Saturday, December 6, 2008

Punjabi Antenna

PTC channels race ahead
Randeep Wadehra

PTC channels have improved the quality of their shows tremendously, sending the TRPs zooming
PTC channels have improved the quality of their shows tremendously, sending the TRPs zooming

THE twin channels—PTC Punjabi and PTC News— have not taken much time to capture the lion’s share of the viewership, thus ousting the Zee group from its perch at the top. The reasons are clear enough. Almost the entire creative-cum-administrative staff, including many journalists, has migrated to PTC from Zee. Rabindra Narayan and Rajiee M. Shinde—PTC’s president and CEO—were formerly Zee Punjabi’s top brass.

Moreover, the PTC group has bagged exclusive rights for live telecast of Gurbani from Harmandar Sahib, thus sending the TRPs zooming to the stratosphere.

Quality freelance documentaries like Wing Commander (retd.) A.S. Bedi’s on writer-poet-philosopher Devinder Satyarthi—telecast in November—help enhance the channel’s popularity. Moreover, PTC News has become the most extensive news network in the region. It is impacting the grassroots level governance with its investigative reportage, sting operations, stirring talk shows and well-researched documentaries. One can gauge the intensity of this impact from the frequency of the choicest gaalis and even violence resorted to by those exposed. For instance, liquor vendors in Mohali, who were caught on camera selling hooch on October 2, almost bashed up the reporter.

This column has been relentlessly pitching for quality TV dramas and soaps. On November 8 PTC Punjabi began two daily serials that are set in Pakistani milieu. The first one, Najiah, is based on Razia Butt’s best-selling novel. It depicts changing relationships which become fickle with the passage of time. The story’s main protagonist is a girl named Najiah, who belongs to a poor family and goes to great lengths in order to give happiness to her family. Shot extensively in Mauritius, the serial traces the trials and tribulations of Najiah.

The other serial, Koi Lamha Gulab Ho, has Faiqa as its protagonist. She is secretary to a rich and manipulative woman who uses every trick to marry off her cancer-afflicted son. Although the tempo of both the serials is slow, the manner in which various characters’ mindscapes are explored is interesting. However, one wishes that the language was Punjabi. Would the Punjabi producers from this side of the border take up the challenge?

The Masters:-Sitaare Punjab De debuted on PTC Punjabi with a curtain raiser on November 15, with Hans Raj Hans as the first featured maestro. He regaled the audience with Sufiana kalaam sung in different styles—khayal (Megh raag), Qafee and quawwali. What gave heart was the majority presence of youngsters among the audience which listened to the singer with rapt attention—sans impromptu bhangra, untimely clapping or uncalled for heckling, whistling and hooting.

Another striking feature of the show was the old world mannerisms and courtesies coupled with the charming ambience created by the imaginatively-fashioned set and camerawork. It appears that the long lost Punjabi tehzeeb is being resurrected. If it happens, and endures, substantial credit should go to The Masters.

The Miss PTC Punjabi 2008 grand finale proved to be grand in every sense of the term—imaginatively created onstage ambience, fantastic performances by the contestants as well as the invited singing stars, great camerawork with compere Satinder Satti in her elements (barring a few slips of the tongue—the professional hazard live show anchors face), whose humorous interaction with the audience, pithy verses et al, kept the cold-induced stupor at bay.

This extravaganza was qualitatively miles ahead of its earlier avatars as Miss Zee-ETC Punjaban. And, now the channel is organising a world beauty pageant.