The 10th edition of Karachi Literature Festival, which took place from March 1 - 3 at the Beach Luxury Hotel, recently came to an end after three days of recitations, book launches, music, poetry, movie screenings, comic acts and panel discussions. Numerous literary figures, journalists, artists, prominent personalities as well as citizens of Karachi turned up at the event, resulting in packed halls during almost every session.
One such session was ‘TV Drama: Rise and Fall’ that was held in the afternoon on the final day of the festival. Attendees had reserved their seats way before the session commenced and, to one’s surprise, it began spot on time. On the panel, there was actor-director Saife Hassan and TV & theatre artist Kaif Ghaznavi with Khaled Anam moderating the session. It was unfortunate that Marina Khan, who was supposed to join the panel, couldn’t make it due to some personal reasons. However, senior artist Azra Mohyeddin, who was sitting in the audience, was requested to take the stage and add to the discussion.
“Television is one of the most easily accessible sources of entertainment for which we don’t have to go out or buy tickets,” began Khaled Anam, who has been associated with TV industry since 1982.
He then asked the panelists if the title of the session makes sense; has there been a rise and fall in television or is it just us who are calling it a ‘fall’?
“I don’t think there has been a fall,” responded Saife Hassan, adding that he feels television has only gone up. “There are multiple reasons why I’m saying this. When we speak of ‘rise and fall’, we compare today’s TV plays to that of yesteryears that we grew up watching; it is the same as comparing two governments; one that ruled during war and the other that was in power during peace.”
“The facilities and the amount of time that was available to our seniors, we don’t enjoy that today,” Saife Hassan continued, recalling the time when he entered the industry. “Back then, we were supposed to shoot only three scenes in a day but today our producers expect us to shoot at least 10 scenes per day. Everything has multiplied; the number of plays as well as the size of the audience.”
Added Azra Mohyeddin, “A couple of years back, our viewers only watched Indian dramas but recent years saw a revival of sorts and our dramas picked up. The content was good and based on reality but there has been a mix of both average and good plays.”
Kaif Ghaznavi, who was a part of the recently concluded drama serial Lamhe, also gave her opinion on the subject.
“The ‘golden era’ of TV, as we call it, is quite overrated. Like every other thing, the drama industry has also developed over the years; some of the aspects are really good while others aren’t,” she asserted. “We can’t really call it a ‘fall’, it is more like a process. The industry is growing very rapidly with multiple technological advances taking place; the golden era has turned into a silicon era. We need to address all the invasions that are coming in. However when we speak of content, being a third world country, we still have the same issues that we are unable to get out of: issues of women, economical issues, societal issues, etc.”
As the discussion steered towards how the TV industry was back then and how it operates today, the entire panel agreed that channels, producers as well as directors need to take ownership of what they are showing on television. Unfortunately, due to mass production of TV plays – 70 plays a year to be precise (as Saife Hassan pointed out) – the quality is being compromised, with no attention given to content, language, dialogues, accents and much more.
“Today we are making around 70 dramas a year, compared to around 10-20 plays in the past; everyone making a drama cannot be literate,” Saife Hassan highlighted. “A lot of my assistants have turned directors now, all of them don’t hold a degree but channels need directors and writers to keep making plays. How would they correct actors on things that they themselves are unaware of?”
Towards the end, the panelists also spoke of how new age actors behave on set; they lack professionalism and expect everything to be on their terms.
–Photos by Ram’s Photography (Ramsha Alam Photography)