Arts & Culture

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1960 - 1985

Pakistan: Media and Culture Through the Ages 

In the history of Pakistan, the media has been an important avenue for culture and entertainment. Radio Pakistan came into being on 13th August 1947, when its first broadcast was an announcement of the creation of Pakistan. Initially only in Lahore, Dhaka and Peshawar, it expanded to Hyderabad, Karachi and Quetta in the 1950’s, leading to a cultural renaissance particularly in the province of Sindh where musicians and writers from different parts of the province became associated with it. Radio Pakistan initiated the process of recording folk and Sufi poetry in the voices of singers who went on to become the most celebrated artists of the country. Radio Pakistan was also used as a medium for the government to broadcast its foreign policy. Since Radio Pakistan could be broadcasted to neighboring countries as well, it was used in disseminating messages of peace and friendship. It also became important during the wars of 1965 and 1971 when news of Pakistan’s victories would be broadcasted to boost morale and instill in the people a sense of nationalism.

Farooq Jehan Taimuri presenting a show on Radio Pakistan

Farooq Jehan Taimuri was the first full time female employee of Radio Pakistan in 1958.  Pakistan has been plagued by cultural and traditional inclinations that prevented women from having leading positions in organizations. By 1988 Pakistan had progressed enough to be the first Muslim nation to have a female Prime Minister in Benazir Bhutto. The appointment of Farooq Jehan Taimuri was an example of equality in the entertainment industry.

Farooq Jehan Taimuri presenting a show with Shamim Ara.
Farooq Jehan Taimuri and Begum Sarwari on Radio Pakistan.
Akbar Khan and Farooq Jehan Taimuri present a program on Radio Pakistan
Presidential Address on Radio Pakistan

This is a picture of Noor Jehan recording a song in the studio of Radio Pakistan. She gained popularity during the 1965 war due to her patriotic songs. Her songs were played on the frontlines and were an inspiration for the soldiers fighting the war against India.  

In 1966 Noor Jehan was awarded the Pride of Performance by General Ayub Khan for her contribution to the war efforts.

Noor Jehan singing in the studios of Radio Pakistan

When Pakistan Television (PTV) was launched in 1964 it enjoyed a dominant position in media outlets. Originally only in black and white, colour transmissions were launched in 1976. Classic TV serials of the 1970’s and 1980’s such as Khuda Ki Basti, Shamaand Ankahi were highly successful and are celebrated to this day. The themes of these TV serials were varied, ranging from serious family drama and love stories to satirical commentaries on social issues. However the rule of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) proved to be a setback to the performing arts of Pakistan.

TV serials were censored, and the poetry of famous Sufi poets was banned. Although the era marked a decline of PTV and Radio Pakistan, it is important to note that writers of the time made every effort to express social restrictions and issues of religious intolerance that had become prevalent in society after Zia’s policy of Islamization. An example is the famous TV serial Aangan Terha (Crooked Courtyard) that aired in 1984. The serial was a humorous commentary on societal anxieties and the lack of public tolerance due to President Zia’s policies. However, direct references to Zia’s regime were only made implicitly for fear of persecution. 2002 saw a boom in Pakistani media when President Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008) liberalized the media through an ordinance which allowed the launch of private TV channels. Since then almost fifty channels on entertainment, religion and news have been launched and TV serials have made a comeback on Pakistani TV screens. Although Pakistani media continues to bring inspirational productions to TV screens and the radio, the time when PTV and Radio Pakistan were at their peak is still considered to be the golden age in the history of media productions in Pakistan. TV serials of that era remain immortalized in Pakistan’s cultural heritage as the classics which revolutionized the arts and set the standard for future.

Anarkali was an esteemed production about a love story between Anarkali, a courtesan in the royal court, and Jehangir, the son of Mughal Emperor Akbar.  It started out as a TV play and was such a hit that it was recreated into a film. It helped to increase audience in cinemas during the rule of General Ayub Khan resulting in an increase in consumerism.

Anarkali  - 1960s
Anarkali  - 1960s

A photo of two actors from the TV serial Shama – Rizwan Wasti (extreme right) and Zahoor Ahmed (center right) – discussing matters pensively as two younger men look on from the background during filming.

Shama (Candlelight) - 1968
Shama (Candlelight) - 1968

Javed Shaikh was a part of Shama, a critically acclaimed TV serial, which attracted a lot of attention towards him and enabled him to propel his career as a leading name in the Pakistani film industry.

