Sultana Siddiqi is a must have name when it comes to the entertainment production in Pakistan, As a brand, she is a trend setter of many things in the in the industry whether it is her career in PTV, her production house or the network of her channels or film production.
Founder of Hum Network of Television, Sultana claims, “Our footprints through satellite are going to more than 60 countries and wherever, there is an Urdu speaking population, our dramas are their first choice.”
Now known as Sultan Aapa, she has a lot to tell about her journey through life which is a great lesson for not only the women but also for men that how to cope up with difficulties in a society where there are too many hurdles at every step of your way sometimes because of system or sometimes because of the mind-sets of people.
She gave her special time to Paperazzi to openly talk about the past present of her life and discuss her future plans she feels as her responsibility in the field of media.
An Art Lover Since Childhood
Born in Hyderabad to affluent Kazi family of Sindh, Sultana spent her childhood with 10 siblings, five sisters and five brothers. The elders in family were mostly judges. The next generation (after partition) joined bureaucracy or set up their business while women went for the field of medicine. Most of her paternal aunts were doctors. Even in her generation, girls choose the fields of medicine and teaching. Sultana was not attracted to these professions but loved painting, dance, music, and even sports and debates besides her studies. She attended government school of Hyderabad and was among brilliant students both in curricular and extracurricular activities. There are also some other talented people hailed from her school like Mehtab Rashdi, Anis Haroon and Fehmida Riaz. In those days, though there were limited media outlets for performing arts, but her talent worked and in 1960, she got her first exposure to radio station, where she participated from her school. Nobody in her family was in the field of media before.
Marriage, Children and Career
From the beginning, she was not like a typical girl and more close to and inspired from her elder brother. So, it was decided that she would appear in CSS exam but at the same time, on the pressure from her family, she married.
“I still remember how I was made a bride of Mehndi on the day of my last paper of BA.”
But her marriage could only last for six years and at the time of separation; she had three sons of the ages of five, three and one (Duraid). She could not even complete her CSS.
“I admire my family, who supported me in this decision but they tried to hide it as at that time it was a taboo thing to get divorced but now, they feel proud of my struggles. Interestingly, my friends of same age group got married after my separation. I was then hardly 25, which is actually the right age of getting married.”
Life In Pakistan Television
After separation, she lived with her parents, who were very well off and could take care of her family but she wanted to raise them on her own and one day, she was approached by PTV as they knew her from her student days, so I 1974, she started with a Sindhi Language talk show, which she hosted, wrote and produced.
Later, Sultana went to PTV Academy in Islamabad for training along with Shoaib Mansoor and Ghazanfar Ali for the permanent job of producer.
“I was reluctant to apply in beginning because somewhere in back of my mind I was expecting my marital life to get settle again, but after giving it a second thought, I applied for the post and luckily, selected.”
Coming back to Karachi, Sultana directed and hosted children’s program Roshan Tara and produced Rang Barang. She went to Japan to learn that how to motivate children through television programming. She then did music program like ‘Tarang’, which earned many awards.
“I brought Abida Praveen to PTV and also introduced new talent like Tehseen Javed, Ali Haider, and Shazad Roy. I always believe that the screen of television can be used very effectively by introducing more talent.”
She also won award for special interview with Imran Khan after the in 1992 world Cup.
Being a very responsible mother, Sultana took her career according to the age of her children. When they were young and need more attention, She preferred accept projects which did not require late hours of work but when they reached the age of adulthood, she did her first drama serial Marvi in 1993, which took most of the critical and popular acclaim.
“I worked hard on the characters. I wanted a girl like Ghazal Siddique to do the lead role of Marvi as I thought she was the most suitable actor with her specific demeanour, accent and overall image. She was reluctant to do that in first but I convinced her.”
She also recalls about the opposition which she faced when she decided to do drama, “Actually, a lobby was formed against me, especially after when I was awarded for my work. They said how a children and music program producer could direct a drama, but there were also people like Shahzad Khalil who supported me a lot. I did not know about the politics of organization as I was too much calculated with my time between office, home and children.
