Golden era of television remembered at launch of book on documentaries
Among all the productions for television viewers, which include dramas, news, current affairs shows and musical programmes, the art of television documentary is arguably the most challenging, as it takes a lot of hard work, knowledge and insight to produce a good documentary.
This view was echoed on Saturday night by academics and multiple television personalities of yesteryear who had gathered at the Arts Council for the launch of former Pakistan Television (PTV) producer Nazimuddin’s book titled ‘Documentary: Tareekh-o-Irtiqa’ (Documentary: History and Evolution).
It was claimed that the book being launched was the first-ever to have been written in Urdu on the history of documentary. The author himself is considered one of the greatest documentary producers to have worked for the state television.
The speakers said his productions were also featured at international awards. Among his notable documentaries are ‘Thar After Rains’ and ‘Wetlands of Pakistan’, both of which were talked about repeatedly at the event.
The launch was hosted by another former PTV producer, Iqbal Lateef, who said he and Nazimuddin were among those 14 producers who were inducted into the PTV in 1975 after a written test that around 6,000 aspirants had taken.
Politician and former television personality Mehtab Akbar Rashdi made poignant remarks as she lamented the decline in the standards of the state television. “The day the concept of marketing was introduced at the PTV, everything got destroyed,” she said.
About the art of documentary making, she cited academic Prof Nisar Ahmed Zuberi, also one of the speakers at the launch, who had remarked that “documentary is the creative use of actuality”.
Mehtab said that as documentaries are not fictional accounts, we have to show what is actually happening in the world, and thus the art of documentary lies in showing the actual world in a beautiful way.
As she was the only female speaker, she concluded her speech by quipping that she was grateful to the organisers for not ensuring gender balance, due to which she, being the only woman, became prominent among all the speakers.
Former producer Ishrat Ansari recalled his production of the documentary series ‘Sailani Ke Saath’ that was penned and voiced by Obaidullah Baig.
He said that it might be the biggest documentary series in the entire world after the National Geographic, as Baig had covered the entire Pakistan, which also included Bangladesh at that time, for the series.
Ansari said Nazimuddin was the master of documentary making. He added that when he had started working on Sailani Ke Saath, he knew nothing about the art of documentaries and he undertook the task as a challenge given to him by the legend Aslam Azhar.
Another producer of yesteryear, M Zaheer Khan, said a producer is the most important person behind any TV programme.
He said a producer must realise whatever they are making will be seen by families, and thereby will have effects on our culture and collective sensibilities, due to which it is a job that requires highly cultured, learned and responsible people.
Earlier, the television used to propagate and sustain cultural values, but now the medium has been causing deterioration in society, he lamented.
The author, who resides in Canada these days, said he wrote the book because he wanted some legacy of him to be remembered. He added that he thought of writing a book on documentary in Urdu because there had been no book on the subject in the national language.
The book is divided into two parts, the first of which covers the world history of documentary and how the art changed globally with time. Nazimuddin said he wrote the first part after extensive reading at libraries in the Canadian cities of Toronto and Mississauga and on the internet.
The second part covers the evolution of documentary making in Pakistan from the initial days of the PTV until the current era, in which the likes of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy have brought local works to the Oscars.
Prof Ziaur Rehman Zia, who wrote the scripts of almost all the documentaries produced by Nazimuddin, and others also spoke at the event.