KARACHI: Love him or hate him, VJ-turned-TV show-host Waqar Zaka has a cult following. How else would you explain his success in conducting reality show Living on the Edge for the past five years? On this show, Zaka asks contestants to perform the wildest dares on screen; these stunts have made his show more popular than any other reality show in Pakistan.
“If a fan says the most daring thing he can do is slap his mother, then that is what he finds daring — I didn’t ask him for it,” says Zaka, the producer, host and judge of the show, explaining that he doesn’t request these absurd dares and they are suggested to him. “We are a nation that needs to be tamed and with my show, I am giving Pakistanis a chance to vent their frustration,” Zaka tells The Express Tribune. “It’s better that they vent on my show than on someone else on the street.”
He explains that a show like Living on the Edge is not easy to format because every season requires a different plan. Previous seasons of the show included Speed Demon, which was about dares involving cars and races, while another season Sabse Himmat Wala Kon, involved challenging and strenuous dares. For the upcoming season, Zaka is enthusiastic about launching the concept of the ‘biggest brain in Pakistan’ — a show which has nothing to do with one’s IQ level.
“It has nothing to do with your intelligence and everything to do with your presence of mind, for which even the biggest losers [academically] have made the cut,” says Zaka.
Despite having high ratings and the continuous branding of Mountain Dew associated with his show, Zaka is still not well-respected; some label him “cheap” and “maila”.
“The only reason people love to hate me is because I am dark and skinny and not a buffed up handsome dude. Had someone more presentable been doing the same show, no one would have objected to anything,” says Zaka.
Viewers feel that the dares on his show are cheap tricks, but the ratings have increased every year. He believes that Pakistan is an entertainment-starved nation, and says five more shows like Living on the Edge will be just as popular as this.
“Lawyers are one of the most educated and respected professionals in the world. Just look at the way Pakistani lawyers behave on the streets and you’ll realise why Pakistan needs a show like this,” says Zaka with a smirk. “[My show] is not Sir Syed’s two-nation theory or Manto’s short story, so you shouldn’t be looking for a moral. It is purely reality-based entertainment for a ‘masala parast’ nation.”
Zaka’s interaction with the youth has led him to believe that it will do anything for fame. “The biggest strength of young people today is that they can do anything to get fame and become heroes. But their biggest weakness is that they don’t have a plan,” he says.
As the fifth season of his reality show goes on air, Zaka is all set to take on a political angle in programming with his next venture titled Mae Banoonga Minister. “I’ll be going to each and every political party to get a ticket and take part in elections; that’s the only entertaining way of telling our youth how to be a part of the system,” he says.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2013.
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