Where Pakistan Trumps
Now that Zindagi Gulzar Hai is no longer playing on Zee Network’s Zindagi channel, I don’t know what else to watch on television.
I do follow Ek Thi Hasina, sometimes Rangrasiya,Uttaran and the most meaningless story of them all, Madhubala. Every now and then I like to pick up the remote in the hope of catching some sensitivity somewhere on the small screen. Beintihaa was a must for a while for the performance of Usman Mamu but who is now dead. Without a doubt, Usman Mamu was a good man, so full of wisdom and quite affectionate. That is why he will be missed compared to the others who are either dumb or mean to each other.
Why is that?
I mean why are most Indian small screen shows mostly full of mean-spirited characters? Drama is defined today by creating unrealistic tension between characters who spend episode after episode plotting and planning to hurt each other, providing little entertainment and absolutely no enlightenment.
Most of the serials playing today simply imitate each other. If a guy goes comatose in Uttaran, can Beintihaa be far behind? It was such a waste to have paralysed and silenced Usman Mamu for so long in Beintihaa.
Either the characters are cruel, or meaninglessly nice, like the pretty women in Uttaran, Rangrasiya, Madhubalaand BalikaVadhu. These female characters spout wisdom, oozing with such synthetic goodness, like Durga in Ek Thi Hasina, that they seem as unreal and as uninteresting as the wicked ones in Beintihaa and Rangrasiya.
While characters from Indian television channels are caught in silly situations like being held hostage across the border, stuck in a coma, or being stupid, Pakistan television has arrived, with stories like ZindagiGulzarHai, to sweep the attention of audiences away from the likes of Jodha, Mithi and Mrs Sakshi Goenka.
I was going to add here that the very emotional and true-to-life characters fleshed out in ZindagiGulzarHaiis perhaps because so many women are responsible for putting together the wonderful story of the coming of age of the modern woman in Pakistan, surely one of the most feudal, conservative and troubled countries in this part of the world.
Written by Umera Ahmad, a popular Pakistani novelist who is full of ideas of how to be creative on television in an extremely conservative country like her own, and directed by Sultana Siddiqui, the only woman in Asia to own a television channel, Zindagi Gulzar Hai stands out for its sensitivity to gender issues like single mothers, female education and the role of women in contemporary marriages. Then there is Momina Duraid, television producer, script-writer, lyricist and director who had the vision to produce Zindagi Gulzar Hai.
There is of course no dearth of women in the Indian television business here. We do have EktaKapoor but all we managed to get from this dynamic businesswoman in recent times was a baby doll who claimed to be made of gold.
That perhaps is one reason why Zindagi Gulzar Hai is so popular with Indian audiences starved of real stories played out in a sincere, simple and sensitive manner, by characters they can identify with and who spend their time engaged in issues closest to the heart of the audience as well. Zindagi Gulzar Hai is that kind of a clean and simple story. Here, drama is created not by pitting human beings against each other but by scripting individual struggles to maintain a decent relationship with various people in life
without playing games with themselves or with other human beings.
The leading lady in Zindagi Gulzar Hai is an ordinary looking young woman trying to live life on her own terms without harming another human being but also without being subservient, in particular to the patriarch type.
The male protagonist is physically gorgeous but he fights his arrogance as he is seen to desperately mature and sort out his priorities in life. There are no devils and angels in this story. The story is great because it is about human beings and not about golden girls and millionaire men to fantasize over.
After all, it does get a bit tiresome for even ordinary lovers of cinema and television to be forced to live in a world of dreams all the time.