The Lahore-born Amjad Islam Amjad is rated as one of the finest dramatists and poets in Pakistan. He has penned several successful drama series besides writing columns, translations, criticisms and essays.
To date his Waaris, Dehleez, Samandar, Raat, Waqt and Apnay Loag remain as some of the most celebrated productions in PTV history.
“PTV kept me at bay for almost five years and failed to recognise me as a playwright. I was a student at Punjab University at the time. Athar Shah Khan (aka Jedi) was a friend and he inspired me to write my first play. In 1973, an advertisment by PTV led me to submit a drama script. It was accepted and my first play Pehla Khel went on air."
The play became a hit and was repeatedly telecast. After the success of Pehla Khel, Sahira Kazmi contacted me in 1974 and commissioned a play. She was a fresh appointee then and was sent to Islamabad centre which scarcely produced dramas at that time. She welcomed me with open arms and the result was Barzakh and Moam ki Guriya under her direction,” says Amjad.
Renowned playwright Amjad Islam Amjad remembers the time when drama was king
He says those were desperate times for him as a script writer. Then, on March 23, 1975, Kanwar Aftab offered him a chance with Khawab Jagtay Hain. “Interestingly, Khawab was telecast on the day of my wedding and I also received the Graduate Award for it, and I kept on winning it from consecutively from 1975 to 2000!”
Definition of drama
He says, “If we define drama, it means to act or to play on any issue. Secondly, it unites time, place and action.” Amjad is all praise for the early days of PTV when “people would remain glued to TV screens as the prime time plays were a true reflection of society.”
According to him, the period from 1975-95 can be declared PTV’s golden era due to powerful writers like Haseena Moin, Fatima Surraiya Bajiya, Kamal Ahmed Rizvi, Ashfaque Ahmad, Shaukat Siddiqui etc.
|Photography: Mohammad Farooq|
“Frankly speaking, the business has no heart today as it discards every bit of morality. I admit that technically today’s drama may be superior but without quality content, its sole aim is to glamourise society. I would say that reality has now been taken over by fantasy. These commercial plays have devastated our social fibre by focusing more on fashionable clothes and language, irrespective of whether they conform to our social values and norms.”
Amjad pointed out that in the past there were as many as 15 writers for a single channel, but now there are over 50 channels but hardly any powerful writers. He laments that it was PTV’s responsibility to establish an academy to train writers and producers.
“Frankly speaking, the business has no heart today as it discards every bit of morality. I admit that technically today’s drama may be superior but without quality content, its sole aim is to glamourise society.”
On a query about the popularity of Pakistani dramas abroad, particulary India, Amjad remembered how happy he was to find out during a visit to India in 1992 that Dhoop Kinaray, Khuda ki Basti and Waaris were included in the Poona Institute of Acting syllabus. Even Amitabh Bachchan, B.R. Chopra, Gulzar and Dilip Kumar used to watch PTV dramas in those days.
His thoughts on the popularity of Turkish plays being shown in Pakistan?
“Well, if we continue to rely on importing dramas that need only Rs2 lacs to dub in Urdu, then this turf will soon turn barren. There is a dire need to encourage young talent and set up an academy immediately. I dare say that it was only PTV dramas that excelled in the subcontinent and the whole of Asia."
“The last recruitment of credible producers/directors in PTV like Ayub Khawar, Haidar Imam Rizvi, Shoaib Mansoor, Sahira Kazmi and Kazim Pasha occurred in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s era, and these individuals achieved remarkable feats. Unfortunatley, later governments polticised the process and appointing sifarshi loag with hardly any know-how about television. That was also the time when the Ministry of Information was accountable to the people and not the government.
“When I was actively engaged in writing plays, acting was a full-time profession. An actor was deeply involved with his/her character and well aware about the script and prepared him/herself according to the requirements and demands of the scene. There used to be things like DR (dialogue rehearsal), CR (camera rehearsal) and then the final take. In this way quality was achieved."
“Today, the entire drama is shot in a single room where there is little or no camera movement. The most tragic thing about dramas these days is that the actor is told or finds out about his scene when he arrives on the set, and the first time he meets his female co-star is when she is standing right before him as his sister, maid or mashooq!”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 14th, 2015
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