- Some observations regarding its immense popularity
Whether you were a fan of the recently concluded Mere Paas Tum Ho, hated its guts or were simply indifferent to it, there’s no denying that it was a huge hit. The ratings, the controversy, the discussions in talk shows and living rooms, and the full houses at theatres were unprecedented. It’s not every day that the death of a fictional character is reported as breaking news on live TV. Since it had become a social media sensation as well, even those who could swear they hadn’t watched a single episode (this scribe included) couldn’t help knowing about each development as and when it happened.
There’s a theory that the exact recipe for a hit production is unknown; because if the ingredients were known, nobody would ever make an unsuccessful play or film. In hindsight however, one can analyze the factors that contributed to the success of Khalil-Ur-Rehman Qamar’s latest offering.
Qamar’s personality played no small part in making the play a success. It wouldn’t be too much to say that he doesn’t suffer unnecessarily from the weaknesses of modesty and self-effacement. He is certainly not averse to exaggerating his own merits. The controversy generated by the play was complemented perfectly by his no-holds-barred interviews; which meant that the feminists who otherwise could possibly have ignored the play were left with no option but to take notice, which was a major factor behind the success of the play.
Qamar’s personality played no small part in making the play a success. It wouldn’t be too much to say that he doesn’t suffer unnecessarily from the weaknesses of modesty and self-effacement. He is certainly not averse to exaggerating his own merits
Another thing that worked in the play’s favor was the fact that it wasn’t original, never mind Qamar’s insistence that it was based on real events – art imitating life. Well, if it was his personal experience; apparently, he wasn’t the first man to have this experience. Art imitating older art would be a more accurate way of describing it, which was great for the show because it’s a safe bet that had it been original, it would have left the viewers scratching their heads. For it’s very easy for something to be before its time in our part of the world. As for originality, Albert Einstein famously defined it as the art of hiding one’s sources. Qamar didn’t do too well on that count. Amitabh Bachan’s Do Anjaane (1976), which was based on an earlier Bengali story, essentially had the same theme, albeit with a tinge of crime. In Qamar’s defense however, few things are original under the sun. One must also give credit to him that he knew that crime won’t work for his audience.
Love and its aftereffects are popular themes everywhere; but in other parts of the world they have developed other genres too: romantic comedy, courtroom drama, detective story, psychological thriller, horror, historical drama, war film, black comedy, spy story, science fiction and what not. In our evolution, we seem to be perpetually stuck in love-marriage-infidelity-love triangle. This play had all these ingredients in abundance.
Our feminists are famous for faux outrage and political correctness taken to ridiculous extremes; but their collective chagrin triggered by phrases such as ‘Do take ki larki’ was a sight to behold, making Qamar the ultimate nemesis of the feminists. Many of his shortcomings can be overlooked considering this alone. The fact that the play couldn’t be accused of being nuanced or sophisticated was also a major factor behind its success. Whether by design, accident, or the author’s limitation the rather crude treatment meant that it didn’t go over the heads of feminists, who aren’t the brightest bulbs imaginable. The discourse was just intelligent enough to offend the liberal crowd, and not an iota more.
Not to say that the feminists were the only offended parties. The traditionalists who believe that life imitates art also complained that by showing a character such as Mehwish, the producers were putting ideas into the heads of impressionable girls. For the creators though, there’s nothing like publicity – good, bad or any other variety. So long as the play isn’t taken off the air, controversy is good. It would have been a whole different story, of course, if it was banned; or some cleric was asked to decide whether it was ‘safe’ for public (the fate of Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha). Of course, with ARY there was little chance of that happening.
For good measure, Qamar had also thrown in a hackneyed child character; which for some unknown reasons our audiences can never have enough of, in plays as well as in ads. In fact, the cheesier his lines (‘Will you marry my father?’ for instance, with the whole on-his-knee routine) the more his popularity and hence the popularity of the show. In short, the play had everything for the Pakistani audience.