Aunn Zara (pitch-perfect Punjabi)

Zindagi Gulzar Hai….“I felt like I was caught in a
time warp”… Ritu can relate, she grew up in Delhi listening to
stories from the old Punjab narra­ted by her grandmother who had
mig­rated to India during the Partition.

The story of four great languages of South Asia (yes, all other languages are great as well).

Punjabi has faced tremendous head-winds following partition but is now enjoying a renaissance (one problem is that Punjabi Hindus prefer Hindi).
Bangla has benefited due to an independent Bangladesh which fought for the right to speak the language (Bengalis on both sides of the border are united in their love for the language).
Hindi marches on as the national language of India (and now preferred by the Prime Minister when speaking to foreign dignitaries), even though historically it had faced tremendous resistance in the South (and now only Tamil Nadu is proud to be an outlier). With BJP coming to power the Hindu-Hindi camp will be further strengthened.
Urdu has faced ups and downs, it is the national language of Pakistan, but it has been vilified as the language of Muslim invaders (85% of  India) and next as the mother tongue of Pakistani imperialists (50% of Bangladesh), and now it is also under threat from Sindhi and Pashto (and Punjabi).

All these one-time great languages (even Tamil) will ultimately lose out to English as it is the language of the elites…..even your (English) accent can identify your place/class in society. As an indicator- Hinglish is now officially permitted in Govt communications in India.

Thus it is wonderful to see people appreciating cultural treasures in their own language. From an Indian perspective, it points to a bygone era (similar to Mad Men). The generation that loves this stuff will gradually die away. In the meantime Pakistan is slowly losing out to the charms of Turkish TV. Ultimately we will all be drowned in the same-same hybrid culture with no meaningfulness. And worst of all, no appreciation of proper pronounciation!!!

  • Zindagi Gulzar Hai
    The story is about Kashaf Murtaza and her two sisters who are
    brought up by a single mother. Kashaf marries rich boy Zaroon Junaid,
    the serial traces their ups and downs.
  • Aunn Zara
    A coming-of-age story of young couple Aunn and Zara and how they
    come to terms with family, responsibility, freedom, friendship, love.
  • Kaash Main Teri Beti Na Hoti
    The tragic tale of a young girl sold off to a married man, and her travails later.
  • Kitni Girhain Aaki Hain
    A satire based on the ironies and harsh realities of a young woman’s life in Pakistan.

A young woman in her 20s sits scribbling under a fluorescent lamp in a
dimly-lit room. Her thoughts are those of any girl her age—marriage, a
career and the general struggle of getting by. Zindagi Gulzar Hai,
a Pakistani serial now being aired on Zee Zindagi, started off on this
rather mundane vein but it’s struck an instant chord with viewers, at
least in north India. 

Launched this June, Zee’s new and much-hyped
channel has four Pakistani serials capturing the mood on the other side
of the border. Shailja Kejriwal, Zee’s chief creative officer, special
projects, spent nearly two years scrolling through and handpicking
content that would resonate with Indian audiences. Next on the line is
something more substantial—Pakistani films.

“The basic idea was to reacquaint Indian audiences with culture from
acr­oss the border. Pakistani television has bought a lot of content
from here, including daily soaps and Bollywood films. So this is a great
way for us also to connect, both at the audience level and at an
art­istic and cultural level,” says Shailja. And it seems to be working. 

Ardent TV soap add­ict Ritu was ecstatic after watching the first
episode of Zindagi Gulzar Hai. “I felt like I was caught in a
time warp,” she says. Ritu can relate, she grew up in Delhi listening to
stories from the old Punjab narra­ted by her grandmother who had
mig­rated to India during the Partition.

The initial surge in viewership is also an indication of how parched
Indian viewers are for balanced and bona fide characters. Compared to
Indian soaps, with its women always in gaudy dresses, make-up and
jewellery (even at the breakfast table!) and its over-the-top melodrama,
the imports from across the border do seem more realistic and less
shrill. Mani Sandhu, an avid viewer from Punjab, writes on Facebook: “Aunn Zara
is a fresh kind of story. My mother, who hardly watches television, is a
big fan of the serial because of the characters, the pitch-perfect
Punjabi accent, reminiscent of ’60s Punjab.” 

Now this is no new phenomenon. For decades, Indian audiences had been hooked to Pak serials like Humsafar, Dhoop Kinare and Ankahee, before the great transition took place at home with Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. 

“Compared to the Indian soaps, the acting is much better in Pakistani
serials. They also look more realistic and are more slow-paced than
American soaps,” says media critic Shailaja Bajpai. “In Zindagi Gulzar Hai,
the plot is clear by the second episode. It also has a youthful appeal.
The serials talk about women empowerment and problems faced by
middle-class families…which makes it all the more relatable.”

But not all Pakistani serials are about strong women or progressive families. Take Kitne Girhain Baaki Hai,
which deals with honour killing. The protagonist, a young girl, is
killed by her bro­ther bec­ause she marries against the family’s
wis­hes. The serial then doesn’t quite den­­ounce this ghastly act, with
none of the male characters, especially the girl’s father, repentant
about what they have done. The female characters, though educated, still
lead a retrograde life, taunted for being divorcees. They have to
remain low-key and, of course, there are the aforementioned honour

The top Indian soaps, in that sense, are a lot more ‘modern’. Diya Aur Baati Hum
in fact has a heroine fighting a feudal mindset to become a top cop. So
why are Indian viewers lapping up the Pakistani stuff? “Well, the
situations shown in these serials are certainly more realistic,” says
Shashi Mittal, who has scripted Diya Aur Baati Hum. “Some of
them do have outdated themes but there is still a large audience in
India which is yet to come to terms with modernisation. Our audience is
huge, it can absorb both types of content—medieval as well as modern.”

Navjot Gulati, who’s penned the script for Shoojit Sircar’s,
says deep down Indian society is as reg­ressive as Pakistan’s. “But I’m
glad Paki­stani serials are being shown. At least, the Indian serial
writers will be forced to write better scripts. Back in the ’90s, Indian
TV was as good as the films, but now the focus is numbers rather than
creativity. The corporate structure is flawed and most good writers are
not interested in writing for television.” 

The best script, then, would
be if a serial pops up with the realism/nuances of a Pakis­tani soap but
with a more gutsy storyline on women and the ills of society.





Brown Pundits