By Havi Zayed
Are we not hypocrites when it comes to Pakistani Media?
It was a normal Wednesday afternoon in Karachi and unlike our other days in Pakistan when there was always something to do there was very little to do that day. I had just taken off from my internship early and had decided to spend some time with my friends before heading home back to Defence.
So while everyone was sitting bored in the drawing room talking about stuff that barely concerned us it was decided that we’d check out what was on the television. While we were flying across the channels trying to find something useful that we could watch we came upon Play TV. We watched the channel for about 10 minutes but we stayed on the channel for this time only because I complained that I was going to Dubai and wouldn’t be able to see these music videos there. Unfortunately no one had any interest in any of these channels. First we watched a song called Sitara by Mizmaar. The discussion turned to how the Pakistani music could not compete with Indian music and was simply “useless.”
The next song however had a significant impact on a rather sinful lot of people. Dumbstruck, I gaped in alarm as a song by Sahar known as Bheega Mausam turned a rather unspiritual group of young people into religious zealots complaining that Pakistani musicians had “no shame”. I could barely find anything wrong with the song considering the fact that only a few minutes ago everyone was drooling on about Pamela Anderson and Salma Hayek.
Excuse to change the channel or not just 5 minutes later we were watching B4U music on the 24 inch tv screen where a group of women were dancing in a club sporting something that was close to a bikini with short skirts and a top that leaves little to the imagination.Â No member of our group either male or female had any qualms watching and the air was filled with appreciation about the way Kareena Kapoor danced and her “sweet relationship” with Shahid Kapoor. Since we had women amongst us the discussion inevitably veered on to Shahid Kapoor, Shahrukh Khan, Kajol and Katrina Kaifs eyes, makeup and jewellery… that’s when I took my leave and said I’d be taking a bus and going home as people at my defence home would be waiting for me.
In any case being perplexed by this phenomenon I raised the point several times with my friends. One person seemed to have a very bizarre clarification of the behaviour that pervades our society. Unfortunately his explanation made me lose faith in the entire population of Pakistan when it came to supporting our own artists and music industry. His explanation for not listening to Pakistani music was “We all love girls dancing around and all that stuff but no one’s going to say it. That’s why we watch the Bollywood videos. But we are in a religious society. We can’t say that in public now can we? This isn’t Canada obviously”
I was completely dumbstruck by this explanation and I understood that the reference to Canada naturally was more about my being a student there for some time even though it had no connection to what I had just questioned. It also proved that there were certain bigots who believed that spending 6-9 months outside the country simply for the benefit of the Nation meant you weren’t a Pakistani which sufficiently managed to annoy me. This isn’t Canada simply meant to ask me “why would you actually care?”
But unfortunately this is just one example of the hypocrisy that pervades Pakistani society today. People are looking for reasons to ignore their own people and music industry. Other examples are even more extreme.
I had with the help of some backers once funded and hosted an event for Pakistani youth. I was sitting on the table discussing the penetration of Indian media in Pakistani society and its negative consequences with some of my friends. In that time a girl keen to introduce herself came up and soon joined our conversation. She agreed with most of what was being said and to conclude the conversation said she never watched Indian movies or their songs and disliked Bollywood because Pakistani movies and musicians were better
The reason she had come to our Pro Pakistani table was because she wanted favours from me. One was to get her on the stage as a model using my links with Yaseen Modelling Limited and the other was that she wanted to sing on stage. Bold girl you might say but unfortunately she didn’t really have the striking looks we associate with models. In any case we managed to become friends and I gave her the stage in my next event to sing and she did have a fine voice.
Then later on I noticed that she was going to watch a Bollywood movie and saw her with her friends discussing Indian movies. Gajini was the name of the movie she was discussing and when I questioned some of her friends if she just started watching they pointed out that this girl watched every Bollywood movie that came out. At that point I broke the friendship. When she called me the next time I told her I would have equally been her friend if she hadn’t lied to me and that also just in the hope of getting a few favours. I said our friendship could have lasted longer had she not had the impulse to lie. I told her I had Indian friends and many of my Pakistani friends did watch Indian movies and I never told them not to do so.
No doubt the fact that Nationalists were all across the table may have impacted her and made her want to fit in but that doesn’t mean one has to give up what he or she believes in?
The reason I broke my friendship is obviously not that she watched Indian movies but because of the fact that she lied and thought those lies would help her get a few favours and develop friendship with a person who could help her with her future career. This is sadly the way people see Pakistani Nationalists.
Can we blame the TV channels and artists for the videos we see today?
I have always been a believer of media freedom in all its forms and believe that everyone should be free to not just think but also watch or hear what he or she wants. But what surprises me is the hypocrisy prevalent in some sections of Pakistani society. The use of a fake display of piety as an excuse to avoid Pakistani videos and in other cases lies and putting another person down to present oneself as patriotic have become a useful way to avoid everything Pakistani and putting the game on one who questions the hypocrisy.
When on one hand people in Pakistan are often heard saying that Pakistani television is unwatchable these days as Pakistani channels are not portraying “our culture” the same people feel no shame watching Bollywood and English movies.
The question is don’t they simply ignore the fact that they themselves watch Indian movies and listen to Indian music. Don’t many of them watch English movies? What culture does all that show? In Pakistan Star Plus has the second highest viewership than any other channel. B4U music has a higher viewership in Pakistan than the total viewership of Pakistani Music channels combined!
Despite these channels having fewer restrictions on what type of “culture” they can show are they not being watched? Won’t artists be more inclined to produce videos that the general population seeks to watch?
Producing songs and music is a business after all. Would an artist keep producing videos that are completely ignored by the general public, neither give him fame and don’t even cover the massive production costs involved for one video? It is natural that several channels have changed the way they operate and today’s dramas and music videos by Pakistani artists have accommodated according to what Pakistanis are only too keen to watch on Indian channels.
Today the unfortunate phenomenon with Pakistani people is that we are seeking excuses to ignore our own industries. Nations are built when there are citizens within them willing to support their own people, industries and economy rather than trying to find all sorts of excuses to avoid them.
Being Pakistani is not simply about raising a flag on our roofs on the 14th of August. Neither is it about supporting our team in cricket matches. Those aspects are definitely part of it but that does not even cover half the picture. Until all of us Pakistanis resolve to change their attitudes and bring forward a society that cares starting with ourselves things in Pakistan will continue the way they are. As Pakistanis we must remember that this land is our responsibility and no one will fix it except us.