.
“I am not a very early riser but I am not an evening person either. Usually my day starts at 9 a.m. With my air force background, we had to be up by 8 a.m. and when I am directing, I like start no later than 10 or 10.30 a.m.”
Marina prefers directing to acting; in her view, people today are in the business not for their love of acting but because of the money, which is why they have no patience with a director who takes pains in getting the details right. Disappointed by the slipshod way productions are undertaken and the matter-of-fact attitude among newcomers, Marina has concluded that acting is not for her anymore.
“You need strong directors and producers behind you, and there are not many of them left. I need to see a director take pains. In Tanhaiyan and Dhoop Kinaray, we were a team. Now you end up being in a studio with everyone bitching and complaining and not giving the director any leeway. ‘Hai hai director, itni der laga rahi hai!’ If they had to go to Hollywood or sit on a real production set… ap puray din baiththey hain and you shoot half a scene. That is how they work and that is the kind of discipline they follow.”
Marina Mornings is beamed in Canada, Africa, South Africa, the US and anywhere where there is a Pakistani footprint. Aware that there is enough bad publicity going around about Pakistan, Marina focuses on the positive side of things.
“I did not want the show to portray any negativity; rather, I wanted to seek out the good that is happening in this country.”
In doing so, Marina has projected some amazing real-life stories.
“Some incredible people and small NGOs are doing a lot of work in their own little capacity as motivators, and this gives me a real high.”
As celebrities get sufficient praise and recognition anyway, it is the unsung heroes that Marina seeks to project. A show with Mumtaz Burney resulted in the adoption of a baby found wrapped in a polythene bag on a rubbish dump. Another show was about a quadriplegic who created a world record by driving a specially made car for a particular distance within a specific timeframe.
“Stuff like this makes everything worthwhile for me. For me, this is front page news, not what the chief ministers and ministers do!”
Marina has captured a large and relatively educated audience locally and abroad, who are responsive to her ideas.
“People say that I have captured a parha likha audience. Once a 65-year-old grandfather called to say that even at his age, he learnt something from what Ali Saleem had to say.”
ARY Digital is supportive of Marina’s stance. Whether she is promoting a healthy lifestyle or blasting PIA for losing its high standards, viewers are happy to lap it all up.
“I am usually able to say what I want. PIA had the distinction of being the first airline to show a film on an international flight, yet today, flights are cancelled and passengers are stranded at airports for hours on end without food and water.”
While the content on other morning shows centres around makeovers, cooking and household remedies, Marina focuses on health, fitness and real-life issues and heroes. She wants the housewife to get maximum value from the show and she refuses to include anything in her content that she doesn’t personally support.
“Nadia’s is still the most watched show because she gives people what they want. It would be easy to cater to that mindset but I can’t lie to myself. I am not in favour of najoomis and horoscopes. If someone tells me that to be happy all I have to do is drink green tea for the rest of my life, I think that’s rubbish. And you certainly can’t build your life around totkas.”
For Marina, her show is a platform to voice issues she feels strongly about.
“Even at the cost of being repetitive, I talk about education or why the Urdu zabaan is disappearing.”
Ironically, Marina is criticised for speaking too much English on the show, when majority of her viewers prefer Urdu.
“I try to correct myself continually or translate in Urdu immediately.”
Marina also believes it’s a question of putting the right kind of information across. Before the show’s content was finalised, nutritionists, psychiatrists and doctors were consulted.
“The health and fitness guidelines we provide have caught on with the viewers.”
For Marina, Pakistani programming is nowhere near international standards.
“We had a lead in drama when TV first started in Pakistan, but we have completely lost it. However we are doing well in our talk shows and hard hitting satires. I like the aspect that we know our politicians by face and we have taken television to another level.”
Currently, on a two year contract with ARY Digital, Marina has plenty up her sleeve. She would like to move to an advanced level of health and fitness as well as compile a book on the subject in Urdu; she feels there is already enough information on the topic available in English. She also wants to add value to the show by introducing career counsellors and vets.
“I feel for animals and there should be a more structured environment for animals in this country but most of all, I want to highlight people doing the smallest bit of good work.”
Eighty-four shows later, Marina feels that Marina Mornings has become her platform to take her social work to a different level.
“The feedback and response tells me that I am doing something meaningful.”
Fouzia Mapara is a news anchor and freelance journalist. email@example.com