- Some good things about the show
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then explosions of jealousy are the most dishonest ways of paying tribute to somebody. Imran Khan’s decision to instruct the PTV to dub and air Ertugrul has resulted in a spate of jealous outbursts from the so-called artistes of this country – outbursts not very different from those one inadvertently evokes when one has been thoughtless enough to praise a woman (in absentia) to another woman, especially if that woman is her “best friend”.
Syed Noor was refreshingly candid in his appraisal of Erugrul: “I didn’t like it. I watched two episodes and could not watch any more. There are four horses on either side that keep running this way and that.” Lest some animal rights activist is alarmed, it must be pointed out that Noor is no animal hater. Only (judging from his own films that he usually sets in rural Punjab) he appears to be more partial to buffalos than horses. Noor went on to say that if given a similar opportunity, he would love to create a show on Muhammad Bin Qasim. One waits eagerly for that opportunity coming Noor’s way, for it promises to be a landmark in high comedy. One can imagine Qasim on horseback, adorned in eighth century armour with sword in hand, while in the background there is a 2020 model Lunar Silver Honda Civic at a Shell gas station.
One would like to point out to Noor that people with access to a variety of programming are likely to flock to the shows they feel are more entertaining. Of course, popularity is no assurance of quality; and it could be argued that the masses often fail to recognize quality the way connoisseurs do; but one can safely say that Larki Punjaban (emotional drama), Budha Gujjar (action), Billi (horror) and Noor’s other ‘creations’ don’t exactly come under the treats-for-elites category.
Yasir Hussain too was prudence itself (at least initially). Plays like Ertugrul were sure to destroy the local industry, he said at first. Later, he took exception to the lead actress of the show becoming brand ambassador for Pakistani brands at the cost of Pakistani leading ladies like Minal Khan. Minal Khan, whose last few TV serials are aptly entitled Hasad, Jalan, Ghamand and Nand, was quick to endorse Hussain’s views.
Not everybody can be as candid as Noor. Shaan expressed pretty much the same sentiment but made sure he couched it in a more presentable form. He graciously made it clear that he had no objection to the show itself. His problem was with the state TV airing it. Yasir Hussain too was prudence itself (at least initially). Plays like Ertugrul were sure to destroy the local industry, he said at first. Later, he took exception to the lead actress of the show becoming brand ambassador for Pakistani brands at the cost of Pakistani leading ladies like Minal Khan. Minal Khan, whose last few TV serials are aptly entitled Hasad, Jalan, Ghamand and Nand, was quick to endorse Hussain’s views. In a further attempt at venting off anger completely, Hussain compared the Ertugrul stars to “international garbage”. This sort of reaction is not surprising from a lot that has always blamed (at different times) Indian films, the VCR, Hollywood, internet, the Zionist lobby, etc. for absence of sensibility, creativity, and quality on its own part.
Of course, one would have expected our liberals to be none-too-pleased with Ertugrul’s success. For sure, they are not. For an exhaustive, and rather amusing, list of what is wrong with the show, read Pervez Hoodhbhoy’s article on the subject. Of course, lists help immensely when it comes to intellectuals, but the fact that Imran Khan seemed to love the show would alone have sufficed for our liberals to hate Ertugurl’s guts. Even more interesting are those who love the show but who are so devout that the sight of Esra Bilgic, who plays Halime Sultan in the show, wearing “un-Islamic” dresses in her real life is too much to bear – who make it clear on the social media that Bilgic’s off-screen demeanour does not quite conform to the Muslim way, and therefore leaves a lot to be desired.
This scribe has become a huge fan of the show without having watched a single Ertugrul episode. It is amazing how one show can be the source of such constant pain for so many demographics at the same time: Desi liberals who are at a loss to know what novel intellectual aerobics to employ in order to explain away its popularity; our “artistes” who can’t help coming out of the jealousy closet one after the other; the pious folks who are perturbed on the “un-Islamic” nature of Bilgic’s outfits in real life; and, last but not the least, the Saudis who have banned the show themselves and who are mighty annoyed when anybody else broadcasts it. More power, then, to Ertugrul’s producers, actors, those responsible for its screening, and those who have loved it and have helped make it an international megahit.