No longer the best of times

Published: December 14, 2012
The writer works as a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune and tweets 

The writer works as a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune and tweets @FarahnazZahidi

The Tanhaiyan sequel has fallen flat, simply. The initial curiosity sale is over. Streets are not deserted when it’s on air.

Most of it is the same, isn’t it? Many familiar faces. Same soothing background score. It’s based on the same mould, which is why we were all so excited initially. For those of us who have seen Tanhaiyan — the legendary original PTV drama which the current sequel is based on — it was more than just a TV serial. It was not just because Shehzad Khalil’s direction was unmatchable. It was not just because it was Haseena Moin’s Midas touch behind the pen that wrote it. Tanhaiyan became a part of who we are.

Yes, the remake’s direction is weak, the screenplay lacks originality and there is a desperation lurking beneath each move and each tonal improvisation of each character to re-enact the glory of the original. But to me, the reason for its lacklustre response is really quite simple. We, as a nation, have changed.

We have changed because a lot has happened in the last 27 years. Especially post 9/11. Ever since, our vocabulary has changed and expanded. Tanhaiyan, back then, could not have had the words and phrases and references we use now. Back then, we did not know what terrorism was. Or suicide bombings. Or banned outfits. Or drone strikes. We were also less aware, because it was, if I were to borrow from Charles Dickens, “the age of innocence”.

We were also less conscious of what is politically correct and what is not. In one episode, as a very lame joke, they refer to the murder of New York Times journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered by extremists. The person I am today does not find a reference to Pearl’s murder funny. This is serious stuff. I also no longer find funny characters on TV serials or advertisements who stutter funny. To me, this is a severe and worrisome dearth of creativity. Stuttering is usually the sign of emotional trauma. Laughing about it is just dim-witted.

But then, our sense of humour has changed, too, hasn’t it? A darker but more witty, quick and street-smart sense of humour has replaced the comedy-of-errors kind of humour of yesteryear Pakistan. But then, we do see genuine signs and symbols of hope. People who are actually making the world better. That is the Pakistan of today.

The fact is, the Tanhaiyan sequel is making a desperate attempt to carry us back to where we once were, while we have moved on. We are more jaded, more aware, a wee bit more awake. We may be politically downtrodden but the average Pakistani can surely spot where something’s wrong.

It would be a naïve hope that Tanhaiyan would catapult us back into our spring of hope. If we see the original even today, we will still be in emotional throngs. It’s also because one thing that is available free of cost in this age of inflation and falling human index levels in Pakistan is emotions. Escapism. Convenient and satisfying. But the sequel is made in today. So, it doesn’t get the same concessions as its original counterpart.

Back then, we had everything before us; today, we don’t have much before us. Back then, we were all going directly to Heaven; today, we are all going directly the other way. I am sure Dickens wrote those lines for the Pakistan of yesterday and today.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (14)

  • Uqaab
    Dec 14, 2012 - 11:56PM

    So? And?


  • Falcon
    Dec 15, 2012 - 12:31AM

    Interesting article. But isn’t it possible that this increased sophistication of the society is also reflective of that loss of innocence. It’s like what we liked as a kid doesn’t make us smile anymore. Does that mean we become wiser by age or too dumb and de-sensitized to see the beauty of life? Is the inability to appreciate simple things in life a sign of progress or a self-imposed mantle of sophistication and consumerism that we are suffocating under?Recommend

  • zainab ghani
    Dec 15, 2012 - 1:12AM

    totally agree! yes we have changed as a nation, but the truth of the matter is that the sequel is just tooooo lame! it is so bad that i do not have the words to describe the pathetic script and the over acting! Plus its heavily branded with that Olper’s Milk which completely takes away the credibility of the show altogether. Even the “intekhaab” terminology has been used in the script and the milk pak is blatanly showed on the screen! Its shameful!


  • Huma
    Dec 15, 2012 - 1:40AM

    Cynical much? It’s not the best thing on tv, but then neither is it the worst. And I at least wasn’t looking for a recreation of a nostalgic time, though I hate the fact that they have apparently killed off Zara. That to me is worse than the see-saw quality of the drama. Don’t analyse it so much. Just take it as a way to pass time. Cheer up!


  • Saba Khalid
    Dec 15, 2012 - 2:03AM

    This is the first op-ed I’ve actually enjoyed reading. Excellent


  • Visibly Invisible
    Dec 15, 2012 - 2:41AM



  • Sidrah
    Dec 15, 2012 - 8:55AM

    You actually think Pakistanis are concerned about being politically correct? Really?


  • Ghufran Ahmad
    Dec 15, 2012 - 1:08PM

    The article is emphasising that the nation has moved on since long, but is not realising that the characters and drama has also moved on to new times. Try to see it in the context of new times and give the serial a chance for few more episodes and then judge. All the serials are bit dull in the begining. But they take off later on. Lets hope this one does too.

    Its also not right to say that now we know what is politically correct. If we knew we would have elected right leaders, we would protest on many issues and we would be instrumental in shaping up the politics of the country. One thing is for sure. Pakistan is hope and things can only become better now. Its just a matter of time


  • sabi
    Dec 15, 2012 - 2:12PM

    Original has one thing extra to its advantage-Nostagia.That is why, original is original.
    Well written.


  • F
    Dec 15, 2012 - 4:17PM

    “Back then, we had everything before us; today, we don’t have much before us. Back then, we were all going directly to Heaven; today, we are all going directly the other way. I am sure Dickens wrote those lines for the Pakistan of yesterday and today.”

    Who cares about Dickens when you have Maudidi. Even today you are going to heaven. These are the best of times for the believers just as they were 27 years ago under Gen. Zia.


  • gujranwala789
    Dec 15, 2012 - 9:18PM

    “Back then, we did not know what terrorism was.”

    I think this might not be true, eventhough I was a 6 year old kid back in 1985 but I still remember there was a terror group in those day too , it was called “Hathaura group” who used to kill people by giving blows of hammer to their head. The terror of “Hathaura group” was making headlines every now and then and everyone was scared of them.


  • noorilhuda
    Dec 16, 2012 - 1:25AM

    Without philosophizing like the writer here does, the fact is whoever thought remaking Tanhayian or doing a sequel to Tanhaiyan was a great idea is the dumbest guy/girl on earth. You can’t beat perfection. And you can’t remake it either. Especially with a cast that has moved on – Behroze Sabzwari is no longer known simply as Qabacha, nor is Marina Khan mere second fiddle to Shehnaz Sheikh – who btw very cleverly decided to stay away from the atrocious thing being sold as ‘remake’. It was clearly a way to earn a few fast bucks. And frankly, whoever waited to see the sequel Tanhayian isn’t all that bright either! Tanhiyan was glamorous and simple at the same time – but most importantly, it is forever young. A rotund Sania or balding Qabacha is NOT Tanhiyan – that’s real life! The writer is wrong that times have changed. Times were pretty cruel during Tanhaiyan as well. It was just a wrong decision to remake a classic.


  • Zed
    Dec 16, 2012 - 3:16AM

    Age of Innocence? Charles Dickens?
    Its Edith Wharton.


  • Aslam Hayat
    Dec 16, 2012 - 9:35AM

    It is true “the age of innocence” is gone. It is a gift of post 9/11 era. Malala Usafzai is a good example.The media is also to be blamed for its commercialism. We are ever closer to ‘realism’ than ‘romanticism’. Time has robbed us of our innocence.


More in Opinion