A female journalist interviews the producer, Qasim Jalali (extreme right) about Shama, which had become a media sensation and a public favourite at that time.

Shama (Candlelight) - 1968
Shama (Candlelight) - 1968

The producer of Shama, Qasim Jalali (extreme right) eyes his surroundings, ensuring meticulous details while standing close to actor Imtiaz Shaikh (extreme left), who played the role of Munshee (book keeper).

The picture shows the cast and crew of ‘Aadhe Chehre’, a TV serial writted by Nusrat Javed, which depicted the socio economic disparities between individuals from different income levels in Pakistan. In this TV serial a young girl from a village moves to the city and feels pressured to conform to urban norms. The TV serial also depicted the costs of breaking taboos, as she was censured heavily by her relatives back home because of her transformation and was accused of shedding her modesty.

‘Aadhe Chehre’ (Half Faces) – 1975
‘Aadhe Chehre’ (Half Faces) – 1975
Shoaib Mansoor’s musical program - 1978

The picture shows Bushra Ansari (Left) and Dr. Amjad Pervez (Right) on the set of a musical program. Bushra Ansari’s hairstyle and attire is influenced by Indian Bollywood films starring Sharmila Tagore which became popular in the 1970’s. Many influences of Bollywood and Hollywood could be seen in Pakistani TV serials post 1970, and the presence of an antique car on set is suggestive of a Western influence on stage design and production.

Mahmood Akhtar (left) and Bushra Ansari (right) star in a medical TV serial where Bushra Ansari plays the role of Dr. Fauzia.

Emergency Ward – 1978
‘Ghar Chota Sa’ (A Small Home) – 1978

Rehan Azhar (right) and Bushra Ansari (left) star in a TV serial Ghar Chota Sa, which was a family drama depicting the problems of an ordinary married couple. TV serials which focused on family issues were a great success at the time as they addressed many stereotypes that were prevalent in Pakistani households about the specific role of the husband and wife in a marriage.

Aabginey was a TV serial written by Fatima Surriya Bajiya which narrated the rich history of Islam with stories of Muslim conquerors.

The play indirectly helped to motivate respect amongst the public for Islamic clerics who were gaining power through General Zia’s regime (1977-1988).

Aabginey 1978-1979
Eid Show – 1981

The photo shows a special comedy show for Eid festivities. Jamshed Ansari (Left), Qazi Wajid (Middle) and Bushra Ansari (Right) can be seen enjoying themselves while they wait for the cameras to turn on. Well-produced entertainment is highly popular during Eid, the largest holiday season in Pakistan, when families come together and partake in the cultural sphere.

Angan Terha was a satirical TV serial that aired on Pakistan television (PTV).  It had dynamic characters that mocked the lack of public tolerance during General Zia’s rule (1978-1988) and played humour on societal distresses.   Actor Saleem Nasir played the character of a hilarious classical dancer-turned-household servant and acts as the embodiment of social satire and mockery in Angan Terha.

Aangan Terha (Crooked Courtyard) – 1984

Bushra Ansari, Kamran Yousuf, Aasif Raza Mir can be seen in the last episode of Aanghan Terrha, where Aasif Raza Mir plays the role of a thief who has come to rob the old couple, but is treated with so much love and kindness that he apologizes and repents before leaving.

Aangan Terha (Crooked Courtyard) – 1984
Aangan Terha (Crooked Courtyard) – 1984
Aangan Terha (Crooked Courtyard) – 1984

Bushra Ansari and Asaam Qazi star in a TV serial about a young social climber who tricks the daughter of a rich man into marrying him and uses her to get ahead. Eventually his wife realizes that she was just a pawn and leaves him. The drama was widely popular at the time and reflected marital relations in Pakistani society. The TV serial also sent out a powerful message to women of that time, and was viewed as groundbreaking in its depictions of marital relationships in a rapidly transforming and industrialized society.

Sangchoor – 1990
Credits: Exhibit

Proofread & Supervised by — Swaleha Alam Shahzada, Executive Director
Theme & Images by — Hira Zahoor, Director, Oral History Project (OHP)
Content Writing by — Sarah Hussain, Assistant Manager, (OHP)
Curated by — Shaikh Danial, Manager Photography, Video & Animation (PVA)

Credits: All media
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