Archive for the ‘Atiqa Odho’ Category
If anyone thought Pakistani drama was dead, make way folks, “Humsafar” is here to rock your world. It feels good to see our audience come back home after being distracted for a while. I, for one, am not surprised at this revival of Urdu drama as I have always known that this particular form of story-telling is a gift we Pakistani’s own and no one can match it, regardless of other markets having bigger budgets, better production facilities, more resources, etc.
Urdu drama is particular to our nation in every sense — from its timing, script structure, performances to the technical style. In these times of national depression and distress, Pakistani drama has made us proud yet again, and given our people something to look forward to regardless of all else.
Before I begin to share with you how my character ‘Fareeda’ in “Humsafar”, came to life, let me first thank all the wonderful people who made this serial into a true international phenomena. As you know, a project always belongs to all that are a part of it before it is gifted to the audiences to enjoy; so, thank you God for our writer, director, producer and an extremely talented cast that brought so much life into the project in their very own special way. Also, let’s not forget the other really special people behind the success, the technicians, musicians, stylists and editors. What you see on screen is a contribution of a large group of specialists that come together to make on-screen magic — and magic is what we made with “Humsafar”.
Many have asked me why I decided to play Fareeda, the nasty mother-in-law. The answer, my dear friends, is a very simple one. Fareeda was a great and exciting character to develop from script to screen. As an actor, one always looks for challenge and I believe, Fareeda has helped me polish my craft as an artist further. Not being one to repeat my work in various roles, I felt my work as Fareeda would give viewers a new ‘me’ as an actor to watch. Sitting here, I am so glad I decided to bring her to life as she was definitely the cause of high drama all along.
It has been wonderful to see how people have identified with all the players in “Humsafar”, as each and every character in it actually exists in our society. My firm belief, while performing Fareeda, was that as a role it was a great project to do, but from a popularity point of view I was expecting her (and myself) to be extremely disliked. It may come as a shock to you, but Fareeda has a huge fan following! This initially troubled and then eventually amused me, as I realised over time that, many millions of Fareeda’s do actually exist in any eastern society. How often have we seen obsessive and controlling mothers hang on to their sons? So Fareeda pulled in her own fans across the world. I have met ladies with sons of all ages who absolutely adore Fareeda, as they feel she has pulled at their heart strings. Finally, a woman they can all relate to. This is strange and yet so funny. Playing Fareeda has taught me so much more about human behaviour on and off screen. Lesson learnt — never predict an outcome as drama reflects all aspects of character.
When we started filming “Humsafar” in July 2011, I was personally going through one of the most difficult times of my life. You may recall my real life drama thanks to the very Honourable you-know-who. In case you are now distracted by Fareeda and friends, let me refresh your memory. My real life drama had something to do with me having the privilege of becoming the first and perhaps the only Pakistani woman to be made the individual subject of a suo motu notice.
While I was struggling with the shock of having to deal with how ‘anything is possible in Pakistan’ becoming a reality in my case, nothing was really making sense around me those days. So confused and anxiety driven, I infused life into Fareeda.
The first day I went to the set of the play, I started my work by performing the climax scene of my character. I was tense with stress at the time and my director, Sarmad Khoosat identified my need for therapy in the form of creative expression, hence, we did the difficult scenes first. So when you watch the last few scenes where Fareeda becomes a complete victim of neurosis, you know who we can all thank for such violent emotions.
What has made the play so successful? I ask myself this question all the time, since its really an old story and we didn’t say anything new in this project. Perhaps, the key ingredient is ‘love/mohabbat’. This emotion is obvious in so many forms, through the characters of the play. Maybe our audiences have connected to the ‘love’ story between Ashar and Khirat, Basirat’s ‘love’ for his sister, Fareeda’s obsessive ‘love’ for her son, Asher’s ‘love’ for his mother and daughter, Sara’s ‘love’ for Asher and Khizar’s ‘love’ for Sara or Zarina’s ‘love’ for her daughter. The play is all about a whole lot of ‘love/mohabbat’ depicted in different forms. So how can a society like ours, that thrives on emotion, not connect to it?
