Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Documentary makers who refuse to learn

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When the great and peerless Obaidullah Baig (OB) passed away last year, I wrote a piece in Express Tribune. In my praise for that unmatched human, I lamented how we had not learned a thing from him. Among other things I vented my spleen on this current crop of so-called documentary makers that plague the worthless private TV channels: they are ignorant as ignorant can be and they speak an atrocious language which is neither English nor Urdu. Yet, with no knowledge of anything, they claim to be making documentaries.

Among the readers’ comments to this, one Tariq Ahsan wrote to say he was appalled at the language I had used in my criticism of TV presenters who say, ‘We have reached so and so place, let’s ask the chowkidar about its history!’ For crying out loud, the moron has not read anything himself and is relying on a semi-literate chowkidar to be familiar with history.

Ahsan’s words copied from the paper’s website: ‘Surprised that someone is using such harsh language against the youth and chowkidars. People may be competent or otherwise, but all occupations are worthy. Elderly chowkidars are usually very wise. Youth deserve a chance. If the author concretely points out their mistake instead of calling them “zombies” they could actually learn from him and improve.’

I only wrote that if the chowkidar could know the history of, say, Taxila, then he would not be a chowkidar. He would be the Director of the Taxila Museum or the DG Archeology. Incidentally, in this the chowkidar would definitely be a darn sight more competent and effective than my friend Fazal Dad Kakar, PhD! He has, thankfully, spared the department by retiring from service having reached the age of superannuation.

No matter how long a chowkidar serves and how elderly he gets, he can never understand the intricacies of history and archeology. He simply does not have the intellectual background to grasp things. This is something you do not glean from listening to some few people and barely understanding what is being said, because most of the time it is in English. Knowledge comes only from books and the guidance of profound teachers.

As for the youth that Tariq Ahsan defends. I reiterate that these people who are making these third-rate documentaries for these fifth-rate television channels are all brain dead. No, they will never learn. They are so full of themselves that there is room for nothing else to go in. My critic wishes me to point out ‘concretely’ what is wrong with this youth. Everything. They hate books. They do not read. They cannot speak more than three words of Urdu together; nor indeed as many of English. Their only smattering of information comes from net surfing. Yet they are possessed of this impudence to call themselves documentary makers. They should have learned a thing or two from OB. Shame on them that they did not. And shame on the TV channels that run their rubbish.

There will be readers quick to say that I am writing this out of spite because I don’t get to make documentaries any longer. Well, I’m 61; I’ve had my moment in the sun. I now have a pate as shiny as a dome of chrome and as of the past winter, a rather ungainly paunch. I will look silly on TV trying to go up and down hills.

Related: Sindhia mein Sikandar [Documentary -  Alexander's Campaign in Pakistan - 13 episodes ]

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 13 July 2013 at 13:53, Anonymous M Behzad Jhatial said...

An important issue...But sir, I have a question. Don't you think all that stuff which you call as art comes with blood. It's insight. I think we can,t learn it. We can just polish it. Same goes for documentaries plus the commercialized attitude of media. So it's better raise some voice which you have done... Nicely written.....

At 13 July 2013 at 16:22, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Behzad, raising a sane voice never makes any difference. But I have done it regardless.

At 13 July 2013 at 21:58, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone said about OB, "Baig was Pakistan’s Google personified."

At 14 July 2013 at 06:48, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Truer words could not have been said. OB was indeed Pakistan's Google.

At 21 July 2013 at 14:55, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do think these folks could possibly learn if there were someone, say competent producers, to guide them. But yes only those among them who are interested. Those who just want to make a documentary to get the work in their resume would simple not care about the quality of the research. However, I do understand your point and I share your frustration about contemporary ill-researched documentaries. As a matter of fact, the field of archeology in Pakistan in its entirety is in jeopardy. I went to the Derawar fort the other day and its ruins tell the story of how much we value our treasures as a people.

At 22 July 2013 at 10:13, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Haroon, What do you expect from an accursed nation that insists on giving up its real name to bastardise itself as Al-Bakistan? How do you expect it to have any pride in its own culture?


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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days