Ramadan, the “month of musalsalat”, begins today

Ramadan kareem to everybody in the Muslim word. Today the holy month starts but, as a Syrian director friend of mine once said, this is “the month of musalsalat” for many people.

The National, the UAE online publication, published yesterday the “essential viewing this Ramadan“.  Yahoo!Maktoob has also prepared a tailor made platform for Ramadan which includes a  TV guide to find out which musalsalat are being broadcasted by whom. It might be not so easy to find out what you want to watch during Ramadan, as with more than 500 FTA channels -many of them broadcasting musalsalat of good and very low quality- it`s kind of difficult even to make your personal viewing schedule. I started watching TV extensively yesterday afternoon, when most of the channels were broadcasting overviews of their Ramadan grids. I was surprised to realize how many “Bedouin serials” are about to be broadcasted this year, I could see desert settings and hear much more Khaleji dialect than I remember from last Ramadan season. Dubai TV was a mix of glittering “Hollywood style” stars as Yousra and the Syrian Bassel al Khayat introducing their new musalsalat, plus very basic -and not funny for me..but maybe it`s because the dialect is harder – bedouin musalsalat, kind of “low cost” look. From time to time, the presentation of its Ramadan grid was interrupted to leave air space to English spoken features -like one on “Dubai as the best shopping place for gold”- clearly addressed to potential tourists.

Al Jazeera had a show called “Mata Ramadan?” (When is it Ramadan?) in order to find out when exactly the holy month should kick off.

Today is the official start of the fast together with the musalsalat “grand bouffe”. The afternoon was mostly “colonized” by sheikhs dealing with religious habits, fast, Ramadan enquiries from the audiences. Even MBC was silent on musalsalat side and focused on those “religious” programmes.

The only place where I was able to watch a musalsal this afternoon was Dubai TV, which was broadcasting the latest Syrian actor Bassam Kousa`s Tv drama, where he plays an Arab “Rain man” (do you remember Dustin Hoffman playing the autistic but brilliant main character together with Tom Cruise?). The musalsal is called Wara` as-shams (Behind the sun) and it is produced by well-known Syrian company Aj headed by Hani Arshi (who also appears in the role of consultant for the musalsal). It tells the story of a young and beautiful couple whose life will change since the announcement the child they are expecting is affected by the Down syndrome. From which I could see on the screen today, Bassam Kousa is very far from Dustin Hoffman`s performance in “Rain man”. He over-acts and over-reacts and makes you wonder why if you want to have any success during Ramadan (or even want to be just noticed) you have to tackle sort of “taboo” issues -but the kind of taboos that make your audience cry, like an handicap-. Sounds like the old Hollywood lesson: just perform the role of a marginalized, handicapped, etc and you will get your Oscar home. Despite I love Bassam and the way he acts, I have to say that this first episode of “Behind the sun” did not convince me at all.

Dubai TV is betting on Hatem Ali and Yousra`s works as “main dishes” this Ramadan. Hatem, who I have met in Damascus and chatted about his view on musalsalat industry, has wonderful insights, he is a talented director and a gifted intellectual. I loved his last film work “Al leil at-tawuil” (The long night) produced by Haitham Haqqi which I could only screen in Barcelona at Wocmes congress for the first time last July. I`m not a big fan of his Andalusian or Bedouin works, but I`ll definitely watch “Abuab al ghraim” (the gates of the cloud) tonight at 23 pm KSA which has been taken from Sheikh Al Maktoum`s (the ruler of Dubai) poetry. The Sheikh inspires more than one programme on Ramadan grid,  it seems: just watched “Kawather ramadaniyya” (Ramadan thoughts) which also comes out from his pen.

Even if I have no idea about what the drama will be about, I`ll watch the latest Yousra`s of course, tonight at 00.00 KSA on Dubai. Yousra has been my favourite actress since the time she was acting with Youssef Chahine and, even if she is in a musalsal, for me it`s always the same blood- tempered girl of “Iskandria kaman wa kaman?“.

MBC will broadcast the “must follow” of the season, “Bab al hara 5” and I`m very curious to see it on air, after I have attended the musalsal shootings in Damascus last May. No, of course I won`t tell in this blog if Abu Shehab or Abu Issam are coming back! Also curious to watch “Tash ma tash” in its 17th season, if I can make it to understand the Saudi accent. There are a number of Egyptian musalsalat on MBC that I will have a look at, knowing well that I will give up after a few episodes.

Future TV is broadcasting Najdat Anzour`s “Ma malakat aymanokom” (which I will not dare to translate: too many different translations are appearing on the Net, and the expression comes directly from the holy Quran, the women`s sura) which I have watched a bit in his office during the editing process, founding it beautifully done and extremely interesting. Najdat also has got “Zhakirat al jasad” (Memory of the flesh) on Abu Dhabi TV which is inspired by the life of Algerian writer Ahlam Mosteghanemi.

That`s already so much to watch and there`s even more to discover just by zapping with the remote control from channel to channel after the Iftar meal.

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