Or perhaps, the other key ingredient in the plot is the value of the male member of a family (Ashar) being projected as the central figure in a male-dominated society, such as ours. Since all the women in the play are fighting for attention from the ‘Man’ (and what a handsome one at that), people can easily relate to the issues addressed in the storyline from several aspects. Wives sympathise with Khirat, Mothers sympathise with Fareeda, cousins relate to Sara. The point I am trying to make is that maybe its all about basic eastern values, but packaged in a very western style.
Whatever the reason for it’s success, I feel another big thank you is due to all the fans for giving us a sense of being artists who try to work hard to reflect real issues of our society. Ultimately, it is the fans that make or break a project and here it is the fans, who have made it possible for this project to reach such great heights.
The difference between a good drama and a great one is where the actors always remember that the fans are their true ‘humsafars’. As the play’s theme song says “Kya dhoop chaaon ka alam raha/Judai na thi”. God bless the fans for always being there with us.
The penultimate episode of “Humsafar” will air today on Hum TV
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.
Whoever I am, and whatever I have become, I realise it is they who have brought me here. It is the love and respect that my own have always shown me that has empowered me and made me stronger each day. I don’t owe my strength or recognition to America, India or any other nation, as my people are the ones who have blessed me and bestowed on me a name and a national identity that I can be proud of.
If one lacks the ability to recognise what or who has enabled them towards their journey to success, it is unfortunate and the biggest loss is to the person him/herself. I personally believe that thankless souls ultimately end up unfortunate and lonely. I have, through my own life’s experiences, found that by giving back, I have enriched my own existence, as with each step I have taken in the direction of my own people I have discovered more about myself.
My children have also picked up on my nationalistic sentiment over the years and my eyes well up with tears of joy when they say that they prefer to live here rather than anywhere else in the world. My son loves travelling all over the countryside to discover his heritage and my daughters delight in everything truly Pakistani. As much as they like to carry foreign brands once in a while, they will carry a Khadi, Jafferjee’s or Thredz handbag with just as much pride, if not more.
Over time, I have converted very quickly from mainly using foreign products to using more indigenous handmade goods whenever I can, realising the endorsement impact I could lend to locally manufactured goods by doing so. I recently came across someone trying to sell smuggled shawls from India and decided not to participate in this illegal activity and purchased handmade shawls from Swat instead.
Over the last few years, whatever I have earned from producing television software, I have given into the hands of young Pakistani talent to help them launch their careers. Never have any of my earnings from television gone overseas in any form. I don’t own a home or property outside Pakistan and have no desire to ever do so either.
The happiest life I could ever hope to live would be one amongst my own and in my own country. How quickly we forget that death is a definite and when I go, I hope my country will bury me with as much love and respect as it has allowed me to live with.
My sweat, blood and tears shall always be for Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune
Moin Akhtar (MA) is with us no more. As I sit here, I think of all the years of entertainment, joy and laughter he gave us that one shall cherish forever. Over the last few days, our press has been full of tributes to a man that rose to iconic heights due to his God-gifted talent as a tremendous entertainer.
My association with Moin Akhtar was that of a younger colleague as I entered the world of television. Looking back, I always remember him as a talented, kind, helpful human being. These are the qualities that one shall always remember him by whenever one watches repeats of the great works he has left behind to keep us laughing, in the archives of entertainment history.
In all the tributes to Moin Akhtar, I feel it is important for us to reach out to his family and specifically his children. I write this note in memory of MA and out of respect for his loved ones. One would, like to tell his children that we, as the entertainment fraternity, shall always cherish the memory of MA and we, as a nation, shall always continue to smile at the mention of his name for that is what he spent his life doing, making us smile.
MA would have wanted it no other way. He would have wanted us to remember him in happy thoughts and continue to cherish his loved ones, for they are blessed to carry a name known around the world of a father that shall always live in the hearts and minds of every Pakistani. He may have left us too soon, but his spirit shall always remain amongst us.
