“Karachi… maza araha hai [having fun]?” This was catchline of the youth-cetric radio show, which made Mani and Azfar household favourites. However, before being recognised as the unspoken mascots of Karachi on radio waves, they registered their faces on a more mainstream level through Sab Set Hai — an improvised sitcom that aired on Indus Vision in 2001 and introduced colloquial expressions that are now a part of our daily lives.
The Mani-Azfar duo was one of the most hilarious comedy pairings of Pakistan’s private media. The two shared impeccable comic timing and were the trendsetters of the new wave of comedy programming that replaced the bygone days of PTV. With different TV shows, campaigns and a collaborative telefilm Ab Set Hai, success came through when they laced up their boots for a shared joyride. However, the ride didn’t last too long due to a major fallout between the two artistes about five years ago.
They tactfully veil the real reason behind their clash in a candid conversation with The Express Tribune, in which they announced the making of Sab Set Hai Too — a present-day rendition of Sab Set Hai and the reason behind their reunion.
“We are not biological brothers, but we spent more time with each other than brothers usually do,” recalls Mani. “There was no specific reason for our fallout. It’s just that when you have spent so much time together, you eventually start getting irritated by each other and even the smallest thing can trigger a major argument”.
For Mani, working with Azfar provided him with the kind of room and chemistry he needed to speak his heart out, something that he missed even while working with his wife, Hira. It was this urge to get back in their comfort zones and the idea of bringing back Sab Set Hai, which made them decide to let bygones be bygones and start working on their ‘baby’ again.
What will this new rendition of Sab Set Hai be about,and how will it be different? After all, Mani and Azfar are no longer as young or as earnest as they used to be 13 years ago.
“Karachi might have evolved and gotten even more populated in 13 years, but it’s thought process hasn’t changed. The only change is development in technology — from dial-up connections to 24/7 Skype — and this will be a seminal part of our new spin on the sitcom,” explains Azfar.
On the other hand, Azfar recently separated from his wife, Salma Hasan to marry VJ-turned-actor Naveen Waqar. Since Salma was the female lead of the original play, will the personal matter impact the casting of the actors? “All the personal matters have been sorted out with Salma and I approached her to play the female lead, but she refused due to professional preferences. Mani, Tipu and I will continue to be the key characters, but we have yet to decide the female lead,” says Azfar, who will be writing and directing the sitcom.
The duo is high on ambition and experience, but one wonders whether the show will have the same impact again, especially with sitcoms like Bulbulay and Qudusi Sahab Ki Bewa, ruling the airwaves. Will a youth-oriented show work?
“Why won’t it work?” asks Mani. “Till when will channels repeat the Bulbulay formula? It’s done and dusted,” he adds.
Azfar, on the other hand, has a different take on the matter. “We are not trying to compete with anyone; we are just trying to have fun. The sitcom will cater to the audiences who were in their teens back then and now have their own kids. We are catering to our loyal fans, not their children. We can’t cater to the youngest lot. After all, even we have aged as much as our viewers.”
Sab Set Hai Too is all set to air in four months. Till then, the duo is looking for the right TV channel to sell it to.
Edit: The telefilm in the original version of the article was erroneously mentioned as Sab Set Hai. The correct name of the telefilm is Ab Set Hai.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2014.