Another Ramzan, another combination of stifling heat, a World Cup, Amir Liaquat, quasi-semi-pseudo-hyper inflation, a “let them eat cake” mentality among those in power, and about 573 channels trying to battle for viewers' mind share. It would be very easy to pluck out 80 – nay, 800 – moments of insanity from the telly during Ramzan. However, I admit that I didn’t spend that much time watching TV in the first place and the following seven moments are derived mostly from the last five minutes before iftar (which seems like an hour) with the family waiting for the azan while flipping.
7. PTV’s Ramzan transmission promo
Which one, you ask? Unbeknownst to us, PTV have blossomed into a dozen channels, some aligned to our own time, some to Europe, some to the Middle East; some broadcasting in Dari during day and Balochi in the evening; some branded as “World”, some as “Global”... and I am sure our cable provider ran out of channels on his transmitter. However, all of them have two things in common. The first one is the beaming, radiant, sanctimonious face of Ahsan Khan. The second? The beaming face of Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain!" The idea of a ‘theme song’ for a Ramzan transmission is jarring; however, it is now the norm. PTV, for their part are upholding some of their old values. Loyalty to the government and a fundamental understatement are part of their DNA. Trust me, though, during Ramzan, the latter makes PTV one of the more dignified options.
However, one can get too dignified, though. Here is a shot of a few ladies reciting a naat. Am I the only one who is seeing a sinister ritual here?
6. The live engagement
Wow! I went through three paragraphs without mentioning Aamir Liaquat Husain! The good “doctor”, “scholar”, and “media person” ruled the roost this time, on none other than PTV. Of course his status as a sitting MNA of the ruling party meant that he is the undisputed king of propaganda. Apparently believing that any publicity is good publicity (it isn’t), the good doctor chose to fan the ire of his detractors by performing an on-screen engagement with his second wife, Tooba Amir. Yeah, WIFE (that means they were already married). Please note that this entirely pointless exercise was done right in the middle of some sort of scholarly discussion. The tasteless PDA lasted for eternity much to the discomfort of everyone on the set, including the lady herself.
5. Faisal Qureshi's Mission Impossible
I love ARY’s Ramzan promos; over the years they have proved to be a rich source of ridiculous and sometimes downright embarrassing scenes. Their template remains the same: gather an ensemble of living and departed stars, prepare a montage and show them changing the world a la the Avengers in the Battle of New York, and in the end, gather them together for a well deserved and lavish iftar a la The Avengers looking for shawarma. Here is the first gem: We are showing this mainstay of “appeal to humanity”, i.e. nomad women travelling miles for water.
Moments later a knight in shining armour descends in a heavenly chariot. Yes, our very own Faisal Qureshi looks at them with a lack of respect and perfect patronising attitude (Faisal, you’re a far better actor than this) that manages to make the scene more embarrassing. The scene is saved as it morphs into something concrete: the Hand Pump Water Project from Ehsaas Trust.
However, we are not spared from the shot of the inside of a perfectly manicured and surfaced hut.
And the parting shot: Yes. He is in tears. So was I!
4. Nida Yasir continues her trespassing ways
In ARY’s videos Nida Yasir has a signature move: bursting into people’s home uninvited and patronising them at leisure. She did not disappoint this time. Here she is, just walking by and staring into people’s windows, when she is stopped in her tracks.
Yes, a wife is serving food to her husband while Nida (seen lurking in the window, as usual) looks on in dismay. Apparently, the food is not to her liking.
Something needs to be done! So we see Nida starting a Chinese whisper campaign with girls from the neighbourhood.
Soon, we have this. An iftar feast, as opposed to a just a humble tray of iftar, is all that is needed to solve the world’s problems. Don’t believe me? See the ecstatic couple.
3. &%^$& cricket
Sorry, I was fasting when I wrote this so I can’t be more elaborate. But my rage is not directed to our team for their poor performance against the West Indies. Instead, it is directed at ALL OF YOU: more precisely, what else were you expecting? We were whitewashed in two series before that and equalled a proud record made in 1988 previously: losing 10 consecutive matches. Clearly the team was in poor form. The following meme sums up it all very nicely
2. Holy pilgrimages
Come Ramzan and ‘tis the season for our government dignitaries to step outside the country towards the spiritually rewarding destinations of KSA and ensure that their legions of fans post, tweet and Insta their fawning tributes. How is going on a public-funded pilgrimage an achievement? Granted, PM IK is not the first one to do so. However, this time the media has been directed to cover proceedings with instructions to cover the sitting government and its allies in a especially favourable light and their fans are busy giving a miraculous twist to something that has been done by EVERY Pakistani head of government since time immemorial. Somehow it is jarring to see these lavish visits and needless spiritual glorification when: (a) Millions of Pakistanis do the same every year without any video coverage. (b) Hundreds of millions languish at home, victim to the stifling heat, poverty and hunger.
1. PTV’S Hamara Ramzan promo
Aamir Liaquat – need I say more? After appearing on every channel in past, the good doctor has now settled on the state-owned PTV, with the full force of his political alignment. Luckily for us, he pulled out all the stops making this year’s Ramzan promo. Let’s begin!
The saviour syndrome. AL emerges from his gleaming off roader...
he has been stopped dead in his tracks by…
And here is his reaction…DUDE! Aren’t you notorious enough already? My God – this is within the first five seconds of the video.
The scene then moves to a mosque where AL enters and starts to sing in the midst of children reciting the Holy Quran! I mean, seriously – there are limits to what is appropriate and not with respect to Ramzan. But hey, we are talking about Aamir Liaquat here.
When you consider your presence a privilege, walking with a bunch of village kids would be your concept of selfless devotion. Thank God, the ladies he spied earlier are nowhere to be seen.
Scenes like this make me wonder: who came up with the idea of shooting a song inside a mosque! How was this allowed and who okayed it?
Anxious not to miss any cliché in more than a decade of Ramzan promos, the directors of the video next point their cameras at a household during iftari (creative, I know). Now here is Amir (a) Stealing Nida Yasir’s signature move and invading the privacy of a household (b) a ghost a la Bruce Willis in Sixth Sense especially since everyone seems to ignore him, (c) reliving a moment of his own household through actors.
Feel free to think of the worst option from the aforementioned seven moments that I chose. You’d probably be right!
Talha bin Hamid is an accountant by day and an opinionated observer of pop culture, an avid reader, a gamer and an all-around nerd by night. firstname.lastname@example.org