By Farah Naz Sheikh
The AM is all about rushed breakfast, monosyllabic conversations and bleary drives to work and school. There is no time for TV or catching the news. But this week when flu had me stuck in bed, I discovered the morning shows. Absent mindlessly surfing channels, I stumbled upon a set that vaguely reminded me of PTV in the 80s. Only it wasn’t. It had someone famous yodeling and waving her hands wildly at the camera. The word live blinking in the corner sneered at me. This was today.
I stared at the collision of rainbow colours and geometric patterns that seemed to throb and whirl to the beat of Bollywood’s latest hip shaking number on prime time Pakistani television. The camera decided that I needed to witness the frenzy of the fast and furious band, so we had sweeping, vertigo inducing fast cuts from the band to the host to the audience. She o the bouffant hair style and winged eyeliner, bedecked in some designer’s version of desi fusion, zipped across the floor like a pendulum, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as the words ‘Good Morning’ echoed around.
I flipped to another channel and saw a version of the same playing out. Same was the case with the third channel. Good morning shrieks. Bands and musicians. There were dozens of happy, eager women clapping and smiling; awe struck at the sight of their idol within spittle throwing distance.
So with a flu-befuddled brain and chai toast for a company, I spend a few hours trysting with the trio of Nida Yasir, Sanam Jung and Sanam Baloch and their morning shows.
Nida shines amidst the cluttered set. She has to. If she didn’t, she would be lost in the colours and textures behind her, next to her and in front of her. There is a wooden staircase tucked in the background; there are two floral printed sofas thrown on one side, a few artificial window panes and tables of varying sizes and colours. On the various walls and table counters are huge framed pictures of, hold your breath, spices and paan. These are tacked gallery style. The camera then captures a woman in white sitting on a charpai cracking betel nut and playing house with a paan daan. The camera zooms in on her making paan. If this doesn’t make clear that paan will play a role in today’s role, then worry not because then Nida dives into the Paan intro. Of much she loves paan, of how her one-year-old self once ate a katha laden paan, of how she still loves paan etc. Her rave on paan would send shivers down all practitioners treating oral disease in the country, but hey, who am I to rain on this happy parade. The octaves go higher as I zone out.
I cut to the Hum show where at least the set looks slicker, cleaner and contemporary. Wooden flooring, warm lighting and some carefully arranged seating make for a visual reprieve. The set breathes, and just that makes me exhale. So what’s the talking point? Makeup: okay I can live with that. Except then, an ode to Botox who doubles up as an actor walks on stage and starts giving the excited members of the audience a makeover. As she huffs, puffs, powders, a small time designer is asked to showcase bridal wear. Then it’s back to the makeover and the Botox lady giving the hapless crowd, her version of glam. More clapping.
I switch to Sanam Baloch who has tapped into what’s your biggest wish idea. Intriguing. I shall come back to her. I switch to Nida where a chef has concocted paan rice. Yes you heard it right. There is rice, cooked with chopped up paan. Looking like pulao, tasting like god knows what. It is interesting to note even the host doesn’t taste it. I feel a wave of nausea growing so I go back to the wishing transmission where a wish bowl is being made if one wants to make more money.
A group of people surround an empty fish bowl and one of them is tossing coins in it. A ‘U’ shaped magnet is also added to the bowl, supposedly to attract wealth. There is some talk of putting in the magnet in a specific direction to attract pots of money which brings roars of applause from the audience. We are told that if we want to get a visa, we should toss images of that place in the bowl too. Hmm… let me cut out some pictures of Prague and give this a shot then.
I am curious to see the level of creativity team Paan is showing so switch back and am not disappointed. Lo and behold, katha (limestone) is being mixed with tomato paste to make you…drum roll…goraaaa!
There is more. Someone is mixing shredded paan with saunf and zeera and promising weight loss. Jackpot! The ultimate gora-patla combo has also been taken care. Wow! A life changing morning – a fest of clichés and kitsch. Before I tune into tomorrow’s show which is on nazar, bhoot and kaala jaado, I have loads to do. Must buy fish bowl and fill it with coins for wealth, get choona and make myself a face mask for whitening, consume paan ka paani and lose all them inches!
Tomorrow I just might learn how to make nazar ka homemade tikka. Will it involve the god-forsaken paan I wonder.