People evolve, they keep changing and so do their preferences, norms change bringing diversified behaviors with them. Such is the case with television and various kinds of plays that are shown – all these change with time but sometimes that change is so sudden or so drastic that it keeps troubling us until we get completely used to the idea.
The change I am referring to is the one being seen in the current sitcoms. This change in humour while being a welcome one by some is not the sort us Pakistanis are used to because of our social, cultural and religious norms. Humour is taking on a different shape, where it is not frowned upon to symbolize certain kind of behaviour. Connotations, undertones and sentences with varied meanings, further enhanced by gestures are used, which are in no way suitable for youngsters watching television.
Perhaps the change started from the illustrative humour used successfully in western sitcoms. Gary Unmarried, My Wife and Kids, King of Queens, How I Met Your Mother, Rules of Engagement etcetera are all sitcoms that are, as evident from their titles, based on relationships. The punch lines used in them are usually derived from adult relationships but these shows are almost always preceded by a warning regarding appropriate age. These are rated television shows that are not to be shown to children below a particular age because of the nature of the connotations used. Another reason might be the success of commercial stage shows where humour is just another way to lash out abuses of quite an offensive nature at the other person.
In a social setting like ours where people expect the local television channels not to air anything that might be objectionable and where humour too has its defined set of limits which it should not exceed ethically, children are usually allowed to watch television without supervision. We all know that kids love watching anything that makes them smile and since there is a huge dearth of children's programming on local television, they resort to shows like Bulbulay and Kis Din Mera Veyah Howay Ga to lighten them up.
In a recent episode of the latter, in which Faisal Qureshi dresses up as a woman, there was a scene where a part of his getup got dismantled, the scenario was enough to give you a few laughs but would it have been comfortable to watch with kids or even elders from the family around? I don't think so! A rating or a warning before the show was definitely necessary in such a programme.
Another long play of a somewhat comic nature repeats quite often on a television channel. It stars Hina Dilpazeer, Shahood Alvi and Qavi Khan amongst others and is the story of two unmarried sisters and their widowed sister-in-law all of whom are on the lookout for potential husbands or even men with whom they could spend some time. Qavi Khan's choice of the character he plays is beyond logic. He is a well known and a very respected member of the television industry and has performed in more than 200 plays throughout his career. Whether it was an experimental play or something that seemed interesting that made this fine actor play the part of an old man looking for some fun. He gets to know Hina Dilpazeer and she invites him over to her house where both her sister and sister-in-law start flirting with him. What followed was a series of dialogues that would disgust any sane, morally sound person and would be enough to completely distort a teenager's view about relationships. Sadly the play gets repeated whenever there is a slot available on the channel making me wonder why such a drama was made in the first place. It is not funny, as it probably is supposed to be; it does not contain any message, as it is pretended to be and it keeps on running over and over again without anyone speaking up against it!
Recently, Amina Shaikh posted on her Facebook fan page that she had shot a 'modest' birthing scene in one of her plays – this might be a requirement for the script but lets hope the television channel acts responsibly and puts a warning ahead so that any awkward circumstances could be avoided. It was inevitable that media will grow and spread its wings – hopefully it will do so in a modest manner.
Humour aside, there are other instances where warnings are necessary which are never given, like in talk shows or recent road shows where the host and crew all go shooting in morgues or in hospitals where wounded people from a blast or any other catastrophe are present. Images that are highly vivid should not be seen by children under a specific age and that is where channels fail to show any responsibility.
The current state of the city in particular and the whole country in general forces you to switch to news channels out of habit and to see where the recent target killings have been taking place. No matter how much you hate them, overly obnoxious and irresponsible channels have to be seen because it seems we do not know how to tread on a middle road. With every little bit of information an alert with an even alarming background music shakes us up completely – breaking news has become a horror for all those who prefer to watch news rather than read about it the other day in a newspaper.
Another horrifying trait prevalent among news channels is how they exaggerate mishaps and poke their nose into even the most personal of affairs without any consent to the feelings of those who are already suffering. Whenever people are killed, be it in blasts, accidents or target killings; a reporter with his camera crew and a mike barges into the house of the deceased asking close family members their thoughts at the moment. They do not even spare small children and ask them piercing questions about the kind of relationship they had with them. Tears flood on both sides of the television screens and they too are triggered further by the background music that is taken from an old Bollywood movie! The absurdity of biased television shows does not end here, there have been many instances where hosts have either been judgmental or have conducted entire shows without doing their proper homework first. Something scorned upon when it comes to news ethics and responsible journalism.