Why there Will Never be Another ‘Eighties’

When my friends badger me why am I so eighties’ fixated, I coolly remind them that eighties’ were my wonder years — a time when ‘teen’ was constantly suffixed to my age and God knows it has been quite a while since then!

By Irfan Qamar (life)

Published: Tue 21 Apr 2009, 11:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:45 AM

The development from ‘teen’ to ‘ty’ has been largely not whole-heartedly welcomed and fought every inch of the way down to the last sagging, bulging, balding and graying bit but I understand it is a battle, we mortals, are destined to lose, unless, of course, if one is Dolly Parton or Cher!

Eighties in Pakistan were ground breaking in terms of socio-economic and political ethos. VCR had introduced the well heeled to the pleasures of gleefully viewing banned Indian movies in the confines of their homes; Walk Man was a must-have; drain pipe jeans, a most sought after commodity, religious fanaticism and bigotry was in its formative phase, fashion industry was just around the corner and colour TV sets provided oomph appeal to ‘TV lounges’ all over the country.

In terms of music, the eighties contribution to music was substantial. Where one part of the globe was producing foot tapping ‘Thriller’ and pelvic gyrating ‘Like a Virgin,’ another part was turning out hedonistic Aap Jaisa Koi and Disco Dewane along with a never ending trail of Disco endorsed products like bangles, glitter, chats, mehendi cones etc. I still shudder with embarrassment when I remember smugly donning Disco jersey: a shimmery ensemble that had innumerable pleats at the fronts and the back not to forget pleats on the sleeves too, over my denim drain pipes! One way ticket, one way ticket…”

Amitabh, Dharmendra, Shashi & Rishi Kapoor, Nadeem, Shabnam, Faisal, Sultan Rahi, Anjuman, Babra Shareef, Ghulam Mohiyuddin, Rekha, Zeenat Aman, Hema Malini and Tina Munim, all set the tone of the decade with their contemporary portrayals.

Incidentally, eighties was the golden era for television, most specifically Pakistan Television. Who can forget Sana Murad (Shehnaz Shaikh) of Ankahi, Chaudhary Hashmat (Mehboob Alam) of Waris, Afshaan, the glittering Madam Noor Jehan in Tarannum, Silver Jubilee, Salma Agha songs during election transmissions, long plays from Lahore station, Chips, Little House on the Prairie, Young Tarang, Mussarat Nazir’s Shadi Biyah Kay Geet etc?....the list is never ending. Technique wise, some may argue that these programmes now appear lackluster or lacking in production quality but subject wise they were pioneering and inventive with content taking the front seat.

Panah ably tackled the predicaments of Afghan refugees, Zard Gulab highlighted NLP, long before it became fashionable; with the power of one’s mind, confidence and self belief seemingly unattainable goals can be achieved – in this case a TB patient’s life! Fehmida Ki Kahani, Ustani Rahat ki Zubani sensitively showcased the economic disequilibrium in the society.

Now, when I see foreign locales, designer outfits, multi-cameras at work, crane shots, Indian choreographers and title songs by Alka Yagnik or Sonu Nigam for a Pakistani soap largely ‘inspired’ from a dozen or so Star Plus soaps, my brain goes comatose.

In the eighties, PTV Awards satiated our yen for ogling TV celebrities in all their dolled up finery. This was before we received our voyeuristic fix from Star Dust, Film fare and Lux Style Awards through cable.

Somewhere in the 80’s...It was one of the most talked about PTV awards function held in Islamabad. Haseena Moin was nominated for the award of best writer and was staying in the now defunct, Islamabad Hotel. She was my mother’s friend but had lost touch with her for over a decade.

So, off we went (my brother and I) to Islamabad Hotel to emotionally black mail Haseena Aunty into taking us to the awards function with her, of course, without informing ammi about our noble intentions!

Imagine our dismay, when we reached the Hotel, we were tartly informed by the bell boy that the celebrities had departed two days ago after recording the show. It was the classic case of us—all dressed up and having nowhere to go!

Another rare urban phenomenon was the over night renting of VCR. So, every month on any weekend, my friends would get together and pool in money to rent out VCR. Display of wealth had not taken the form of present day paranoia with every child now owning a PSP, iPod, portable LCD screens and Blu-rays. Intranet was unheard of and there was only one TV channel. So, solid twelve hours of back-to-back films was an eagerly anticipated event.

The films would have to pass my father’s ultra strict censor board.

And even though we would fantasise about bringing home a Last American Virgin or two, we invariably ended up with Superman, Rocky, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Naseeb and Ram Balram.

The marathon viewing session would end with a paratha and tea breakfast at around ten in the morning and the lugging of over heated VCR back to FM-92, the video shop in Jinnah Super Market, Islamabad.

Beautiful times, priceless memories!

Irfan Qamar is a Karachi-based banker. He can be reached at irfanq@dibpak.com

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