February 01, 2021

Shall I read you a story?

It was December 2017 and Naina Mall, was sitting in her pyjamas on a bright pink sofa, surrounded by cuddly toys and reading a story. She was hosting a pilot episode of Bedtime Stories, PAK7’s first ever production. Fast forward to today and Naina, now PAK7’s programming manager, is producing the first series of PAK7’s Urdu language version of the show.

Bedtime Stories with Rita, in Arabic and hosted by SAT-7 CEO Rita Elmounayer, has been running on the Middle East and North African TV Network for over 20 years and thousands of children have grown up with the show as a beloved part of their lives. Making an Urdu language version has been a priority for PAK7, and Naina and her team have been working hard to adapt the format for the children of Pakistan.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that PAK7’s Bedtime Stories will be recorded with a mixture of Bible Stories and stories that don’t have an overt Bible connection but which carry Christian values, like many of the parables told by Jesus. These moral stories will form the basis of fun programs which can be shown on national television networks while the Bible-based episodes are shown on local Christian channels. This first series will feature 7 moral stories and 7 Bible stories. “This way we can reach a really wide audience” says Naina “We hope that young children and their parents will fall in love with Bedtime Stories and be inspired by them”

It’s really important to us at PAK7 that we produce engaging, high quality TV that people really want to watch. I ask Naina what the team are doing with Bedtime Stories to reach that goal.

“We really want to keep it as a simple, relaxing bedtime show” she says “but we showed a number of people our pilot, and some of them felt that with just one host telling the story, it was a little bit too static for today’s kids…. So we’ve introduced another character- a puppet-who is a bit naughty and also poses the questions the kids watching might want to ask!”

Naina has always had an interest in young children’s ministry and brings that experience and enthusiasm to Bedtime Stories. “I’m really excited about this show” she says “in Pakistan there’s not a lot of quality kids programming, so kids watch a lot of Youtube, but we’re taking loads of the things that they love from Youtube videos, like puppets, animation and songs and combining them with great stories into a TV show just for them”

The pre-production for the first series is done and the team have worked hard planning, storyboarding, writing and set-designing to create a show that is just right for the kids of Pakistan. Naina is hoping the team will be able start recording the shows in March.

But is she planning to reprise her role as the storyteller? “I loved doing it” she says, “But there are a lot of young, talented people here in Pakistan – and we would rather use local people where possible – We’re still looking, but you never know!”