As a great showman that served Pakistan well for over 40 years, he is our national hero. He made us laugh through many a difficult times. During his life, he worked for us during wars, terrorism, earthquakes and floods. MA never gave up making us smile as a nation through difficult times. Just like Faiz, Habib Jalib, Noorjehan and many other icons, MA shall always be remembered as a messenger of happiness, peace and courage.
He will be loved and remembered for his power as a national celebrity to unite a nation divided by social and political turmoil. Laughter being the best medicine, MA was a doctor to our hearts and souls and for this, we shall thank him always. May he rest in peace.
Published in The Express Tribune,
This is a just a note to share how one feels regarding the Indian government denying General Musharraf a visit visa. Frankly, it didn’t come as a shock to most of us since he has gone there several times and won over both their public and their press. His recent forthright remarks regarding Indian involvement in Balochistan didn’t go down well either with the Indian government.
To make the refusal look kosher, the Indians now claim that Kargil has become an issue — which seems a bit sudden give that it happened over a decade ago. How come India didn’t have any problem on this issue when General Musharraf was invited to, and visited, India in the last few years?
I think India is uncomfortable with General Musharraf in the current situation, which is that a former army chief is making a comeback through the political system and he knows all the realities of India’s intent towards Pakistan. Also the fact that each time he was there, he managed to make himself heard is something that the Indian establishment does not want.
Once, on a visit to India in 2000, I was asked by many Indians about General Musharraf and how as a Pakistani I felt about a general ruling my country. I could tell, when I was asked this, that the Indians were afraid of his straightforwardness and his bold approach. One, of course, delighted in the thought that the general perchance scared off Indians — which is just as well since they have never really been our friends. My answer then, and now, is that I felt safer in the hands of “our general” than in a so-called democratically elected feudal dictator.
I have always questioned India’s interest, or lack of it, in us through observation in areas such as our creative arts and sports. One shouldn’t be surprised to learn how tightly the Indians control their money and refuse to invest into anything Pakistani. The notion that Pakistani musicians and artists go to India and make good money is, in fact, a myth. I can say this with some authority as I have spent the last few years investigating this issue to be able to understand it quite intricately.
India has for several years taken the talent that it does not possess from us. This talent is then used to make good products for Indian companies and eventually lots of money for them. But what does the artist or musician get out of this, since they have to pay taxes on their income and high overheads?
From this follows a question: Why does our talent even cross the border? And the answer to this, I am sorry to say, is vanity. They go because they feel they have to make it big in a large international market and that if they do that they will be able to charge even higher fees in Pakistan. This may well be correct thinking since in Pakistan the corporate sector is sadly, extremely India-centric.
That’s obviously not the case on the other side of the border because even though the spoken language is the same in both countries, Indian broadcasters have never aired any of our Pakistani content within India.
I would advise General Musharraf to not bother with India as there is much work to be done elsewhere.
Mr Jinnah, would it be too hopeful to think that perhaps this New Year we, in Pakistan, may suffer less from our own self-inflicted wounds? I find it difficult to believe that a leader such as yourself, and the qualities you carried, never rubbed off on your humble citizens. I am sure there are many among us who have some of your integrity and your love for our motherland.
A famous line from your speech given on October 30, 1947 in Lahore was: “Musalman museebut mein ghabraya naheen karta” in response to which the huge crowd went frantic with passion. So what are we so afraid of today and when did our passion for Pakistan die?
I look around and see fear on many faces. We, unfortunately, fear ourselves. It is the untruths that we have lived by that make us fearful of everything we should have believed in and been proud of, enabling our sense of nationalism further. If Jinnah had been here today, I am sorry to say, there would have been much pain in his heart at witnessing our state. Gone is the honour and will to fight for our own nation. We have been selling ourselves, little by little, each day, in so many ways that we have forgotten who we actually are.
