The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saas, bahu rule soaps across border
- Ekta Kapoor’s K-serials and local clones top Pakistan charts

Mumbai, March 19: They could pass off as “Klones”, only the K-word is missing. And instead of heavily embroidered sarees, it’s salwar kameezes.

The women look as pretty, processed and bogged down by glittering costume jewellery; the sets are stuffed with as much kitschy furniture and every episode is inspired by the same subtle intent on part of the saas, or the doosri aurat, to malign the bahu.

Ekta Kapoor hasn’t actually produced a serial for PTV, but she is the reigning queen of soap in Pakistan, too.

According to one of the leading television software houses in Pakistan, family dramas on the small screen were reinvented following the success of the K-serials.

“All our top-ranking serials are inspired by Ekta Kapoor,” says Mohammad Jerjees Seja, the executive director of Evernew Entertainment, the Pakistani media house that was in Mumbai to attend Frames, the Ficci entertainment convention.

“There’s Mehndi, there’s Kabhi Kabhi Pyar Mein and Chandni Ratein from Evernew alone. Another such serial is in the offing, which will be called Jaise Jaante Nahin,” he adds.

The opening conceit may be slightly different. In Mehndi, the Colour of Emotions, a mega hit on PTV, a father with four daughters marries them off the same day, thinking that he has got rid of his responsibilities. But problems begin from Day 1 after the weddings — and the problems have a generic name: kitchen politics.

Even the stills of the serial look like they have been issued by Balaji Telefilms, with the smiling couples looking like they have just stepped out of a photo-shoot for upmarket wedding finery.

“It’s the same thing as here,” says Seja. “It’s about the same moneyed class, where they don’t have to worry about money or anything really. So they worry about the small problems between family members.”

“Ekta Kapoor knows how influenced we are by her,” says Seja. He adds that Sajjad Gul, CEO of Evernew group, also the oldest and biggest film production house in Pakistan that veered into television software after the film industry nose-dived, has interacted with Kapoor often.

Chandni Ratein was another record-breaking serial from Evernew. It had a man who wanted children but could not have them from his wife, going in for a second marriage. The second wife – you guessed it – turns out to be vile, and everyone suddenly starts pining for the good, first bahu.

“There is one difference between our serials and yours,” says Seja. “All our serials have a 13-episode format.” So at least there is no scope to repeat the reincarnations rampant in the K-serials.

Seja doesn’t need to elaborate the plot of Jaise Jaante Nahin, the forthcoming attraction. “It’s the same,” he says.

The female leads of the soaps are as popular. For a Smriti Irani here, there’s an Amna Haque (who acts in Mehndi); for a Shweta Katra here, there’s Sadia Imam. Their characters are as much of household names, standing for the same set of wifely virtues as a Tulsi or Kkusum here.

The originals are also there. Since Pakistan gets the satellite entertainment channels beamed here, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kkusum are delivered in person into Pakistani homes and rate as the highest viewed programmes on the satellite channels there, too.

Nausheen Sardar Ali, the actress who formerly used to play Kkusum, was booked by a Pakistani serial as soon as she was out of Ekta’s factory: she is now shooting for the serial in Dubai.

Evernew has so far shown its serials on PTV alone. It’s the government-owned terrestrial channel.

The television industry in Pakistan has taken other cues from the industry here. “The GEO news channel is modelled after Aaj Tak,” says Seja. Anu Kapur is as much a popular host for a music programme on a channel there called Gayegi Duniya Geet Mere.

Evernew is here looking for a joint production with an Indian company. “It will be the first joint production between two houses from the two countries,” says Seja.

The television industry in Pakistan, based in Karachi, is more modern and professional than the film industry, which is based in Lahore.

With technology on its side, it has made rapid advances in the last few years. “We used to make four to five family dramas five years back. But this year, about 70 soaps are in the pipeline,” Seja says.

He adds that seven to eight satellite channels will be launched soon. Last year, advertisement revenues went up by 16 per cent for the industry, he says.

Seja doesn’t forget to remind, though, that Pakistani serials are also very popular in India. “There’s a huge viewership of these serials in India. But it is viewed on VCDs as they are not telecast here,” he says.

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