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PTV's Golden Jubilee: Fade to black

Updated Nov 26, 2016 11:18am

This article was originally published on April 10, 2015


A rare sight these days, there was a time when PTV Lahore centre used to air dance performances quite regularly. A young Naheed Siddiqui is seen here in Payal / Photos courtesy: PTV archive
A rare sight these days, there was a time when PTV Lahore centre used to air dance performances quite regularly. A young Naheed Siddiqui is seen here in Payal / Photos courtesy: PTV archive


By M. Saeed Awan


Pakistan entered the age of television broadcasting after establishing a small pilot TV station in Lahore on November 26, 1964, with technical and training assistance from Japan’s NEC Company. The primary transmission was in black-and-white which converted to colour transmission on December 25, 1976.


The first Holy Quran recitation was by Qari Ghulam Rasool and the first announcement was made by Tariq Aziz and Kanwal Naseer. In 1967 two more PTV centres, in Karachi and Islamabad, were inaugurated.

In the early days people would remain glued to their TV sets to watch any on-air programming. With the passage of time, drama production heightened and its popularity spread to other centres as well. PTV had begun to telecast quality programmes that left an everlasting impression on its viewers.


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the inauguration of PTV Lahore centre’s then new building in 1972. The image also bears Benazir Bhutto’s signature at the bottom
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the inauguration of PTV Lahore centre’s then new building in 1972. The image also bears Benazir Bhutto’s signature at the bottom



Ahmed Rushdi as seen in Sangeet Bahar
Ahmed Rushdi as seen in Sangeet Bahar



Celebrated singer Irene Parveen in a music show dating back to PTV’s black & white era
Celebrated singer Irene Parveen in a music show dating back to PTV’s black & white era


There was an air of healthy competition among all five major centres, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta. If Lahore had Andhera Ujala (1985), Karachi had Unkahi (1982) and Quetta was on the forefront telecasting Dhuaan (1995). Islamabad centre also did not lag behind with productions such as Guest House (1990s) and Rauf Khalid’s popular series Laag and Angaar Vadi.


Subhani Bayounus in PTV Karachi centre’s Mirza Ghalib Bunder Road Per
Subhani Bayounus in PTV Karachi centre’s Mirza Ghalib Bunder Road Per


Winning half the battle

A few years ago, while travelling from Delhi to Bangalore by train, I met a Sardarji from Chandigarh. To my utter surprise, Sardarji started praising PTV dramas. He said that when Waaris, Andhera Ujala, Dhoop Kinaray and other popular series were on air from PTV, he along with his friends would travel to Amritsar from Chandigarh (almost a four-hour journey) to watch them. “You can’t imagine,” he said with his eyes flashing, “even the advertisements on PTV fascinated us.” I felt a surge of pride.


The legendary Roshan Ara Begum
The legendary Roshan Ara Begum


During my stay in Kuwait where I worked as a salesman at a video shop, I used to urge Indian customers to watch Pakistani films such as Aaina, Dillagi, Dosti etc. Instead they asked for recordings of PTV’s drama series, especially those featuring Irfan Khoosat!


Zafar Masud as Nosha with a co-star in Karachi centre’s Khuda Ki Basti (1960s)
Zafar Masud as Nosha with a co-star in Karachi centre’s Khuda Ki Basti (1960s)

Reflections of the past

The digital photo archive is well-preserved and maintained at PTV Lahore centre besides being well-displayed along the corridor walls. However, the recording/shooting studios are mostly seen empty.

“Almost 90 per cent drama production has now shifted to Karachi with only 10 per cent taking place at the Lahore centre which was once the hub and leading centre for all such activities,” said Mohsin Jaffar, an art and culture producer.


A still from an interview recording of PTV with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1982
A still from an interview recording of PTV with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1982



Noor Jehan in PTV Lahore centre’s first episode of her famous music programme Tarannum
Noor Jehan in PTV Lahore centre’s first episode of her famous music programme Tarannum


PTV’s special transmission during the 1993 elections
PTV’s special transmission during the 1993 elections


With PTV celebrating its Golden Jubilee last year, some well-known TV personalities have this to say about the institution:

Tariq Aziz (compere)

“Ah! Aap ne kya zamana yaad karwa diya (oh, what have you reminded me of!). I was working at Radio Pakistan as an announcer/drama artist when PTV authorities singled me out from several other hopefuls. That was truly a golden era, like stepping foot on the moon, to make the first announcement from PTV. I was even asked to train others as well. I worked almost in 40 to 50 dramas which are now lost forever as there was no recording system in place at the time.”


The first studio building of PTV’s Lahore centre dating back to 1954
The first studio building of PTV’s Lahore centre dating back to 1954


Tariq credits PTV for his celebrity status along with a number of other artists. “I probably hold the world record for the most number of appearances on television.”


Musarrat Nazir of Laung Gawacha fame in the show that made her famous for her wedding songs
Musarrat Nazir of Laung Gawacha fame in the show that made her famous for her wedding songs


Firdous Jamal (actor)

“PTV started on a marvelous note and it soon captured a handsome audience. I think before the advent of private channels it produced quality work in all departments. We had prominent writers like Haseena Moin, Fatima Surraiya Bajiya, Ashfaq Ahmed, Munno Bhai, Amjad Islam Amjad, Rauf Khalid etc and outstanding producers such as Nisar Hussain, Yawar Hayat and actors like Abid Ali, Uzma Gilani, Marina Khan, Rahat Kazmi, Irfan Khoosat, Mohammed Qavi Khan and many more at all our stations.

“Frankly speaking, we were the guardians entrusted with safeguarding the ideology of Pakistan, e.g. its culture, music and customs. We not only entertained our audiences but educated them as well. We didn’t care about food or drink but only work since our mission then wasn’t to earn money but make a name for Pakistan in television production.


Faiz being interviewed for Yadish Bakhair
Faiz being interviewed for Yadish Bakhair



Tariq Aziz in the very first Neelam Ghar
Tariq Aziz in the very first Neelam Ghar


“Things started to derail with substandard work produced by non-professional producers. Consequently people switched to Indian and other channels. In the end I would say that PTV is public property and does not belong to any one particular class.”


Abid Ali and Humaira Chaudhry in in PTV’s Jhok Sial (1974)directed by Yawar Hayat
Abid Ali and Humaira Chaudhry in in PTV’s Jhok Sial (1974)directed by Yawar Hayat


Rafi Khawar aka Nannah and Kamal Ahmed Rizvi in the sitcom Alif Noon
Rafi Khawar aka Nannah and Kamal Ahmed Rizvi in the sitcom Alif Noon


Firdous Jamal, Mehboob Alam and Aurangzeb Laghari in PTV Lahore centre’s super-hit serial  Waaris
Firdous Jamal, Mehboob Alam and Aurangzeb Laghari in PTV Lahore centre’s super-hit serial Waaris


Mansoor Soomro with Shehnaz Soomro in Karachi centre’s mid-80s serial Deewarain
Mansoor Soomro with Shehnaz Soomro in Karachi centre’s mid-80s serial Deewarain


Jameel Bismil and Jameel Fakhri in PTV Lahore centre’s Andhera Ujala
Jameel Bismil and Jameel Fakhri in PTV Lahore centre’s Andhera Ujala


Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 11th, 2015

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