Afghan gameshow brings relief and a chance of cash

Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:30am EDT
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By Patrick Markey

KABUL (Reuters) - His country might be at war, but Afghan gameshow host Rahim Mirzad reckons his daily helping of fun and laughs is just the relief his audience needs -- and the chance to become a millionaire doesn't hurt.

In a rundown warehouse studio on Kabul's dusty outskirts, Mirzad presents the "Treasure" -- "Ganjina" in Afghanistan's Dari language -- gameshow, where prize money of up to one million afghanis ($21,000) is on offer, a fortune in one of the world's poorest countries.

"In Afghanistan after 30 years of war, we had no gameshows, no big television programs like this. This is fun," said Mirzad, a former journalist. "When they see how emotional people are and how they react, it lets them forget everything."

Producers say the show is popular but risqué for Afghanistan, where conservative Muslim clerics have in the past sought to ban foreign soap operas seen as a corrupting influence running against Islamic principles.

Just like a similar Western gameshow, Ganjina contestants choose one of 20 boxes representing an amount of cash from one to one million afghanis. Contestants eliminate boxes one by one and take home the amount in the last box.

The program came back on air on local TOLO TV two weeks ago after it was banned briefly by the government because of complaints it depicted gambling.

Afghanistan's government has tussled before over television content. The cultural ministry two years ago ordered stations to stop broadcasting Indian soap operas it deemed un-Islamic.

For all Ganjina's modest set -- glass floor tiles are cracked and smaller contestants have to stand on red bricks to lift them up behind their podium -- the program has a loyal following.   Continued...