Sterile Jinnah

Pakistan has never had any Jinnah: he was always the Quaid-e-Azam. Attempts to dig out the human being inside the Great Leader have been discouraged as being anti-Pakistan; in fact, Jinnah´s private life was never shown on TV prior to 1976 when his birth centenary was celebrated. But even the Quaid-e-Azam has never really been publicly projected, except through official photographs and some film footage kept by the government. So when the Pakistani government constituted a Golden Jubilee Celebration Committee, one of the ideas discussed was for Pakistan Television (ptv) to "do something" on Jinnah in order to "show the real man". It fell on TV producer Mohsin Ali, a member of the committee in his capacity as PTV´s Karachi Director of Programmes; to make a documentary on the Quaid. Given such a context, Ali did what every producer employed by the government would do: pass the research buck on to others. It was never taken up as an extensive research assignment and what emerged was all flesh and blood, no real man. Somebody with a lot of outside particulars but no detail. Sum up everything and you get nothing.

True to its reputation when it comes to projects initiated from the top, the ptv people thought more about how to tackle the higher-ups rather than the project. In the meantime, along came anthropologist Akbar S. Ahmed´s idea of a feature film, Jinnah, which swept everybody away. Soon Ali was telling all and sundry that his "Jinnah" would pale in comparison with the movie. This defeatism helped him convince everybody that he need not work very hard. Which, of course, goes to explain the quality of acting one sees in his seven-episode serial jinnah se Quaid tak (From Jinnah to Quaid).

"We never went for professional actors because they have their own personalities that people relate to," Ali clarifies. "For us, it was more important that our cast should look like the people they are going to represent." Shehryar Jehangir who played Jinnah for most of the serial and Mudassir Shah who takes over towards the end, are thoroughly unsatisfactory in their roles. Even fellow actors agree. Some of them, like Nagin Shah who plays Ruttie Jinnah, say that because of Mudassir Shah the last episode was even worse than the rest of the serial. She herself never got to work extensively on her role. Ditto for Pervez Rehan, PTV´s Gandhi. "We never rehearsed seriously," Rehan admits. "They gave me the script, asked me to read it out, corrected my pronunciation once, and that was it."

Even so, the serial was keenly watched by many and pulled people back to ptv after a long time, away from the satellite soaps. They were eager to learn all they could about this man named Jinnah. Unfortunately, they got little worth their time, except for some scenes which emphasised Jinnah´s progressive views on the importance of educating women. While it is true that emphasising such messages cannot be scoffed at in a country like Pakistan, one can be certain Jinnah wouldn´t be amused with the final product.

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