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Remember the glory

October 27, 2012

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After a passage of 27 years (yes, it’s been that long!) there is now a renewed interest in the classic drama serial Tanhaiyan, thanks to Tanhaiyan Naye Silsilay that premiered last Saturday on ARY Digital. Many cast members of the original that went on air from the PTV Karachi centre are also featured in the sequel including Marina Khan, Qazi Wajid, Badar Khalil, Asif Raza Mir, Behroz Sabzwari and Asif Raza Mir, who reprise their roles. But, unfortunately, the character of Zara (Shehnaz Sheikh) doesn’t return this time round, perhaps due to the actress’ unwillingness to act again, which is a huge disappointment as we all envisioned Zain and Zara walking off together into the sunset.

While it is too early to say how the sequel will fare (the first episode was somewhat promising), it is safe to say that it will not only engender a renewed interest in the original Tanhaiyan, but also in other dramas that aired at the time, such as Ankhahi, in which Shehnaz Sheikh also played the lead role.

What strikes me most about these dramas is that in addition to being compelling, witty, well-written and memorable, they both featured liberal, independent women who live life on their own terms, and very unlike women depicted in dramas today.

Take, for instance, Sana Murad in Ankahi: she is a middle-class girl with dreams of grandeur who starts working (remember it is the early 1980s) to earn a decent living. As a friend pointed out to me recently, she also has a male best friend Timmy (the late Jamshed Ansari), with whom she goes to the beach, and whose house she lands up at in the middle of the night to ask what time she should report for work (a hilarious scene if there was ever one). Not only that, Sana is attracted to her married boss, who returns her affections to an extent. But it is she who decides at the end that he isn’t the man for her, and she opts for another.

And there was Zara in Tanhaiyan, a timid young woman, who after her parent’s untimely death, finds a job, and ultimately establishes and runs her own business (her aunt is also shown as an independent woman who lives life on her own terms and doesn’t marry until much later.) The drama centres on Zara’s need to buy her parents’ house because she believes that only then will they be at peace; the romance aspect with Zain is alluded to, but only at the end is it depicted in a concrete manner, and is certainly not the basis of the drama.

In contrast, many of the drama serials being aired today (even blockbusters such as Humsafar and Meri Zaat Zarra-i-Benishan) are prone to featuring women who are constantly weeping, at odds with those around them or in constant need of validation from others. Perhaps that is why the plays of the past are remembered so fondly; not just because of the nostalgia element, but because in many ways they were well ahead of their time. Maybe it’s time that directors today focus on scripts instead of locations and sets.

On another note, it would be pertinent to mention that the classic dramas from PTV’s heydays are not available in their entirety on DVD format. They have been slashed mercilessly, perhaps in order to fit on to two DVDs. That in itself speaks volumes regarding the importance we place on preserving and archiving our glory days. — Mamun M. Adil