Growing up in different countries the only thing I could remember from my childhood in the early 80s was my mom’s passion and delight to grab a handful of video cassettes of old or new PTV dramas. And back at our place the social gathering dinners especially planned by my parents to watch a Pakistani drama all night nonstop episodes. A video cassette player might be a rare thing now because children of the 2000s have no idea what a video cassette player looks like. It was an interesting box like the Xbox but had a manual video cassette which was inserted inside the device with an interesting mechanical sound. I can clearly recall the music, characters and the black and white scenes of those mesmerizing dramas. Each drama was of 13 episodes’ hour long with only a few seconds of advertisement. Every evening from 8.00pm till 9.00pm all the family members in every house used to sit motionlessly in front of their TVs (huge ones and mostly black and white) to watch the drama. It was purely a family entertainment time including the young and old. Not only in Pakistan but in India there were many houses watching PTV drama with such keen and interest even though the signals of the manual antennas were very weak.
Some of the dramas were so heart touching that the ladies would cry and the men would sob over the dialogues and scenes again and again waiting anticipatingly for the next episode to get on air the next week. Today we all feel quite frustrated when it comes to watch TV as there are unlimited number of channels playing an infinity numbers of dramas which is not humanly possible to watch. Back in those years there was only one TV channel from 5pm till 10pm. Every single episode of each drama was so important to watch since the density of the dialogues and the climax of only one episode could change the whole scenario of the play. Missing one episode meant having no clue at all what is happening in the following episode. The story writers and producers worked so hard to make sure no single scene or dialogue was repeated in any of the part of the play. Every actor would learn their dialogues by heart and after several days of rehearsals actual scenes were shot. Unlike these days; It took months to get a story on board and actors were chosen very carefully to match the character. Due to less facilities and low budget many actors were under paid or had to wait for months to get their payments. But I must say the dedication and hard work would clearly reflect their passion and desire to perform on TV to engage and entertain people. Every actor would completely justify his or her character by doing their best in front of the camera.
Let’s have a comparison of the main elements of a drama from the past and from the drama happening these days. No doubt there are several plays on each channel which are worth watching but still they can’t meet up the criteria of those PTV classics still captivating the audience who have had the honor and luck to watch those dramas either in that time frame or online these days. A drama consists of different segments which combine to make up a show.
There are eight parts in the making of a drama, play, novel, TV show or on stage.
1. Plot: the series of events
2. Dialogue: the lines
3. Character: the people
4. Audience: the spectators
5. Stagecraft: the art and craft
6. Genre: the artistic techniques
7. Convention: the practices
8. Theme: the unifying idea
plot To achieve the goal of creating a piece of art the story writer and producers need to work effortlessly to design a plot for the play. The series of events that comprises the whole story. When I analyze the plot quality of the drama in the 60s,70s,80s and even in 90s each drama was a unique piece of art. The writer made it sure to keep the cultural ethics of our society and respect of the audiences point of view. Story comprised of all sorts of human emotions but with utmost regard for the family etiquettes. The topics selected were carefully crafted to come up with each event look totally different and closest to reality. Let’s take the example of the drama WARIS. I still believe that those spectators have still not forgotten the amazing story of this drama. I was very young when this drama was on air. But I can remember that the music was so captivating and scary to some extent that I would just run to my mother to hide. A Pakistani feudal lord (zamindar), Chaudhry Hashmat (Mehboob Alam) rules his fiefdom, Sikandarpur with an iron grip. Along with his son Yaqub and two grandsons Chaudhry Anwar Ali (Firdous Jamal) and Chaudhry Niaz Ali (sons of his deceased son Chaudhry Ghulam Ali) he struggles hold on to land, (Sikanderpur) which is the proposed site for a dam.
The two grandsons are constantly at loggerheads. The younger one, Chaudhry Anwar is a prodigal scion of a feudal family. He is also ruthless, in the likeness of his grandfather, Chaudhry Hashmat. The older one, Chaudhry Niaz Ali wishes to escape to the big city, Lahore, but is trapped in the feudal web. The writer was Mr Amjad Islam Amjad a very renowned and seasoned writer of his times. His literature was of high quality and still being used in the professional studies for Urdu language. If we compare this drama with the dramas being presented these days with all loads of facilities, I can guarantee that viewers will like WARIS more than any drama which is being on aired these days. Dialogue The lines, the statements, the sentences and the words which depict the type and personality of the character. Expressions and body language is also a part of reflecting how the character feels behaves and acts to convey the thoughts. As we all know our national language Urdu is a very sweet and polite language. There are proper words for respect and care and a lot of vocabulary to show the intellect of the character. All the dramas in the past were written in pure (khalis) Urdu language. Words were chosen wisely to express the emotions. High level of respect was visible in the sentences during a conversational scene. The statements were composed in the most polished manner. currently the dialogues are just so casual and even slang is acceptable both by the writers and the audiences. Authors like Fatima Suriya Bajiya, Anwar Maqsood and Haseena Moeen are a few names who have established their name and fate with their hard work and quality writings. In the recent years, some writers like Umaira Ahmed and Syed Wasi Shah are also doing good efforts but majority of the dramas are some sort of replica. Each story has almost similar dialogues and the actors have the same dialogue delivery style. A lot of monotonous can be easily seen in the dramas these days.
Some very famous dialogues are “haye mera ungla” from Sona Chandi. ‘Mujhe kaam batao mai kiya karoon mai kis ko Khaoon’. Every kid of nineties loved this character and used to hymn it in the same style always. ‘Jo Kaha tha maine such tha, Jo suna tha wo nahi Tha’. This dialogue was uttered in Dilip Kumar and Talat Aziz style by the legend Moin Akhtar in Aangan Terha. ‘Mujhe kaam batao mai kiya karoon mai kis ko Khaoon’. Every kid of nineties loved this character and used to hymn it in the same style always. “Miss Sanya Mere Naam Qabacha hai”. This name from drama serial ‘Tanhaiyaan’ gave Behroz Sabzwari a never-ending fame. ‘Mola khush rakhey Baji Jee pehchana, nai Pehchana’. The is the most famous dialogue of a very popular sitcom Family Front. ‘My name is Rambo Rambo John Rambo…Cockroach killer’! This famous dialogue from Guest House became the signature line of actor Afzal Khan.
Characters The people in the novel, play or drama that exhibit the characteristics that determine the moral, ethical intellectual, social and emotional reactions and thought processes. We all know very well that the stories shown in the dramas now and then have some element of truth based on real people. The beauty of every drama is the cast performing those characters bringing back them to life on screen. No doubts that the advancement of technology and makeup techniques have changed dynamically but even than the camera in those days could capture such precious expressions like in the drama Tanhaiyan, Dhoop Kinary and Dhowan. Even now recalling those emotional or funny scenes gives us goose bumps. Alif Noon, Sona Chandi, Ainaq wala Jin and zakota are still shining in our memories.