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8 Nov

“I blame channel owners for hiring incompetent content heads” – Umera Ahmed

Written by Umera Ahmed and directed by Mehreen Jabbar, Ek Jhoothi Love Story, that released on streaming service ZEE5 on October 30, has been very well received by fans, who feel that this kind of simple and uncomplicated story telling is exactly what’s been missing on television. With absolutely nothing controversial or ‘censor-worthy’ (as PEMRA would have it) happening in its 18 riveting episodes, it left everyone wondering why this kind of content was not being made for television. A sweet love story revolving around two individuals with impeccable morals and family values, peppered with value added characters…there was everything that would work on TV.

Unfortunately, the countless drama serials screening on numerous channels all day – churning out a mass of content – mostly revolve around trending social causes or toxic and titillating subjects such as love triangles, second marriages, betrayal, sister rivalry, affairs and adultery, all leading to incessant misery.

Umera Ahmed is one of the few writers who has scripted drama serials on unconventional stories and palatable subjects. She’s garnered critical acclaim with hit serials like Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Alif, Laal, Behadd, Daam and Doraha and delivered right on the money with Ek Jhooti. Here’s what she said when asked why these kind of dramas were not being made for TV…

“That’s because content heads at various channels in Pakistan do not know how to identify a good story for solid family entertainment,” she began explaining. “I don’t blame the channel owners for targeting TRPs as channels are a commercial entity. What I blame them for is hiring incompetent content heads who have neither the professional expertise nor the relevant experience as scriptwriters. How can they then differentiate between good and bad content?

“In recent years we had Anwar Sajjad, Hasina Moin, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Noor Ul Huda Shah, Shakil Adal Zada as content heads of these very channels and look at the variety of themes and subjects that they worked on with commercial success. They all had one thing in common. They either had relevant qualifications or had an illustrious portfolio of blockbusters. Compare it with the portfolios of our current content heads and editors at three major channels. Unfortunately, they have neither.

“Even if they have any TV projects as scriptwriters, it’s only after becoming script heads. With this limited skill set they can’t gauge a story’s potential, its impact or its audience. They can’t have the guts to think out of the box or anticipate changing trends. They don’t even know how to edit a story to make it suitable for family viewing. All these plays that have been banned in recent times could have avoided the ban if these had been edited well at the editor’s table. EJLS doesn’t have an exceptional storyline, and yet Shailja was able to gauge its potential. That’s what expertise and skill set does. If our channels won’t have that kind of skill set, then you would have to resort to the same thoughtless handling of the formula plays which would invoke public lash-back in the end.”

  • The full version of this story was published in Instep on Sunday, November 8, 2020

 

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Aamna Haider Isani

The author is Editor-in-Chief at Something Haute as well as Editor at Instep, The News. Full time writer, critic with a love for words and an intolerance for typos.