What is it about morning shows that is oddly comforting?
There’s a daily host who becomes a part of your routine – essentially this is the person you are sharing your morning coffee or breakfast with. It is almost an intimate experience. There is a familiar face who shows up every single day without fail and keeps us engaged, entertained and in some cases appalled. Day time television, in particular, is usually solitary viewing, and mostly understood to be geared towards a feminine audience. While the concept of day time television in Pakistan has not really evolved beyond the morning talk/variety show, it’s power over the imagination of the nation (and the advertiser) is unmistakable. Equipped with star power, fantastic sets, celebrity guests and complete weddings! Morning shows in Pakistan seem to be a genre on their own – one with its own set of codes and conventions. But there is one show that seems to be breaking the mould – Aaj Pakistan with Sidra Iqbal.
There is a sense of calm about this particular morning show – no gawdy sets, no over the top wardrobe for Sidra. It’s all very understated, with deliberate attention to content. Sidra stands out in her classy screen presence. She has a signature hair style, a no-make up look and a wardrobe full of solids. It is also reminiscent of the golden era of PTV. In conversation with Sidra, she has the same calm, collected and cool vibe of her show. Perhaps, too cool for a Pakistani morning show host?
Talking about the transition from current affairs to a lifestyle oriented morning show, she seems to have a had a long, reflective look at what she wanted to do. While most of her career has been in current affairs, she did not quite like the pattern along which was expected to ‘perform’ as one – in a loud, angry, shouting match of sorts where the real issues were buried deep under whatever was trending that day. Keeping up with press conferences and the drama that ensued did not allow her to tell the stories that moved her or ones that added value to the audiences’ media diet. It all began to feel a bit empty. Sidra then took a bit of a break to explore other avenues that were close to her, including a public diplomacy initiative called ‘Raabta’ in collaboration with Serena Hotels. But then as her calling would have it, Sidra found herself back on television – this time on a morning show on Aaj TV.
But what is it that really sets Sidra apart from her peers? Have a look at the Eid ul Fitr show from earlier this year.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-avbK75RDEg \ Animal rights, vaccine efficacy, entrepreneurship all incorporated in a comfortably festive vibe. This is once again reminiscent of the wholesomeness of PTV – good, solid conversations guided by a well-researched, well-spoken host, featuring guests who come across as relatable human beings. ‘I have strived to keep a strong current affairs theme to the show,’ says Sidra speaking of her morning show. ‘Why do we assume that the morning show audience is a simple one that likes all the frivolity? And we leave men completely out of the equation.’ All valid observations by the seasoned broadcast journalist, Sidra is really changing the narrative for the current conventions of Pakistani morning shows. Sidra is not reinventing the wheel, but she is certainly redefining it.