It was bound to happen — the Humsafar craze making headlines in Toronto. Last weekend, Toronto Star’s entertainment section had a report on how fans of this latest television hit from Pakistan have become obsessed with the play and how the popular drama had ‘changed the lives of Pakistanis around the world.’
It said that every Saturday morning, Humsafar junkies connect to YouTube in Toronto as soon as it’s uploaded on one of the many forums by other similar junkies ready to spread the pirated joy to all the Humsafar craving souls out there. Barely able to sleep through the night in anticipation of the next episode, housewives, young girls and other assorted fans are fiercely dedicated to keeping their date with their computer. Or, should I say, that was how it had been since the past many Saturdays.
It was actually quite pleasant to read the happy report talking of something creative and good from ‘back home’. And more was my surprise when I read that it’s not just fellow Pakistanis who were in the grip of the frenzy, but many who did not understand Urdu at all and relied on the English subtitles which have been added to half the episodes already by internet savvy fans. With Star Plus and Colours being the widely seen channels by most of the desi crowd in Canada, it is not a small feat for Humsafar to have carved such a niche. I became a ‘watcher’ — I wouldn’t classify myself as a starry eyed fan — when after five or six other recommendations, my Bengali colleague who knows only a smattering of Urdu/Hindi spoke to me in a dreamy fashion about what an amazing, awesome, beautiful, etc., etc., drama it was and how my life would get so much more enriched if I watched it.
Being a devotee of Indian soaps since long, I find mental cleansing from the daily grind in the brain dead world of Parichay and the like and have not followed Pakistani dramas for over a decade. When the era of Haseena Moin, Nurul Huda Shah, Amjad Islam Amjad, Bajiya, etc., ended, so did the professionalism of the directors and actors and Pakistani dramas fell from their zenith to live in a state of mediocrity for a very long time. During that time, Indians, having progressed from Doordarshan, opened the floodgates of glamour and their bahus and saas gripped the imagination of audiences previously tuned to only top quality Pakistani dramas.
Vibrant music, colourful saris, dazzling jewellery and stunning make-up were definitely more entertaining than watching actors who, it was obvious, had not fully learnt their lines and were standing in drab studio sets with a morose sitar tune supplying the dreary melody. A large section of the audience was lost during those recession years of Pakistani TV drama. I did hear off and on about some good stories but never was there a fan following the way Humsafar has garnered.
One of my friends insisted that I must watch it as I will be reminded of a Haseena Moin drama. I seriously begged to differ on that score. Haseena excelled in dialogue repartee, infusing humour generously in between profound philosophies. The wit that her characters portrayed was intelligently crafted, which is a scriptwriter’s main test of skill and Haseena Moin outclassed her contemporaries in that. In Humsafar, humour is prominent by its total absence!
Even tragedies have their share of comic instances and this qualifies as a love story then why the total lack of humour? Couldn’t there have been a dab of lightness to give relief from Khirad’s profusion of tears and Ashar’s dour expression? And my biggest objection, in this age of internet connectivity, was email not an option for communicating the truth? When I voiced this to my Canadian/Bengali colleague she replied, “You have to understand, this is Pakistan!”
Ergo, lack of communication (internet), egotistical males and clumsily conniving mothers-in-law should be acceptable. Well, I gave her an earful of how we do not live in the boondocks and lifestyle in Karachi is comparable to Toronto and email exists even in villages whereas Hyderabad is a fully developed city. See, what an unjust impression a small loophole can create.
But despite these loopholes, humour deficiency, a flood of tears and tea overload, it is gratifying to see Pakistan’s creative prowess admired internationally. The TV channel should think of getting legal benefits out of this one which is currently thriving on piracy.