Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hum-Suffer

Contributed by Ahsan Asif


Take a trip down memory lane. A couple of years back, most Pakistani homes were flooded with the siren like ‘aaa’ of Indian serials, coupled with loud drums and an occasional flute. Sounds like these summed up how the evening of an average Pakistani woman was spent, full of drama serials that began on the clich├ęd and bordered on the ridiculous. It wasn’t long until every kid playing on the street was keen to know what was going to happen to a particular actor, thought plastic surgery could completely change your face, and ‘punar janam’ (reincarnation) became a household obsession (even today, everyone knows that the average life of an Indian drama actor is 3 lifetimes, minimum). All in all, it was a ridiculous situation.
And then came the age of Enlightenment (or the need for a scapegoat). Occurrences of eloping, especially in the lower strata of society increased dramatically, and people pointed fingers at these Indian serials, holding them responsible for sowing the seeds of immorality in society. This assumption, as well as shallow, rinses and repeat storylines of Indian dramas brought about their eventual demise. The average Pakistani woman, even household, was now bored and stripped of evening primetime entertainment.

Out of the ashes, however, rose a new creed of entertainment: Pakistani serials. To say that these serials simply filled the void left by Star Plus and Sony would be an understatement. Upon their debuts, Pakistani serials exhibited maturity, alignment with reality, and most importantly, highlighted issues that were plaguing society. Indeed, the most magnificent of these serials centered around the inhumanity of Karo-Kari, the depravity of prostitutes (and in the prostitution industry in general) as well as exposing how local ‘mullahs’ have abused their position and power to indulge in rape, molestation, fraud and even incest. They were, simply put, brilliant.

But all good things must come to an end. Very soon, all the troublesome themes depicted in the pioneering dramas of our entertainment industry began appearing all over the place. Literally. Today, around 80% of the serials running on popular entertainment channels such as Hum TV, Geo entertainment, TV One et al entail elements of prostitution, honor killing, and incidents of patricide, fratricide, matricide and spousal homicide, whose need in most serials, upon completion, are usually deemed as unnecessary. Such elements may boost TRPs, but at what cost?

Regular exposure to such themes has the danger of cultivating, in the audience, a mindset that is both pessimistic and suspicious, which is never good news. We are already a depressed nation (thank you, Geo News), drowning in problems as varied as inflation and food shortages to increasing crime and corruption. Reality is already a bitter pill to swallow. Why must entertainment, of all things, add another shade of gloom and doom to it?

For a long time now, our news channels have been using a formula that brings in TRPs: sensationalize and aggravate. An excellent example of this is how Jasmin (from Tonight with Jasmin, Samaa TV) went from prison to prison (as part of a mini series) to supposedly interview criminals. Instead of doing her job, and simply report, almost all her episodes consisted of going into a holier than thou frenzy, condemning the accused and somehow bringing God into the mix. One of her episodes consisted of interviewing a necrophiliac, and what disgusted me most was not the crime that was committed but the contempt that was shown to the accused. Her conversations usually consisted of ‘Khuda ka khoof karo, tum janwar ho, janwar say battar ho’ and a few alligator tears here and there. Instead of identifying necrophilia as a mental disorder and educating the audience about it, that episode was, from start to finish, dominated by a clown that just couldn’t get off her moral high horse and thought it was more worthwhile, as a journalist, to berate someone suffering from a mental disorder than to inform and educate her audience. (Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcGoZ6TJHQI ) This tendency to sensationalize and aggravate has crept into and infected the entertainment sector, and according to me, is one of the major factors this nascent industry is now so littered with storylines that suggest that the audience is a sadistic bunch.

Our media, be it entertainment or news, has adopted a philosophy that is beneficial to only them. Revenue, TRPs and recognition is what they seek, at the cost of birthing a mindset of pessimism and hopelessness in society. But we, as the end recipients in this chain of media transmissions, need to realize that what happens on television usually stays in the television. A drama serial may choose to display a home with extreme poverty and/or a family member who is intent on killing their family members or abandoning them for the promises of love from another man or woman, but in the process, compromise on showing families that have made it through very tough times by sticking together and looking out for each other. Our entertainment industry has a severe deficiency in portraying instances of where people have made it through tough times and with their heads held high, as opposed to how EASILY women in Hum TV serials turn to prostitution at the slightest hint on financial turmoil. In our society, and indeed our lives, hope and optimism are what keep us going. Don’t let anyone, especially eternally whining soaps, steal that from you.

1 comments:

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