The debate on whether we should have dubbed Turkish soap operas on our channels shown at prime time is getting more and more heated. Now soap operas like The Bold and the Beautiful and The Days of our Lives and numerous others in America and other countries have gone on for decades. So much so, that the stories have moved on in terms of generations of actors. They are all much the same, depicting the intricacies of human relationships and behavior and the circumstances that shape certain responses, in short, the full masala. While soap operas like the ones mentioned have become boring and common place for viewers in other countries where they were introduced many decades ago, they are still a novelty factor here. The adoration which was given to the just concluded Turkish play dubbed Ishq-e-Mamnoon was nothing short of phenomenal. I did try to watch it but, somehow, never found it as engrossing or as watchable as some of our own plays and have to admit that I was among the small minority who did not get hooked.Given the success of the Ishq-e-Mamnoon experience private channels are bringing in more such dubbed plays for the viewers. This has led to extreme insecurity among our producers and actors who do not want any foreign content to be shown at prime time, a slot for which 7 to 10 pm daily would qualify I suppose. Their argument is that what is being shown in these plays does not reflect our culture and will not be a good influence on our mindsets and what the censor does not allow them to do should also not be allowed in the foreign content. They also argue strongly that our drama industry will wither like our film industry if this pattern continues.I, as an avid fan of our locally produced TV plays, do not agree with this entire hullabaloo at all. When the newness of the Turkish plays has worn off the viewer attraction for them will tire too. Simply because we will always identify with and thus enjoy more what is the depiction of our own circumstances and culture. And besides, our TV drama has proved beyond a shadow of doubt, time and time again, how good it can be. It has come of age and I cannot relate to this rona dhona being done by our top-of-the-line actors, producers egged on by talk show hosts who need a fire to fan anyway, on a daily basis. Instead of being fired by competition they want the easy way out. Just ban the stuff. And the easiest way to try and get something banned is by saying it is too modern and thus unfit for local consumption.I do not think that our people or culture are made of such weak stuff that a puff from here and another one from there will just blow them away. In fact, exposure to lifestyles of other people in the world will serve more as information and education. Awareness is always better than being kept in a secluded bubble. At too many places we tend to mix our culture, traditions and religion and confuse ourselves in the bargain as to which is the best course to follow. For, is it not a fact that Turkey, UAE and Malaysia are among the best examples of modern Islamic states and not threatened at all by non-issues like these.The entertainment events on TV from India are also a bane in some people’s lives. They claim that they will adversely affect our morals and that it is India’s attack on us, albeit with a twist! As though our morals, discounting the national track record for corruption, are anybody’s for the picking! I just think that there are some things that India has become very good with over the years and that includes its entertainment industry. While our films have suffered we have more than made up for that loss by attracting and honing great talent to our TV drama production. We only come out very poorly when we try to ape some of the Indian programmes like their dance shows for example. But we more than make up in our music. Another thing that the Indians can learn from us is good humour. Being funny I think comes naturally to us which is just as well given our economy because if we could not joke about it we would probably just die of depression! Our fashion industry too does us proud as do our indigenous poets, writers, sufis and mystics. There is a lot that is wonderful about this interesting country and its people.The debate on too much foreign content on our TV channels is completely unnecessary because it is a non-issue and a passing phenomenon. We will revert to our favourite writers and dramas when the novelty of watching good looking Turkish men and women conversing in Urdu has worn off. The debate on how the elected members of the National Assembly do not pay taxes, however, is another story and must not be allowed to get cold. As general elections approach it will be so much more fruitful to tell the voting public who has declared how much so that they elect people with their eyes open. It is also so important for those contesting to identify with our huge problems and give their suggestions and solutions instead of bad-mouthing one another.

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.Email: tallatazim@yahoo.comTwitter: @tallatazim.