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Old Pakistani TV dramas - The golden age of Pakistani television

Considered by many to be the products of the golden age of Pakistani television, these close-to-reality yet fictional quality dramas dealt with many family and social issues. For some Indian and Pakistani expatriates, they recall earlier days before easy access to television programming when videocassette players ruled; for others, the dramas are reminders of families back home for people far from home. In fact, some of the old plays were so popular that newborns were named after the characters. Fans say the modern television programs just don’t cut it, so there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of expatriates who press the rewind button in their memories and remember the good old days. All Eids for them are associated with one drama or another.

When Shoaib Nagrami, a popular radio personality from Lucknow in India, arrived in Saudi Arabia during the late 1970s, he also was a fan of these dramas from Pakistan. “They made fantastic programs; they had great writers, and their dramas had a social message. These dramas were meant to bring about positive change in society. They were literary masterpieces. Extreme care was taken to do justice to the beauty of the Urdu language,” he said with an air of nostalgia. “They no longer make dramas of that caliber.”

Nagrami, who is now retired and living in Thuwal, north of Jeddah, says he doesn’t care for television’s current, “third-rate” dramas. “They have lost the plot these days.” But he still has his favorites from the old days. “One was ‘Qaabeel,’ and the other was ‘Ghanti.’ Even to this day, ‘Ghanti,’ in which Qawi Khan and Sameena Peerzada played lead roles, brings tears to my eyes,” Nagrami said.

Azam Shaikh, an Indian national who currently works at Alkhobar-based Alissa Group, arrived in the Kingdom in 1982.
“I was in Al-Hasa then. A Pakistani friend of mine introduced me to these Urdu dramas, and I have been addicted to them since. For me, every Eid means spending hours on end watching these dramas. Each drama came in five or six three-hour VHS tapes. We never got tired. The dramas were so gripping that we would watch and watch without ever looking at our watches.” Shaikh said his favorite teleplays of those days were “Tanhaiyaan,” “Ankahi,” “Aanch” and “Dhoop Kinaray.”
“My all-time favorite was ‘Tanhaiyaan,’ which was about two sisters, Zara (Shahnaz Sheikh) and Saniya (Marina Khan), who lose their parents and go to live with their aunt. The eldest of them, who is a lot more emotional, tries to buy back her parents’ house, but in the process she gets detached from those surrounding her and becomes very lonely. Marina was fantastic. To this day, I watch this drama and still do not get bored.”

So impressed was Shaikh with the Pakistani dramas that he took nearly 48 VHS tapes to Mumbai, India, where they were otherwise unavailable. “These tapes were in huge demand in India. I would watch these dramas here in Saudi Arabia and would remember my family. I wanted them to watch, as well.”Riyadh-based Ambreen Faiz, a Pakistani national and writer of features for local newspapers, arrived in the Kingdom in the mid-1990s with her husband. “I am not into movies at all, and Eid holidays were special occasions to watch these teleplays,” she said. “These dramas lessened the pain of homesickness. They acted as an emotional cushion for us expatriates. They had the capacity to freshen our minds. They taught us many lessons, they taught us to be better, more sensitive human beings. They carried important messages.”

Rehana Perveen, a Pakistani doctor who works at a Dhahran hospital, agrees with Faiz.
“I am still fascinated by the play ‘Dhoop Kinare,’ which centers on a team of doctors and revolves around their routines at the hospital and private lives at home. That was a classic play, one that warmed many a heart. I remember each twist and turn. Two decades in Saudi Arabia has not dulled my memory,” she said proudly. For Javed Bukhari, an Indian national working as a travel consultant, the play “Ankahi” remains evergreen. “Shehnaz Sheikh as Sana Murad and actor Shakeel as Taimoor were phenomenal, and the chemistry between them was brilliant. They were so natural. And so were Timmy (Jamshed Ansari) and Moby (Behroze Sabzwari). I remember most of the dialogues of this particular play. So impressed was I with this drama that I still call my eldest son Moby.”

Mohammad Rahat Sultan, assistant director of technical department at Alkhobar-based Abdullah A. Al-Khodary Sons Co., said he is a diehard follower of Urdu teleplays. “When I was in Bahrain, I would watch these dramas regularly. My favorites were ‘Aanch’ and ‘Khwaja and Son.’ According to me these two were the best dramas ever produced by Pakistanis. I took copies of these dramas home and made each and every member of my family watch them to learn lessons from it. ‘Aanch’ teaches us the art of compromise. It restores our faith in the institution of marriage. There is so much to learn from the sacrifices that Ulfat (Shagufta Ejaz) makes in the drama. It is philosophical and real at the same time — superb.”

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