TV shows: It’s not just sex that sells, religion does too

Published: August 1, 2012
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By bringing in Pakistan’s most notorious and/or well-known celebrities, networks have tapped into a purification algorithm. PHOTO: FILE

A main feature of Ramazan in Pakistan is the surge of sehr and iftar talk shows and television programmes. Audiences, hungry for food, and thirsty for Da’wah (preaching of Islam), willingly welcome the gimmicky stratagems of the media-walays (media-people) looking to hook and reel us in.

To name just a few, this year’s list of programmes features some of Pakistan’s most jaanay-maanay celebrities (well-known celebrities); a sportsman, an TV host slash regional park morality police, and an actress, model and an item girl, all in one personality (yes I know you know exactly who I speak of).

By bringing in Pakistan’s most notorious and/or well-known celebrities, networks have tapped into a purification algorithm.

By taking one-part Pakistani audience (with a very short-term memory which conveniently forgets all ills committed by many of our media-walays), combining it with the fact that everyone along with their mothers are glued to Ramazan programmes, television networks have stumbled on the holy grail of mass media profitability.

It’s not just sex that sells, folks. Religion, too, at least in Pakistan, sells just as hot and fast.

So, we have our very first award; the ‘best gutting and reeling in of the junta award’, which goes to all the hosts collectively featured in this article, for so cleverly winning the public’s trust by easing into our hearts and minds when we were most vulnerable – fraught with hunger and the desire to forgive.

Next is the Award for the ‘most sensational’, which easily goes to ARY’s “Sheher-e-Ramazan” host Maya Khan (alongside Dr Shahid Masood) for their sensational live broadcasting of a Pakistani Hindu’s conversion to Islam. Televised conversions are arguably tasteless, denigrating and possibly forceful; especially when the subject of conversion is already a marginalised, second-class citizen.

But kudos to Maya Khan, for following up so succinctly and splendidly to her role, where she played morality police infamously chasing down young couples in public parks.

The next award (long in title, so bear with us) is the Award for the ‘most well intentioned Ramazan show gone awry’.

And the recipient this year is none other than our cricket hero, Boom Boom Afridi.

Afridi, responding much like Batman to Gotham’s bat call, appears in the homes of those who have invited him (via SMS) to simultaneously have iftari with them and woo the nation in his starched kurta and manicured beard. But Afridi’s good intentions tend to go awry because, usually, his presence tends to turn iftar conversations into a question-and-answer-session on the nation’s favourite past time, cricket!

Despite Afridi’s “Mehman ka Ramazan” and its honourable agenda, the show fails to bring forth any profound human change. The problem that posits itself with Afridi’s presence on the show is not that he is increasing his popularity, by weaving the service of his happy influence through the tissue of these peoples’ lives, but that there are far more reputable scholars capable of educating and enlightening us during this Holy month.

Of course, whilst on the topic of scholars, we reach the Award for the ‘most on point Ramazan programme’ this 2012, for which the top contender is Geo’s “Pehchan Ramzan” host Aamir Liaquat.

Liaquat, always loud on the theme, as per usual, suits up in his signature sherwani, all the while bringing his strained counterfeit of perfect ease – reminding us that he knows the art of selling a show all too well.

As his viewers sit rapt with attention (willingly unconscious of any possible backstage savagery), Liaquat relentlessly speaks of many things; the sins that darken our times, the stories of the first Muslims who spread Islam with much persistence and inveteracy, and the singular need of acquiring Islamic knowledge.

Say what you want of Liaquat’s prior discrepancies, when it comes to putting on a remarkable religious talk show, he, with his firmness of purpose and vigour of action, remains the nation’s favourite poster-boy of all things deen (religious).

Vigour of action also, incidentally, brings us to our last award, an honorary mention for the little show that once could’ve been but is no more.  Hero TV, not one to play on small, passive beliefs decided to jump into the market of Ramazan talk shows with quite an active weapon.

A highly-circulated preview of Astaghfaar with the oft-celebrity, and always scandalous Veena Malik, led to heated debate and social media petitioning. The consequence of this angry backlash? A premature cancelling of the show before it aired (cue the tears of many adolescent males).

But all was not in vain because the 45 second, teary soliloquy laced with thought provoking innuendo continues to steadily climb in YouTube hits world over.

Main karoon gee…aap ke saath…pooray Ramazan …” 

(I will do… with you… the whole of Ramazan…)

Read more by Maria here or follow her on Twitter @mariakari1414

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

The author is a lawyer and freelance journalist. She tweets as @mariakari1414 (twitter.com/mariakari1414)

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