Making Her Own Niche: Private Productions
Always having a creative mind, Sultana was enthusiastic to work on more ideas and took special permission form PTV to work outside. She not only provided programs to other outlets but also to PTV from which the channel earned as well and also followed the rule of giving PTV the 33 per cent of her pay when worked for the private channel STN.
“I made programs like Music Challenge and Acting Challenge, which introduced many new artists including Yasir Nawaz and Danish Nawaz.”
She named her production house Moomal Entertainment in 1996, the same year, her son Shunaid married Moomal. Before that she was running it without any name.
At that point, she decided several times to leave PTV as she could not manage her job and private production simultaneously, but they didn’t let her go and even promoted her to Program Manager.
Birth Of HUM TV
“Finally in 2000, I quit PTV. By that time Duraid had come back to Pakistan after his studies and started helping in marketing and promoting my production house while Momina (his wife) looked after the finances.”
At that time, when many private channels had come up with their 24 hours transmissions, Duraid advised her that instead of limiting themselves to production house, they should start a channel.
“We worked on Hum TV from 2001 to 2003 and made it stock listed. We faced a lot of opposition to make our company public listed as it meant that every financial activity would be transparent.”
She told channels monopolising the market at that time, Geo and ARY, offered her well-paid salary packages and higher positions to stop her from launching her own channel.
“I seriously thought for a moment that should I go for a big project like a channel or accept lucrative offer of heading a whole department of a channel, but Duraid was adamant to set our own thing. At the same time, I started getting mails stopping me to get into the business of channel and painted a horrible picture of it. Some even went to my friends Mehtab Rashdi and Khushbakht Shujaat to stop me doing so. Even Bajia came to me and asked why I was putting me in the herd of wolves. Later, I realized some channels were behind all that.”
Hum TV came into being in 2004 and started its transmissions in January 2005. Despite getting advise of making Hum TV a hybrid channel (airing both news and entertainment simultaneously at the same beam), she kept it strictly an entertainment channel. She recalls those difficult early days but their shareholders had a great trust on them because of her name and family background.
“Nothing is easier in this world especially for a woman, and all above if she is single. She has to be more cautious and work hard to prove her credibility and sanctity at the same time.”
She was clear from the day one to use the screen of her channel by showing local content and promoting women empowerment.
“It was Pakistani content with Pakistani people especially women!”
She claims to revive pure Pakistani drama when other channels were very much inspired by Indian content like Saas Bahu stuff. She is happy that other channels are also following this.
“I took (on which we were criticized later) many young female writers, who were already contributing in digests. I also introduced many new faces on screen. I used to select girls when in a gatherings and talk to their mothers if they allow them to work in dramas. I wanted to have a family like environment in my channel which I still keep.”
To people, who accuse her of presenting women helpless and oppressed in her dramas, Sultana always ask them to watch the whole drama till the end and see what happens to the perpetrator and how a woman got out of these difficult situations.
Despite being a president of a big network, she still had those creative instincts kicking inside her so came again into direction and after a gap of almost 15 years made Zindagi Gulzar Hai in 2013, which she was reluctant in beginning but later, it proved to be a hit.
Becoming A Network
Almost after two years of establishing Hum TV, Sultana launched food channel, Masala, only in one month notice because as the month of Ramzan was about to start and sponsors demanded their ads to be aired in Ramzan Transmissions.
“Masala helped a lot of people. I still receive letters of thanks from young girls and their mothers that because of Masala they learned how to cook. Our cooks became chef. Our magazine with the same name is among few magazines in Pakistan that sells good at stalls.”
Hum 360 was launched with the purpose of portraying soft image of Pakistan through fashion and lifestyle but it did not proved to be profitable and could not get public attention that was expected, so, it was renamed as Hum Sitaray, on which dramas of Hum TV are re telecast.
