From being one big drag (duration: three-and-a-half hours), the fifth PTV Awards became the most controversial event in town. Ironically enough, the event reached its , sizzliest, snazziest best at its fag end way way past midnight —when the best actor's award was announced.
A very angry (originally expectant) Abid Ali, this year's also-in-the-run with Shafi Mohammed (Chappar Chaon) and Jamil Malik (Dukhon ki Chaadar), stormed out of Karachi's Moti Mahal Auditorium as a highly jubilant Shafi Mohammed leaped up to take his award.
Abid All followed up his angry young man act with fiery statements to the press lashing out at the regionalism that had crept into the awards system, of how he had suffered thrice on account of it and that he was voicing not just his own feelings but those of many others who felt the same way but were afraid to speak up. He said he saw no point in attending the PTV Awards in future, because they had become a regional farce.
If LTV cried hoarse that Punjab had been done in, courtesy Sindh, KTV cried that Sindh had been done ditto courtesy Frontier and Baluchistan. They (and music critics too) felt that Karachi's flutist, Salamat Hussain, and not Quetta's rabab player, Ustad Mohammad Chanay, deserved the award for best instrumentalist. Also that the Jungle sets were far more authentic and effective than the prize-winning Namoos sets, and that Sultana Siddiqui should have won the award for her Rang Barangi Duniya instead of Quetta producer Naheeda Safdar for her Shagufay.
Such examples are legion. Was Abid Ali overreacting when he said that the PTV Awards had become a regional farce or was there an element of truth in it? A quick vote on who deserved the award (from those who've seen Chappar Chaon and the Abid Ali play) drew a heavy count in Shafi's favour. Of course, there were voices of dissent. As there were in the case of Farrukh Bashir who won the best music programme producer's award for LTV's Sargam. There were many who felt that Sahira Kazmi had been cheated out of the award for KTV's Rang Tarang. But then such dissenting notes are part of any award — even the Academy Awards, if that's any consolation.
For every three persons who feel someone shouldn't have got an award, there are usually two others who feel he should have. It's only when the ratio is heavily disbalanced that there is some cause for concern. Abid Ali may have been exaggerating when he said that "I have completed a hat trick of injustices," but PTV cannot absolve itself entirely of the blame that has come its way year after year, starting with 1981 when Waris was chosen for all the major awards. But 1984 the year Punjab suddenly woke up to the presence of Sindh — was a especially disturbing year as far as PTV awards were concerned. However, the spirit of giving that marked the year kept grievances felt at the time from coming to the fore.
Apparently Abid Ali's wound kept festering all of last year (he lost out to Mansoor Baluch in Deewarain — and that was not merely a difference of opinion) but he chose to make an issue of it this year, when he lost out again to a Sindhi, though definitely not on regional considerations this time round. While one cannot condone Abid Ali's reaction one can understand it. What one cannot condone and cannot understand is PTV's cloaking of the whole system of awards in a shroud of secrecy, giving rise to a lot of suspicion and speculation.
To begin with, the PTV Awards have entered their fifth year, but not once have the authorities announced the names on the jury. One can understand the names being kept secret before the event — the pulls and pressures can be great — but what is the rationale behind keeping them secret for all time to come. Does PTV fear for their lives at the hands of disgruntled losers? In the absence of a formal announcement about the jury, the conjecture game goes on. According to a rumour floating around, this year PTV had a one-man jury — Fazal Kamal. What does one make of such a rumour? It lends credence to other rumours floating around, like the one that Nayyar Kamal won over Sarwat Atiq as best actress because of her husband.
Another rumour says that Nayyar was given the award because she is very sick and undergoing treatment in London. What set off that rumour? In 1983, Tahira Naqvi was given the best actress award for Zindagi Bandagi because she was dying in a Lahore hospital. Another year, Najma Mehboob was given an award after her death in a train accident.
Fine gestures indeed. But have sickness and death become a primary consideration in the award of prizes? Why can't PTV institute special awards for such persons in recognition of their services? After all, if they can honour the live and kicking (Shoaib Mansoor and Mohsin Ali) with special awards for a special programme (TV 20), surely they can honour people like Nayyar Kamal, Aslam Azhar, Kanwar Aftab and others who have spent a lifetime with television.
