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Spotlight: A lifeline called Zindagi

Updated Jun 24, 2014 04:49pm


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Shailja Kejriwal
Shailja Kejriwal

Finally, there’s some relief for Indian audiences from never-ending soaps — June 23 marks a new beginning in the history of Indian television. Come Monday, Zee Entertainment Enterprise Limited (Zeel) India will launch their newest venture, Zindagi, featuring top-listed Pakistani dramas. Already, Indian metropolises are festooned with hoardings displaying the launch.

The largest television network of India had been meaning to bring about such a revolution in programming for quite some time now, reveals Shailja Kejriwal, the Chief Creative Head of Special Projects at Zeel for Zindagi. While speaking to Images on Sunday on telephone from Mumbai, Shailja seemed quite excited about the success her project has received. “Even the guys at the Zee offices in Mumbai compete over who gets to display their favourite Pakistani stars as desktop wallpapers,” she added.

According to her, Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan, Sanam Saeed, Imran Abbas, Saba Qamar, Hamza Ali Abbassi, Sanam Baloch, etc, are nothing less than heartthrobs for Indian youth.

Shailja Kejriwal’s name is well-recognised in the Indian television industry after being associated with Star India Pvt Ltd (1998-2007) and NDTV Imagine (2008-2010). She has her finger very much on the pulse of Indian audiences.

Imran Abbas at the launch event
Imran Abbas at the launch event

For Kejriwal, content-based entertainment is her prime forte as a broadcaster and she has been interested in Pakistani dramas way back since the ’90s. “I believe media, and especially television could play a huge role in bringing cultures and thus people closer,” she says. “The proof is Bollywood. It has reached the Pakistani audiences for years and a strong link between people on both sides has formed.

A new Indian channel that brings Pakistani prime time shows to Indian audiences could lead to even bigger things ... who knows!

“Both the nations have had enough of living behind the barriers, and desire to go beyond them. Our cultural similarities make it impossible for us to continue living like this. And particularly in today’s age of globalisation, it is impossible to exist like this. Indian audiences have been deprived of any Pakistani content for the past 65 years. All we receive on both sides through the mainstream television is annoying news. It is best to finish the reign of boundaries through art.”

Talking about an attempt she made back in the ’90s, she reminisced that she had contacted Haseena Moin and Marina Khan and had started working on a family drama called Tanhayi. Unfortunately, it fell victim to the political situation. “It takes someone to make the first move and this would not have materialised without the patronage of the MD and CEO of ZEEL, Punit Goenka, who calls the world his family,” she added.

It was during the ’80s, that PTV drama serials such as Tanhayian and Dhoop Kinarey left a deep imprint on drama buffs throughout India. Shailja Kejriwal remembers, “We used to get these dramas on VHS tapes then. But with time, the trend died out. Then I started watching Pakistani dramas on YouTube in early 2000.” Mentioning her personal favourites, she names Umera Ahmed, Haseena Moin, Farhat Ishtiaq,  Faiza Iftikhar and Samina Peerzada among veterans, and Sanam Saeed and Mahira among new talent. “I grew extremely fond of Umera Ahmed’s stories, ultimately coming to the realisation that she would find a radical following among Indian society.”

Zindagi has procured approximately 200 dramas from local Pakistani channels and production houses — an extraordinary amount of airtime. The content was procured after the standard methods of initial research. In sheer contrast, Pakistani media continues to air Turkish and even Spanish content for the last two years.

Even in the political corridors of Pakistan and India, Zindagi has been well-endorsed. On his recent visit to India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was presented a bouquet by Zeel Chairman Subhash Chandra to mark the launch of Zindagi.

According to Shailja, the dramas that will be aired during the first spell include Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Aun Zara, Maat, Kash Mein Teri Beti Na Hoti, Yeh Shadi Nahin Ho Sakti, Durre Shehwar and Shehr-i-Zaat to name just a few.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 22nd, 2014

Comments (24) Closed

Asim Rana Jun 22, 2014 11:52pm

What about daam? doraha? vasl? malal? These were pure gems by mehreen jabbar.

guddi Jun 23, 2014 01:41am

Anything that improves the tolerance limit in Pakistan, is a good move.

Shazia Qamar Jun 23, 2014 08:29am

This is wonderful news, now all my friends and relatives in India who crave Pakistani dramas can finally watch to their heart's content : )

I do take issue with one small line quoted by this article, " All we receive on both sides through the mainstream television is annoying news. " Pakistani TV channels broadcast many Indian programs so not all news generated about India in Pakistan is as negative as this lady claims. However, Indian media does its Indian viewers a disservice by pushing a very anti-Pakistan agenda with no Pakistani programs till now. So this positive change is finally a long time coming for Indian viewers.

