7 August 2011
Ramadan TV post-revolution
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan comes this year while Egypt battles through enormous political, social and economic upheavals. Ensuing changes have greatly affected the way in which Egyptians live through Ramadan. Famous as a time of fasting, feasting, reduced work, traffic jams, short tempers, and celebration, the month was always particularly high on entertainment, especially TV drama which earned the fond term “Ramadan TV serials”. Following the uprising or ‘incomplete revolution’ of 25 January 2011, viewers might find that the standard first-priority TV serials are no more the main dish served on the Ramadan TV table, but have had to stay on the back burner while political talk shows take precedence. Accordingly, Ramadan this year is certainly different from past Ramadans. Satellite channels have been right on cue, and are offering a large number of talk shows to replace a big portion of the usual dramas. This does not mean there are not many TV serials; they have merely moved to a lower level of interest.
The best expression of the new state of affairs was made clear when the new satellite channel CBC was launched. It advertised the launching by a wide campaign extolling a host of anticipated strong political talk shows to be anchored by some of the most prominent media persons around. Only later did it decide to launch another channel, CBC Drama, for serials and drama works.
So what do the traditional Ramadan TV serials have in store for viewers this year? In the spy genre this year we have Abed Kerman, which was rejected by Intelligence last Ramadan. Directed by Nader Galal, and with the leading role played by the Syrian actor Tayem Hassan, it tells the story of a spy in Israel during The War of Attrition in 1967.
There are two biographical serials. Al-Shahrora (The Songbird) tells the life story of the Lebanese star singer Sabah who rose to stardom in Cairo in the 1940s and whose career as a singer and actress spanned some 40 years in which she captured the love and adoration of Egyptian and Arab audiences for her stunning beauty, vivaciousness, zest for life, and playful mellow voice. Al-Rayyaan depicts the life of Ahmed al-Rayyaan, the man who, in the 1980s, was among the first to instate the practice of Islamic banking. With promises of non-sinful ‘profit-sharing’—as opposed to sinful ‘interest rates’—he managed to attract huge sums of the savings of the rich and poor by paying unheard-of high dividends. But Rayyaan ultimately fell when his organisation became insolvent and it was revealed he had invested the money in ‘sinful’ speculation on international money markets or even in shady trade practices; to this day many of those who invested their savings with him never regained their losses. Since the two biographical works concern persons who are still alive, the two serials are expected to have been produced with the purpose of justifying the actions of the protagonists.
Religion and comedy
Modern drama inspired by old serials and films is as popular as ever; this year there is Samara, which was first a radio serial starring Samiha Ayoub in the 1960s and was later made into a film that starred the famous belly dancer Tahiya Karioka. Now the talented writer Mustafa Muharram is representing it as a serial tackling the issues of the drug trade and forced prostitution, through a love theme starring Ghada Abdel-Raziq.
As for serials of folk culture, there are Kaid Al-Nesaa (Women’s Conspiracies), and Al-Shawarea al-Khalfiya (Back Streets) starring Laila Olwi and Gamal Soliman.
Hosni Saleh, who directed the very successful serial Hammam last year, will present the Upper Egyptian serial Wadi Al-Melouk (Valley of the Kings) starring Sumaya al-Khashab.
As for comic serials, Ragul wa Sit Sitaat (A Man and Six Women) is still on a top hit, followed by Goz Mama Meen (Mum’s Husband is Who?).
Meanwhile religious serials will include Al-Hassan wal-Hussien which tells the story of the Shia brother heroes al-Hassan and al-Hussein who were the grandsons of the Prophet Mohamed; al-Hussein was killed and beheaded by the Ummayads in the 7th century in an unequal battle. The serial was rejected by al-Azhar on grounds that it was not acceptable to impersonate members of the household of Mohamed, but al-Hayat Channel is broadcasting it anyway. This genre will also include the cartoon serial Qissas al-Hayawan fil-Qur’an (Animal Stories in the Qur’an) with a vocal performance of Yehia al-Fakharani.