Awards and Shows of Hum Network
Sultana did not just limit herself to the channels and dramas but showed a big courage and has been holding extravaganza award shows; Hum Awards since 2013 and Hum Style Awards since 2016.
“For Hum Awards, I asked all channels to collaborate in which every channel’s production would be nominated but they didn’t take it seriously or could not visualize how to do it. So, we started it on our own. We were showing 21 dramas a week in Prime Time, which was enough for the nominations. PTV used to air one drama a day, means seven a week.”
Hum Network also organize big fashion shows like Bridal Couture Week (BCW) in 2010, and Hum Showcase in 2017 in which Pakistani fashion industry is promoted internationally.
Love Of Cinema And Hum Films
Sultana has a big role in revival of Pakistani cinema by setting up her film production company, Hum Films, which is looking after by her daughter in law Momina Duraid. Hum Films has produced three films so far.
“We portray women in stronger positions in our films as well thought film is generally considered a male dominated genre.”
She loves the past glory of our cinema and is adamant to see the role of government in the revival of Pakistani cinema.
“We have had a wonderful history of cinema from past, but presently, in its revival; I think if government doesn’t come forward to help, it will soon die again. We designed a film policy with last and current governments and have asked them to at least evade taxes from film industry for next 10 years.”
Sultana believes cinema owners can also play a major role in this revival.
“Film maker invest all their money in their product, but after the release, cinema owners return the producers share in bits and pieces that doesn’t allow them to invest in their next film. Secondly tickets prices of cinema are very high, which has made it the entertainment of elite. We used to watch cinema in less than a rupee or maximum Rupees 6 in Firdous Cinema Hyderabad owned by my uncle. The crowd there was much responsive with whistling and claps on scenes.”
She is also of view that if we want to stable our film industry, producer should make small budget projects like Cake and Laal Kabootar which though were not commercial hits but got critical acclaim.
About the absence of Bollywood from our cinema and less demand of our own film, she says, “I think if a product is good, it gets positive word of mouth. It will take time but if we work hard the gap will be bridged. Moreover, we have that lack of patriotism in supporting our film industry.”
Another Feather In Her Cap
Another feather on her cap is the establishment of Karachi Film Society, under which she has organized Pakistan International Film Festival (PIFF) in 2018 and 2019.
“For first PIFF (2018), I appreciate the then government, which supported us a lot. I took them on board and convinced them that these types of events will open the doors for our talent internationally, which will ultimately benefit our industry and country. I believe this field demands a lot of passion for positive results. Next year, only Sindh Government helped us for the festival, so we could not do it on that large scale. We are also negotiating with the current federal government as well. The Film Producers Association also met the Information Minister and I hope she understood our agenda.”
Sultana feels great responsibly towards new generation in giving back to them what she has learned through her work experience and conducts media workshops voluntarily to media practitioners.
“Under the banner of KFS, I want to establish an academy where those, who cannot afford the fees of film schools, can be inducted with the qualification of even metric and intermediate. These short technical certificate courses of three to six months would benefit them do their jobs better and at the time of any job application.”
I believe that things can be done in much better way and it is only possible if many hands join together with sincerity. There should be an art lover to enter into the world of art and to support it.
Zubab Rana- The fashionista with an unmatchable screen presence!
Enviable fashion sense is something not many actresses in our industry have been blessed with, but one actress who has impressed us with her fashion sense is Zubab Rana. A budding actress and a beautiful model, Zubab Rana manages to light up the frame every time she appears on our screens. From ramps to dramas, there isn’t anything the actress can’t do.
Born on 3 June 1998, the young actress started her career with Naseebo Jali in 2017 and received a nomination for the Best Soap Actress at Hum Awards right with her debut role. This doesn’t only speak of the actress’s mettle as a performer, but it also helped her make her mark on the small screen in a short period of time. She then appeared in Mere Khudaya and Bandish, and again received a nomination for the former as the Best Emerging Talent at the Lux Style Awards.
