Zindagi: breathing new life into the Indian TV landscape

Our film industry may be in the midst of a nascent revival, but Pakistani television has long reigned supreme as the people’s go-to source for local on-screen entertainment. It wouldn’t be total sacrilege to suggest that the Tanhaiyan days (or their nearest equivalent) are back in Pakistan. Sure, the streets may not empty out like they used to, but drama serials like Humsafar, Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Bashar Momin have engendered a mass following, whose incessant chatter allows these shows to enjoy an almost ubiquitous presence in the socio-cultural climate during their broadcast period. It is no surprise then that the fame of these shows has spilled over to foreign borders – an interest that has paved the way for the launch of Zindagi TV, an Indian TV channel that broadcasts TV shows from Pakistan for viewers

Representing Pakistan at the Zindagi launch was Imran Abbas, who is the latest Pakistani TV star to bag a Bollywood venture.

 across the border. Launched on June 23 by Zee Entertainment, the channel currently airs four drama series from Pakistan, namely, romantic dramas Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Kaash Main Teri Beti Na Hoti, Kitni Girhain Baaki Hain and comedy drama Aunn Zara, all of which have sparked off a frenzy among Indian TV viewers who appreciate the shows for the fresh storylines, their truncated length and of course, the absence of melodrama!

We’ve certainly gotten Jaaved Jaaferi  hooked! “Man, watched 3 serials in a row on Zindagi… I think this channel with its content will be a serious threat to all soapers,” he tweeted.

One Chandresh Narayanan chimed in, tweeting “I hope India realises what top quality content is when it watches #Zindagi #enoughoftarakmehtas,” The frenzy has caught on in Kashmir, from where Srishti Kaul tweets: “Indian 'mindless' serials, you gotta learn a lot from your Pakistani counterparts. Such beautiful serials. #AunnZara #Zindagi.” Faieza Khan gets closer to the root of the problem, when she tweets: “My mom, after getting hooked onto the Pakistani soaps on #Zindagi, now realizes how irritating the Balika, Madhubala and Tulsi were.”

The saas bahu melodrama, the endless cycle of deaths and rebirths, love triangles that are too convoluted for the simple three-sided shape – the plot devices of the yesteryears have been worn out by repetition, and even their parodies don’t elicit a chuckle anymore. As Zee TV thus lost its grasp on the educated segments of its market, the need to create content to cater to the progressive mindset was realized. “Our research showed that such content is already being created in other geographies, Pakistan being one of them,” explained Zee TV Chief Content and Creative Officer Bharat Ranga. Thus, more than just the lure of much-hyped shows, the decision to import Pakistani programmes was a sound business decision for Zee Entertainment, because of our productions’ qualitative edge over their existing TV offerings.

“These are Pakistan’s best (TV) projects that have garnered (the) highest TRPs. So it’s a good thing that those shows are being shown, which have been our favourites,” said TV star Imran Abbas at a meet-up with bloggers in Mumbai.

 Imran is an example of the benefits Pakistan stands to gain from the export of its shows. Soon making his Bollywood debut, Imran is co-starring alongside Bipasha Basu in Creature 3D. Using Pakistani television as a launch pad, Imran bagged the chance to take the Bollywood route. We’re all for our people being recognized for their talent. It’ll be a refreshing change of angle in the news. More stars will be able to make inroads into Bollywood with the kind of exposure they are getting. While Fawad Khan’s face is splashed on many a billboard in Mumbai, other TV stars are also getting their fair share of appreciation.

Sanam Saeed and Osman Khalid Butt are among the other hot favourites in India.  Viewers hail Sanam’s character in Zindagi Gulzar Hai on Twitter. “Yes, she is a positive strong character without being a bimbo,” surmised one tweeter. A certain ‘12th pass engineer’ chimes in with “My mom loves Kashaf’s character. She (wishes) to have a bahu like her. @realsanamsaeed you’re the best!”

Other viewers are delighted by the Urdu language script. Irfan is elated that he is “improving (his) #urdu by watching @ZeeZindagiTV! Thank u #zeezindagi. MintiliciouS_ also fires off a tweet enthused with love for Urdu: “I'm gonna watch sarhad paar serials on #Zindagi for the love of that gracious language #Urdu.”

Zindagi marks a first for Pakistani television history. Not too long ago, we were decrying the plight of the Turkish invasion on our television screens, and it appears that we have followed suit with our own foray across the border. That’s the nature of the television industry – quality begets business, and that’s what drives industries forward.

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