But then PTV wonders will never cease. In the regional awards department, an actor (Firdaus Jamal) was contesting with the scriptwriter and producer of the same serial (Pattan) for which he won an award in the Punjabi-language slot. Likewise in the Sindhi programmes section, writer Ali Baba was competing with actor Yusuf Ali and producer Mohammad Bakhsh Samejo for the serial Zindagi Olaran. How a jury can choose between an actor, a script writer and a producer for the same award is beyond one's comprehension.
Where the PTV Awards could have done with wonders was in the entertainment department. The opening chorus by Fatima Jaffery, Afshan Ahmed, Mujib Alam and Ifrahim set the pace for the whole ceremony. It grounded the show even before it took off.
Why couldn't KTV have started off with the breezy "Humma humma kar bhaiya," this fall's hit. The show would have got off to a spirited start. Is it some unwritten KTV rule to start off with an insipid chorus line?
The whole show was very predictable. No Karachi stage show is complete without Alamgir and M.A. Sheikhi and neither was this one. They deserve a break — and so do viewers. Nayyara Noor, who's sung "Roothay ho kiyun" a thousand and one times, still felt the need to carry her notebook along. And Naheed Akhtar who's reputed to have an elephant's memory also carted one along, just in case.
Whatever happened to the Nazia Hassans, Musarrat Nazirs and Salma Aghas of this world? If they could be flown in for the referendum, why couldn't they have been invited for the Awards? At least one of them, Salma Agha, was reportedly in town but she wasn't even invited. Another notable non-invitee was Aslam Azhar. And one remembered him especially when squash champ Jehangir Khan (who came to give away the best sports producer award), got the kind of ovation Aslam Azhar did some years ago.
Of TV's old and not-so-old-golds, Kunwar Aftab and Mehtab Channa were spotted in the crowd. It would have been a nice gesture to invite them to receive the awards instead of the GMs of KTV or Lahore.
One could put it down to poor sight that Moeen Akhtar and Khushbakht Shujaat didn't see people who were there and saw people who weren't there (Agha Talish and Nadeem), but whatever happened to the camera eye — five of them, according to one estimate.
The cameras seemed totally blind to — or were they blinded by — the presence of all those celebrities in the crowd. Not one close-up did the viewer get of Babra Sharif, looking absolutely stunning in black, Javed Sheikh in stark white, looking a lot less handsome than his TV days (what's he done to his hair?), Sabiha Khanum looking nostalgic (remembering her Wadah and Qatil days perhaps), Khalida Riyasat looking her perky self in black khaddar, and Mehtab Channa (her usual graceful self).
It seemed as if the cameramen had standing instructions to keep their lenses focused on Khushbakht and Moeen Akhtar. Not a very pretty picture, I'm afraid. The two might have fared better than Rahat and Sahira Kazmi but one wouldn't say they were the ideal choice, or the made-for-PTV Awards pair (that hasn't been found yet). Also, they seemed handicapped by an uninspiring script (should Haseena Moeen stick to scripting Ankahi and Uncle Urfi?). The few moments of relief were offered by characters from Alif Aur Noon, Angan Terha and Andhera Ujala. And, needless to say, Andhera Ujala's `dhah jamaat pass direct havaldar' stole all hearts — including those of the cops standing guard at the entrance.
Incidentally, none of these cops nor the three truckloads standing outside the Taj Mahal could stop the 100 to 150 allegedly Sindh Medical students from breaking the hotel's side entrance, and gate crashing the awards, leaving some invitees frantically waving their cards outside, or prevent them from occupying the seats of the nominees inside, and delaying the live telecast by 20 minutes.
According to the hotel authorities this was the twenty-fifth time they've done that. And on practically every occasion, they've been armed. What have the hotel authorities done about it the 24 other times?
In fact, the hotel was responsible for adding to the swelling numbers. On the day of the awards, it ran news paper ads inviting people to come to its coffee shop for tea, coffee or dinner, promising an autograph book for free plus the chance to meet "all your favourite TV stars.
While the hotel was true to its promise, PTV didn't deliver. Despite the presence of all "your favourite TV stars", PTV made the awards ceremony one long bore. It was left to Abid Ali to provide the evening's sparks. And for that, he definitely deserved an award.
This article was originally published in the Herald's September 1985 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.
The writer is the Editor of Newsline and was a staffer at the Herald.