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Gulf TV channels play key role in Ramadan drama production

Omar is the biggest drama ever produced in history of Arabic television

  • By Jumana Al Tamimi Associate Editor
  • Published: 00:00 July 19, 2012
  • Gulf News

A scene from MBC 1’s Ramadan drama series Omar, on the life of Omar Bin Al Khattab
  • Image Credit: Courtesy: MBC
  • A scene from MBC 1’s Ramadan drama series Omar, on the life of Omar Bin Al Khattab.
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Dubai: For a second year in a row, Gulf-owned television stations are producing big-budget drama series to be shown during Ramadan, in what many describe as a growing role of television networks in placing the region on the global television production map.

Qatar television is the producer of these series, and the Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) shared in the production of this year’s drama series..

Omar, which will centre around the life of Omar Bin Al Khattab, the second of four caliphs and a revered figure in Islamic history, will be shown this Ramadan.

The cost of the serial has not been revealed, but it is estimated at tens of millions of dollars.

Last Ramadan, another series on the life of the courageous warrior in Islam, Al Qa’qa Bin Amr Al Tamimi, was produced. Some of the experts who participated in the production also worked in Hollywood movies like Avatar and Alexander, especially those related to battles.

As for Omar, many experts in costumes from European countries, Iran and Syria were also invited to participate. Parts of the serial, especially the battles on elephants, were shot in India.

Asked about the emerging prominent role of Qatar Television in producing dramas of high standards, Mohammad Abdul Rahman Al Kawari, Director of Qatar Television, said, “We want to produce works that are distinguished.”

“It is better to have a work that has a big audience than to produce more than one work that has neither audience nor returns,” he added in an interview with Gulf News.

Omar is the biggest productions ever in the history of Arabic television.

While some websites estimated the cost of the production at $50 million (Dh183.60 million), officials at MBC and Qatar TV refused to reveal the cost.

“This is a confidential issue,” answered Al Kawari when asked the cost.

“It is a two-digit million dollar figure,” said Mazen Hayek, MBC group’s official spokesperson.

According to Hayek, tGulf television stations’ interest in shooting expensive serials is a result of several factors.

They include the possible availability of bigger budgets to produce such dramas and the potential to produce work of international standard. Marketing such costly productions to a wider audience becomes even easier.

Omar will be dubbed in other languages and shown in several other countries, including Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

“We have a policy to produce a historical and documentary drama on prominent figures,” said Al Kawari.

“We have a team that makes suggestions, and once one is chosen, we ask for a script that will include our vision. We don’t take a ready script,” he added.

Veteran Jordanian writer Walid Saif was asked to write the script of Omar, and the Syrian writer Mahmoud Jafouri wrote the script for the serial on Al Qa’qa Bin Amr Al Tamimi.

Moreover, the scripts of both these were checked by a “religious” committee comprising scholars from many Arab countries, said Al Kawari.

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