In The Picture

By Sonya Rehman

Pakistani drama serials and comedy shows such as ‘Ankahi’, ‘Tanhaiyan’, ‘Bakra Qiston Pay’ and ‘50/50’ were truly iconic of our times. And with Pakistan having turned the big SIX-O, each and every director, producer, writer and actor – who gave us something to look forward to each evening ‘back in the day’ – WE salute YOU.


With a cast that boasted of Javed Sheikh, Behroz Sabzwari, Shehnaz Sheikh, Misbah Khalid, Arshad Mehmood, Shakeel, Badar Khalil, Saleem Nasir and others, ‘Ankahi’ was perhaps the most avidly watched drama serial – during a time when only a few odd sprinkle of television shows featured on an otherwise dry, and grey-bland, solitary television station. But local audiences didn’t ‘lap up’ and ‘sponge in’ the serial simply due to a lack of better programs to tune in to, rather, the program – by way of its script – seemed to strike a long-lasting, albeit gentle, ‘connective’ equilibrium with its audiences. Brilliantly penned down by Haseena Moin and directed by the revolutionary Shoaib Mansoor (what a power-packed creative combination), ‘Ankahi’ revolved around the lives of everyday individuals…their lives, trials, familial tribulations and relatable highs, lows. What made ‘Ankahi’ so successful at the time it was aired – and till today (remembered as a true Pakistani drama-serial classic) – was quite simply, its purity of script, execution and delivery.

Shahnaz Sheikh – Ankahi


And speaking of power-packed ‘creative’ combos, answer this: what do you get when you cross Shehnaz Sheikh and Marina Khan under one roof? Answer: a house – consistently doused with kerosene – on fire. Why? The women ooze soul – you can almost see it trickle from their eyes – and when they act (and that too together), they do it effortlessly – it just comes to both Shehnaz and Marina, incredibly naturally. And then rope in Haseena Moin (all bow) too – to feed both actresses morsels of rich, meaningful dialogue and baby, you’ve got yourself a winner. And what a winner ‘Tanhaiyan’ – directed by Shehzad Khalil – was. With a plot that revolves around two sisters, ‘Tanhaiyan’ is as iconic a serial as is ‘Ankahi’…perched up high in the Pakistani drama serial ‘hall of fame’, till today, it smiles a smile wider than the Cheshire Cat – down below at the predominance of empty, baseless run-off-the-boring-ole-mill ‘contemporary’ serials continuously being slot-machine-popped out today.

Bakra Qiston Pay

The pioneer of ‘stand-up’ comedy in Pakistan, Umer Sharif, through his stand-up routines truly made a definite mark as one of the most terrific comedian/stage artistes the country had ever seen. Bordering on the naughty (and at times vulgar) his jokes were uproariously comical and he seemed to have an unforced élan for impersonations. Quick-witted and interactive with the audience, there has never been a dull moment with Sharif (quite like the Chris Rock of Pakistan) on stage. ‘Bakra Qiston Pay’ – Sharif’s recorded stand-up performances – was excessively popular during the 80s in both Pakistan and India (where Sharif has quite a fan-base). And now with the advent of – the popular online video library – ‘Youtube’, Sharif’s knee-slapping, throw-your-head-back-and-chortle routines (accompanied by Shakeel Siddiqui, Ibrahim Nafees, Saleem Afridi, Erum Tahir, Akhtar Shirani and Salomi), can be revisited.


A slapstick series – ‘50/50’ – (which comprised of short-acts) gave Pakistani entertainment-starved audiences something to laugh about in the early/mid 80s. There was just nothing like it. The show was novel and one-of-a-kind – it had to be, it was directed by Shoaib Mansoor and penned by Anwar Maqsood after all and was one ‘skit-show’ which could be related to irrespective of gender, class or even age group for that matter. Following 50/50’s apex of success, the road for broadcast comedy was paved further as additional slapstick shows/serials (both on radio and television), and stand-up comedians cropped up towards the onset of the 90s. Hey Blackfish, salute your pioneers!

Instep, The News


One thought on “In The Picture”

  1. the comedy dramas of early pakistan television was just brilliant…..that quality doesn’t exist today..but leaving comedy aside..old pakistani dramas were awesome too…no doubt….but i like the way how Pakistani dramas have evolved over time……one can argue that PTV dramas are closer in similarity to old pakistani dramas….but remaining the same is not necessarily good… my opinion best evolved producut of pakistani dramas would be any Hum TV Drama – they represent everything in the right manner. Stories have evolved just right amount. and characters in their dramas are usually closest to Pakistani culture.

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