When we can make Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders dance on Bollywood songs, why can’t we do the same to army generals and judges, asked columnist Nadeem F Paracha on Saturday.
He was moderating a session titled ‘Social Satire: Laughing at Ourselves’. Bushra Ansari, Ali Gul Pir and stand-up comedian Beo Zafar were the speakers.
Singer and comedian Ali Gul Pir said political satire had come a long way in the country, but sometimes it seemed that the situation was as bad always was.
He claimed that the innocuous song that turned out to be his cause-célèbre, Saein tu Saein, got him death threats from certain people – “instances like this shows that there is still a long way to go”.
“We are, no doubt, living in better times, but there are issues we still cannot openly talk about,” he said.
Ali said that his latest song ‘Taaru-Maro’ was also greeted with criticism by “the liberal section of society” because it showed a little girl being supposedly ogled by the singer.
“They said I was promoting pedophilia, whereas when we were making the song, this ‘interpretation’ never crossed my mind.”
Pir’s observation about the unintentional effects of humour made Ansari recall the time when she used to work on PTV. She said Pakistani artists who had matured back in the early 80s during Zia’s dictatorship had developed this instinct of self-censorship that today’s entertainers lacked.
“Those were the times when we had to critically scrutinise each and every word on the script – their various shades and possible connotations. So it was the hard work on the content that made those classics.”
She said that only when people were restrained from speaking their minds that they thought of creative ways to put across their message.
She was of the view that the no-holds-barred atmosphere in the electronic media today was one of the reasons behind the mediocre content being produced for the audience. The daily political talk shows, being sold as entertainment to the audience, were doing a great disservice to the country, Ansari said.
“For the sake of ratings, we have crossed all boundaries and actually hardened our political leaders so much that they have become insensitive to criticism, which is a dangerous development.
“The other day I saw Jamshed Dasti making a victory sign with a beaming smile when it was proved in the courts that this man has submitted a fake degree.”
But Ansari was hopeful. She said they were creative voices in the young generation, which were working hard and producing some good stuff.
The area that humorists tended to avoid, as Paracha pointed out, was the judiciary and the army. But it was agreed among the speakers that bands like Baigairat Brigade had made some strides but it was rare.
To which, Ali Gul Pir commented that the mainstream TV channels tended to work on a formula and avoided controversies, which, thought, was sad but, from their point of view, understandable. “As long as you are earning money based on a proven formula, with less hassle, it’s cool for most people,” he said.