This article was originally published on April 10, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 11th, 2015