That isn’t all. We haven’t just seen the actress making her mark on the screens, but she has also stolen the show every time she has appeared on the ramp. She has established herself as a successful model and is renowned for her effervescent charm as an actress and a model, both. Having started her career as a ramp model, there is no denying her talent on the ramp, but what took everyone by surprise was her talent on the screens as well.
After her powerful performance in Rishtay Biktay Hain in 2019, we can currently watch the actress starring in Mehboob Apke Qadmon Mein, a drama that revolves around the power of black magic, Zubab Rana has been weaving magic with her performance in the play. She is featured as Sunaina, a sweet and innocent girl who is in love with someone and wants to stay happily with her love. Zubab Rana’s acting makes you feel for Sunaina and all the problems in her way. In every scene, she stands out with her phenomenal acting, making us root for her.
So far, Zubab Rana has done wonderfully in every drama she appears in. It looks like the actress is on the rise, and we can’t wait to see where she would be heading next!
Ali Zafar foundation to distribute amongst Christian and Transgender communities
On a tweet posted by Ali Zafar, he showed the conditions on the ground as he went live on Instagram with his team who was seen distributing Rashan amongst a Christian community.
Many celebrities have raised their voice to raise awareness in the Corona battle, however, Shahid Afridi and Ali Zafar take the lead in going all out in their Rashan Distribution campaign.
Ali Zafar had also posted a video a few days ago of a transgender “Julie” highlighting the plight of their community. “We must make an inclusive society where everyone feels equally empowered and a part of the society, like a petal in a flower. Only then we can get rid of the thorns”. the Singer Actor quoted whose foundation has so far distributed Rashan amongst almost 3500 families so far.
This Social Networking App is definitely the New Thing in Town
When boredom hits us hard, we all cuddle up to our social media accounts rooting around for something new and exciting. Right now, when the world has come to a standstill and people are ready to do anything to spice up their lives and when cooking, baking, watching, or reading looks so monotonous, we all are on the hunt for activities that put a little jazz to our dull days.
There are no real-life meetings, a cup of coffee, or a smoke break. All we have is our phone with the same contacts, plenty of work emails to respond, and some messages in the “other” section of our messenger. Some of us are so bored that we have gone through all those messages and some are on the verge of responding to those messages.
But, there is one thing that is keeping us occupied all of a sudden? As controversial as Tinder sounds, the long-lived thunder has been stolen by this new app called Bumble. You can either date or find BFF on the app depending on your preference. The dynamics of this app are slightly different from Tinder as it gives women the first right to make a move. Is this actually a conscious effort to change the patriarchy considering the fact women are entirely in control of choosing whoever they want to talk to and on the other hand, men do not have the option to initiate the conversation at all. This is probably one of the reasons for the app to flourish in a country like Pakistan where there is a pipping hot debate on feminism every now and then.
The main difference between Tinder and Bumble is the reliability of having a verified account. You cannot have an account on bumble without your picture and since the whole idea behind this app is about being kind, if there is slight misconduct from any party, the account gets suspended immediately for good and all. Unlike Tinder, Bumble gives you more details about the person in contact so, the swiping is not just about the looks here.
If we peek into the real world, there are very few opportunities to find friends or even a potential match once you are done with your school or college. Which means, a very little chance of getting your dupatta stuck in the button of his waistcoat. Such an app will put you closer to the network of a person who otherwise does not have the slightest chance of meeting you in real life. If not a match, you may end up finding some incredible friends that many people actually claimed to have found so. Hence, the dating pool is marginally better on this app.
The cons of having this app are “anything can happen”. Stay alert and know your moves. Don’t get caught into the traps of instant meetings or any kind of thugs disguised as a chum. Take time to know the person and learn about the similarities you have with them if any. These are the very basic tips that we need for any online encounter.
Although a lot of success stories have been witnessed through the app from outside Pakistan, the app is still less productive and less popular among the masses. It is either the pressure of being on a dating app or stigma attached to being associated with these apps. However, this pandemic does seem to change the whole narrative of online amity.
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