Praying for a respite from 'Shoania' at a press meet in Hyderabad India (Source: The Guardian)
Granted that the saga itself is nothing short of farcical - will they, won't they, was he married before, who was he married to before, was he deceived, did he dump her because she was fat, will he get arrested, will they live in Pakistan, will she serve for Pakistan, will she continue to wear mini-skirts, what the hell does she see in him in the first place, who was the girl whose photographs he fell for, can he divorce his first wife if he was not married to her, blah blah blah - but the way the electronic media in particular on both sides of the border have decided to devote their considerable energies to it has raised it to the level of some sort of Divine Comedy.
Indian television has long gone the tabloid route but we in Pakistan seem also to be finding our feet in the high-stakes game of the celebrity-story being milked for more than it's worth in viewer ratings. Anyone remember Meera? And who would, of course, be leading the charge here but Geo.
That is not to say that the other channels are far behind (except for DawnNews, of course, but then it's usually behind, for better or worse) but everyone has taken their lead from the market leader. Not only did Geo pioneer the use (in Pakistan) of film music as background score to news stories, they have provided hourly updates on the wedding saga (including the problems faced by the couple in shopping), developed animated characters of the couple that make an appearance during news bulletins, taken random opinion polls of the public, and even broadcast full fledged panel-based programmes to discuss, among other things, the possible menu for the shadi and valima.
Here's today's 9 o' clock news bulletin. Keep in mind that this 'event' has been carrying on now for about a week (and we're only leading up to the wedding still) and in the meanwhile, Pakistan also put through one of its most extensive reforms of the constitution. From roundabout counter 21:15 to 30:00, all we see and hear about, however, is Shoania, with a minimum of 4 different filmi tunes thrown in for good measure.
Surely, you think, with all the tunes being dug up by the different channels (I saw Express run almost three minutes of filmi songs over pictures of the couple a few days ago unadulterated by any commentary or news), they will eventually run out of songs, right? Don't hold your breath.
But if you think the relentless onslaught of "Shoania" (what is it with this amalgamated name craze anyway?) was not (bad) enough, wait until you get a load of what Geo is holding in reserve: the Mohammad Asif / Veena Malik saga (what will that be called? Veesif? Aseena? Veenas?). In the same news bulletin Geo gave us a sample.
Do recall that film star / tv comedienne Veena and fast bowler / occasional druggie / Dubai deportee Asif were, as they say, "close friends" once upon a time. That friendship has obviously soured, apparently since Asif dutifully agreed to marry someone chosen by his family. Veena has therefore gone to court to demand the crore plus of rupees she allegedly spent on her boytoy and which she now claims she 'loaned' him (at this point if you begin to wonder what exactly Pakistan cricket is all about, you obviously are too clueless to be reading this blog).
Old hag and illiterate Test bowler in happier times
Cue, all-around cattiness. Asif tells Geo that 'given her age' Veena should be sitting on a masalla (prayer mat) and remembering God instead of making up stories about him and that it's about time she got married herself instead of 'doing what she does'. Veena nonchalantly reminds Geo of Asif's educational inadequacies, his weak financial status and his 'nightlife' proclivities. She also reminds Geo that "he is just a fast bowler, and that too only for Tests." Meow! You can see all that in the above clip around (counter) 46:40.
Geo may be saving this saga as backup for once Shoania runs out of steam. But beyond the media circus, all I could think of is that the combination of cricket and people named Malik is obviously a very volatile one. We should have realized this once we endured Salim Malik's shenanigans.