Sania Jun 24, 2014 12:15am

@Asim Rana because besides Daam, they were all boring. I am happy with the fact that they are launching the channel on the best of the lot. Loved Aunn Zara & Durreshawar. I am glad that they are also lunching Humasafar and Dastaan.

Sadaf Mesiya Jun 24, 2014 05:02pm

This is indeed the great news. Indian audience must get to know the level of art pakistani people posses. They must get in touch with the real life scenario (which are reflected in pakistani dramas) rather than superficial stories shown by Indian TVs/dramas

GA Jun 24, 2014 05:08pm

@Shazia Qamar I fully agree with you. Pakistan has been showing Indian shows for over a decade. A relative who visited India said there was absolutely no Pakistani shows in India. This is a welcome step.

KRana@Seoul Jun 24, 2014 05:26pm

Now mubbashir Lucman will not have problems about Indian drama in Pakistan

asad Jun 24, 2014 05:28pm

I do not hear their television industry whining about how the profileration of foreign content will ruin their prospects and damage their culture. Let's just hope PTV and government bureaucrats from Pakistan don't get involved. Tanhayan was a huge hit in the Arab world but our highly professional PTV managers decided to charge such a high fees from media outlets that they backed oout and the television screens were filled with Turkish dramas, which have also become quite famous in Pakistan too now. The government of Pakistan is great at ruining opportunities, I hope we are able to win Indian hearts ..

Moiz Omar Jun 24, 2014 05:55pm

Both India and Pakistan should open up to each other more.

Shamsher Singh Dhillion Jun 24, 2014 07:35pm

Very good move! Maybe finally some of my Pakistani friends can stop complaining!!

Naeem Jun 24, 2014 08:38pm

Pakistan cricket board take a cue from drama industry. They were nothing but from their hard work, positive attitude they keep working at it and build a nice industry for themselves where people are coming to them to buy.

You do the same stop complaining and begging, build your own infrastructure and league at modest level and you will see that people will come. You are in much better position to do that then your showbiz counterparts.

Mustafa Jun 24, 2014 09:48pm

What had captured the imagination of the Indian viewers in the late 80's and 90's was the Urdu language and Tahzeeb, both of these elements are in rapid decline in our entertainment industry.

Sunil Jun 25, 2014 02:03am

Good news...we really need to know what are Pakistanis capable of. So far the only news these days coming thru the media is bomb blasts, terror threats, airport takeovers and who knows what...

Osama Jun 25, 2014 03:48am

"Then I started watching Pakistani dramas on YouTube in early 2000.

Thinker Jun 25, 2014 11:58am

I watched the first episode of Zindagi Gulzaar Hai. I really liked the execution of the story. However I wonder if our audiences would gel up with the living style shown in the Pakistani drama as nowadays we have become more and more outspoken and extravert in our approach whereas it seems that over there in our neighborhood, it is kind of strict or somewhat restricted approach. Otherwise from the aesthetic point of view, it is wonderful.

sara khan Jun 25, 2014 02:47pm

well its about time our dramas which are extremely close to reality and strong content wise get recognition across the globe ,I strongly believe that HUMSAFAR was the pioneer drama in getting paki dramas respect and love worldwide , it got recognition in every part of the world and it deserved it truly ,mahira and fawad were magical and looked heavenly together , the rest of the dramas will certainly prove them well indeed

Ayesha Jun 25, 2014 03:14pm

@Asim Rana yes....loved all those drama. a lot better than kash main teri beti na hoti and yeh shadi nahin hosakti.

Aiesha Jun 25, 2014 06:15pm

Why is a pathetic serial like kash mein teri beti na hoti being aired?? :/

shah Jun 25, 2014 06:43pm

Hope it is success.

Deepak Jun 25, 2014 10:22pm

I have been following a couple of episodes of Aunn Zara and Zindagi GUlzar Hai. I was very upbeat about watching good Pakistani serials again since a couple of decades ago I really enjoyed Dhoop Kinare and Tanhaiya(?).

BUt now I realize that the pace of your serials is just too slow compared to what we are used to in India or any Western TV show. Plus everybody is a little restrained and underplayed. I am not sure anymore whether the Indian audience will appreciate these shows:-(

Umm e Jun 26, 2014 01:42pm

Anything that airs in India is also usually broadcast in other countries in South Asia. So this should be a great move for Pakistan's image.

Thinker Jun 26, 2014 02:46pm

@Deepak. You are absolutely right. Pace is too slow compared to what we are used to in India and characters are underplayed and restrained. It seems the opposite pole in approach.

Fazal Karim Jun 27, 2014 04:01am

Best news of the year.

Shahzad Ahmed Jun 27, 2014 05:14pm

Today's pakistani drama lacks originality as it used to have in 80s or till mid 90s then there were more emphasis on content and story now it focus shifted on glamour which is a pity given socio-economic condition of most pakistanis.