A few words on Khabarnaak

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 09.04.14

If an anchorperson or a producer wants to know how to make a programme popular
amongst the masses, watch Khabarnaak, a comedy-come-satire (late night) show on a
private television channel. Critics argue that the programme panders to the (psychological)
needs mostly of the lower strata of society but the question is this: should that be taken as
the programme’s weakness or strength? Why is the lower section of society not entitled to
entertainment? What about the practice of inviting Sheikh Rasheed, a politician, to political
talk shows to achieve the ratings target needed to keep the show viable for the television
channel? The appearance of Sheikh Rasheed or Faisal Raza Abidi as solo flights may
popularise that particular episode of the talk show commercially but not the rest of the
episodes.

There is indeed an immense competition of survival amongst political talk shows. The areas
where political talk shows are wanting are innovation and variety. In this age of competition,
Khabarnaak radiates a message of success to other programmes of a similar nature and
also to political talk shows through its practice of innovation and variety. Aftab Iqbal, the
host of Khabarnaak, introduced a new concept of comedy-cum-satire to the electronic
media when he began Hasb-e-Hal on a different private television channel in January 2009.
The programme could be considered a practical expression of his thoughts, which he used
to put down in writing in his weekly column (under the caption Hasb-e-Hal) for an Urdu daily.
Iqbal brought along with him the character of Azizi (expressed in his columns) to Hasb-e-
Hal. Iqbal is also credited with introducing Suhail Ahmed (who was a stage comedian) to
television viewers. Ahmed is a talented, educated and versatile
comedian of unmatched quality who justified playing the character of Azizi. Iqbal also took
care of the aesthetics of the viewers by introducing Najia Baig who brought along a new
dimension of presentation through her voice and winning laughter (or cackles).

Iqbal started Khabarnaak in September 2010. He also writes the programme’s script to
circumvent its meandering aimlessly from one point to another and keeps the partaking
comedians conditioned. Khabarnaak meets the aesthetic needs of its viewers especially
after Sofia Mirza joined in as a co-host, but it is still devoid of the bursts of laughter that
invigorated the shows of Hasb-e-Hal. Unlike Zainab Jamil, Mirza does not sing to
supplement the singing repertoire of the programme. Nevertheless, one of the major
reasons for Khabarnaak’s success is the variety of roles (parodies) played by Mir
Mohammad Ali, who is now the Azizi of Khabarnaak. In this way, the programme has allowed
new talent to surface. The parody of Iqbal performed by Ali as Afat Iqbal was a big hit. The
parodies (or mimicries) of Sheikh Rasheed, Rehman Malik, Tariq Aziz, Shahbaz Sharif, Ali
Azmat and Anwar Maqsood are excellent to name a few, though Ali has still to work on the
parodies of Firdous Ashiq Awan and Jahangir Badar.

The strength of Khabarnaak lies in its strong association with culture, especially Punjabi
culture, which finds overwhelming expression in it. The same is also the weakness of the
programme because viewers from other cultures or provinces may not associate with the
medium of comedy and satire being presented. The entry of Majid Jahangir (a comedic
legend of Fifty-Fifty fame) was much praised. In Jahangir, one could find hope to cater to
the comedic needs of Urdu speaking viewers. He showcased himself but could not make a
fresh performance. Another failure was Amanullah Khan, an eminent (Punjabi) stage
comedian. Both Jahangir and Amanullah failed because they could not innovate as per the
demand of the new age, though both are experts at the old (or traditional) style of comedy.
The parting of Sakhawat Naz in August 2013 was a real setback.

Over the years, the comedy knowledge of viewers has also increased immensely and so
has the demand for novelty in comedy. Rubi Anam (nicknamed Sadiq) is an outspoken
stage comedy performer but she is limited to expressing herself in Punjabi only. She needs
more space to perform. She should not be a failure. The Albela Brothers (Saleem and
Honey) are the programme’s main comedians who make witty comments but they
overwhelm the roles of other comedians such as Agha Majid (nicknamed Aroo Grenade).
Unfortunately, Farhat Abbas Shah (nicknamed, Master Jee) is unimpressive. Akram Udaas
was a welcome addition but he could not stay for more than a few episodes. The segment,
Zabaan-o-Bayaan in which Iqbal identifies pronunciation errors in commonly used Urdu
words and tells their correct articulation, is an excellent one.

Once a week, the selection of a song (nagma) mostly from Indian classics and the vocal
card compatibility offered by new local singers is also praiseworthy. Naseer Bhai, who
attempts to (often accurately) guess the composer, lyrists and singers of the songs and
actors who performed them, is a brilliant discovery. He is an innocent soul and a humble
character but often scared by Honey Albela. Dummy Museum is another unparalleled
creation of the programme. This segment opens a wide range of opportunities to invite
dummy politicians and produce humour and satire. Another reason for Khabarnaak’s
success is the behind-the-scenes role performed by its producer, Zeeshan Hussain, who
brought along the expertise and experience he gathered by producing a social programme,
Fifty Minutes. Before Hussain’s arrival, Khabarnaak was devoid of its social tinge. Now, it
has penetrated society and has a more social component to comment on than a political
one. The way
the complexities of life are increasing, the comedians (or satire presenters) working in
Khabarnaak or other programmes need to be respected. What strata of society they hail
from is secondary; what service they render to society is primary. They help viewers fight
their daily worries and vexations and, consequently, play a venerable role in keeping
society tranquil.

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