Review: Khawaja Najam ul Hassan’s ‘Stars from Another Sky’

By Muhammad Ali

Associating a multi-talented person like Khawaja Najam ul Hassan with a specific field was already a difficult task. The director, producer, music connoisseur and television trainer has, in a positive way, added to the confusion by now having written a book as well.

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Titled as “Stars from Another Sky”, Khawaja Najam ul Hassan’s book is a 2019 publication; hard-bound and having pictures of showbiz celebrities from the subcontinent printed in black and white on its cover.

This book, the introduction to which has been given by Haseena Moin, the most popular Pakistani playwright, cannot be put under a specific category as far as its genre is concerned, for its chapters which are based on Khawaja Najam ul Hassan’s experiences as a trainer at Pakistan Television put in a chronological order incorporate anecdotes, biographies, socio-political events’ history and memoirs, all however, related to the golden era of PTV.

The writer amalgamates all these genres skilfully by giving the chapters an auto-biographical touch, starting from his initial days as a trainer at PTV, relating all political activities taking place, consequently affecting the material sent on screen, and telling stories related to both the personal and professional lives of all those people he worked with from the start of his career until recently, including content heads, program directors and producers, writers, singers, musicians, hosts and actors, such as Muneeza Hashmi, Shoaib Hashmi, Amanat Ali Khan, Raana Sheikh, Haseena Moin, Farida Khanum, Noor Jahan, Shehnaz Sheikh and members of the Taj-Tahir, Peerzada and Kazmi families to name only a few.

…some of the chapters, along with important and interesting facts, also reveal painful and shocking realities of the lives of many media people we have been admiring, both secretly and openly.

“Stars from Another Sky” is not randomly named so. It talks of people not only belonging to a different era, but people who in terms of their passion for work, creativity, determination and admiration of quality work, rendered themselves unique in the matters of taste and intellect. The book becomes all the more important because there is no doubt regarding the authenticity of its content, for it comes from the pen of someone who has written it not after hearsay, but after having gained first-hand experience of everything himself. This is the reason why some of the chapters, along with important and interesting facts, also reveal painful and shocking realities of the lives of many media people we have been admiring, both secretly and openly.

In the history of Pakistani television, this book, without any doubt, is going to be the first of its kind, for dramas like Tansein and Dhoop Kinaaray, musical programs like Tarannum, Duniya Meri Jawan Hai and Meri Pasand, political satires like Baleela, literary shows like Dastaan Go and the award ceremonies of PTV have been watched by everyone but have never been written about in one book. “Stars from Another Sky” does not only provide information about these programs, but apart from their content, mentions their releasing dates, their preparation strategies, their post-airing successes or failures, and attitudes of various people putting their efforts while producing those shows, and does that in a chronological manner. Najam starts from the black and white era and comes to the coloured days gradually, relating everything that took place in the meanwhile.

Adding to the beauty of this facts-based book are the poetic passages, which as a proof of Khawaja Najam ul Hassan’s vivid memory, describe seasons and auras as have retained in the writer’s mind form his good old days, acting as the background for his and his fellows’ activities taking place inside PTV’s studios. Creativity also lies in the putting of the phrase “Fade Out” at the end of every chapter, establishing the book as not only based on memory, but based on the memory of someone who has been associated with the television screen for quite a long time.

The book’s only weakness, which we expect not to find in the coming editions are its typos, mostly related to punctuation. This is something for which Khawaja Najam ul Hassan can certainly be not blamed, considering his degree in English Literature from a prestigious institute. It probably is a result of hasty and careless editing, which needs to be taken care of next time. But the importance of the book and the authenticity and grip of its interesting content does not at all abate because of those mistakes. The stories continue to keep the reader hooked till the past page, gaining importance over every other thing.

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The writer is a student of English Literature at GCU, Lahore and an admirer of indigenous art, culture and literature.

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