Ramzan is here … but gone are the days when people used to celebrate this month at home, praying to Allah for forgiveness and for a better future. This is the age of Ramzan transmission where television has taken over our lives; there is a host, uncountable guests and prizes that are delivered on the spot.
Geo TV was the first channel to try its hand at doing special transmission in Ramzan — and if I am not mistaken, Bollywood actress Farida Jalal accompanied the network’s very own Aamir Liaqut Hussain while Muslims all over Pakistan prepared to break their fast. They discussed the way Ramzan is celebrated in both the countries while religious scholars were also lined up to answer any query that arose in a caller’s mind.
From a special transmission, Aamir Liaqut took the show to new heights and even though he switched channels twice in the process, his show got the highest ratings during the month.
There are prizes to win, cars to acquire, motorcycles to play for and above all, religious questions that improve your knowledge. It may seem like the reformed version of Neelam Ghar on PTV but the grand level at which Ramzan transmission now takes place would have remained a dream on the national television.
If it was Aamir Liaqut’s transmission that took the show to a new level, actor Fahad Mustafa bettered it with his Jeeto Pakistan on a rival network. Like Aamir Liaqut, Fahad also does a show every week irrespective of Ramzan and believes that his show is the biggest one to emerge from Pakistan.
“We give more cash prizes, gold, cars, motorcycles and other stuff than any other game show, and that’s why people want to come to our show. I believe people love these shows more than the TV dramas because a) I don’t do dramas anymore (laughs) and b) I conduct my show differently from others (winks),” says Fahad Mustafa.
“On a serious note, people prefer shows more because they know that one day they will be a part of it and might win something that will change their lives. Living a dream, a fantasy isn’t a bad thing because here you come, you play and even you can win. How bad could that be?” he adds.
Fahad may have a point here but who does the funding here? The simple answer to that question is — sponsors. Although all segments in Tariq Aziz Show (the upgraded version of Neelam Ghar) are still sponsored, the sober nature of the host — who was incidentally the first announcer on PTV 51 years ago — keeps youngsters away from the show. They want halla gulla, insane games, daring acts and above all, a chance to prove their talent anyway. Sponsors are quick to judge that and they give away huge prizes in shows that are conducted by celebrities on local channels in the holy month.
But are celebrities the ones who should host these transmissions, considering they act, they dance and they romance on screen all year long? What happened to the good old muftis and moulvis who were a part of the TV culture in the 1980s and the 90s?
We all remember Fehm-ul-Quran where the host Professor Hasnain Kazmi belonged to the Shia sect but the way he used to conduct the show with two Sunni ulemas was something of a blue print for others to follow. Didn’t people watch those programmes or has the trend changed?
Film and TV actor, Ahsan Khan, believes the trend has changed because Ramzan makes everyone celebrate it in his own way. “People relate to celebrities more than people who only come on TV for a month. As a Muslim, it is our duty to fast for 30 days in Ramzan and what better way to celebrate it than to do some good in the process.”
“The first time I hosted a Ramzan show I recited a naat and conducted quiz featuring youngsters, which was something that people used to do in the 80s and the 90s. I have migrated towards a bigger level Ramzan show but I believe it’s not odd at all. We aren’t giving any fatwa, nor are we preaching religion; we are, in fact, making people more aware about Islam. Believe me, nearly every actor has a spiritual side and that’s why they don’t do dramas or films during this month,” says Ahsan.
He believes that if his celebrity status can help someone, he is all for it. “When popular actors and/or singers talk about anything related to religion or help in a positive social activity, it has more effect on people. I did share a post on social media regarding a sick child and people responded to it because they feel they relate to us since we occupy their TV sets 11 months a year. So, why not be part of the holy month and do some good rather than stay at home and do nothing.”
Read more: Packages aplenty in Ramzan
The more the merrier seems to be the case in Pakistan. Sadly, that isn’t the case when it comes to the mighty business of cinema because here, an Ordinance restricts theatres to a certain number of shows in the month.
Renowned film producer, distributor, and owner of Pakistan’s largest chain of Cinemas, Nadeem Mandviwalla, believes the reduction in the number of shows isn’t a big deal — it is compensated to a great extent by the festival and the holidays of Eid.
“There is an Ehtram-e-Ramzan Ordinance 1981 in place in Pakistan which limits cinemas through clause 6 of the ordinance and sub-clause 1 the showings in the month of Ramzan. According to the Ordinance, all ‘cinema-houses, theatres and similar other establishments or institutions shall remain closed during the month of Ramzan from the time of sunset to the expiration of three hours thereafter.’”
But then there are cinemas which are open before iftar and when there is a good film on the screens, it does pay the cinema owner. Nadeem Mandviwalla feels that doing so isn’t monetarily beneficial. “Cinemas are allowed to do shows before iftar, but it remains a fact that attendance in the matinées remains around 5 to 10 per cent of the capacity. Thus, cinemas can manage to do 1 show in the day before iftar and 1 or 2 shows after iftar. The after-iftar shows have a considerable attendance and on weekends it also goes to full capacity,” he informs.
“The business declines to 15 to 20 per cent of the usual business in the month of Ramzan. However, this has been the norm and the same result is attained not only in Pakistan but also in most GCC countries. While there is a considerable monetary loss in the month of Ramzan but that surely is compensated to a great extent by the holidays of Eid-ul-Fitr.”
For some, it is a month for the battle of TRPs, ratings, and numbers. While some get the kick out of being the number one, there are many who believe that the good old days were the best days. The influx of money has just changed the game — in both good and bad ways.