What happened? Were we not prepared to appreciate living on our own soil? Is it that we crave instead a refugee camp on a foreign land or perhaps second-class citizenship in a country where our children shall always suffer from displaced anxiety whenever someone asks them where they are from?
I lived in America for several years and my children went through such incidents constantly. My youngest child, Zarmeen, was born in New York City and when she was three years old she participated in a pre-school function where children had to present a flag of their original nationality. I, of course, very proudly put the Pakistan flag on her dress. She looked up at me at that tiny age and said, “Mama, why are you putting this flag on my dress, I am American, aren’t I?” to which I answered that she was born in America but she was actually Pakistani. This made no sense to her and, frankly, didn’t make much sense to me either when I realised what had just happened. It was one of many incidents that eventually convinced me to bring all my children home a few years later, out of the fear that they would grow up never really knowing themselves.
We have been back 10 years now and I have to say I am happy to be home and have no regrets. But I am extremely saddened by the state of our identity. Even while living in Pakistan, I desperately search for it.
What happened? Where did our Pakistan go? Is all lost or shall we one day regain our sense of self-worth and passion? When do you think we will stop fearing and start living with pride?
When will Sindh feel the pain of Swat’s suffering? Will we ever reunite or were we never united to begin with? Will we find Pakistan within ourselves someday? Mr Jinnah, are we really the people you wished us to be?
Pakistan is at yet another crossroads. The brutal murder of Salmaan Taseer has divided the nation. Only two types of people are debating the blasphemy law: the extremists and the moderates. There are no grey areas or mixed views on the topic. We, the people, must choose which side we are on, especially since the justice system is taking its time and the state is in a panic.
The media and civil society have been left, yet again, to fight for justice, even as our lawmakers and keepers remain silent. This has happened many a time before with the Sialkot killings, extremism in Swat, women in Balochistan being buried alive and so on.
Injustice is rampant in Pakistan today and delays in provision of justice from our judicial system, even on crimes committed in broad daylight and with ample evidence, further encourage people to take the law into their own hands.
In a country such as ours, where the illiteracy rate is extremely high — even among the so-called educated class there is chaos in their drawing room chatter — we need swift justice. This is important because it will help set the tone on important issues.
Over the last few months, I have witnessed several debates all over the country where people seemed to have been confused on what the law of the land is. Is the Constitution of Pakistan not what we are meant to follow? According to our Constitution, all injustices should be easy to check and those perpetrating them should be punished since the rights of citizens and the responsibilities of the government and the state are clearly defined. If one believes that it is not a perfect document, then the people in the assemblies must amend it according to the environment so that it is made stronger.
Of course, the other problem justice faces in Pakistan today is the politicisation of a large number of lawyers. Given this, even if one were to understand his or her legal rights, from whom is one to seek legal help? Lawyers are supposed to remain impartial and apolitical but when they start garlanding a murderer, who is going to fight against injustice and provide justice to the family of the man killed? What’s even worse is that when lawyers behave in such an improper manner, the justice system does not do anything to correct such behaviour.
I absolutely refuse to further enable the cause of injustice by staying silent against any crime committed, regardless of who may have done it, who is protecting the criminal or how weak our justice system may be. It is for us to keep pushing the system to improve, for it is the citizens of Pakistan who will set the tone for justice by speaking out, if lawmakers and keepers continue to fail us.
There are times when one gets tired of wondering when all the trouble in Pakistan will come to an end. I am hopeful that we shall weather these turbulent times and learn something important from them along the way. To understand our inner strength, we need to study the recent war won in Swat against terrorists who are invading and trying to destroy our country.
Swat was under attack and our army went in to control the situation, eliminate the militants and help bring normalcy to life in the area. While our army was out there doing its job, I couldn’t help but wonder why it took the civil society so long to realise how important it was to win the war against terror in the valley.
When militants started shutting girls’ schools down in the region and beheading men who opposed them, I kept thinking about how I would have felt if it were my daughters that were being robbed of an education or, God forbid, life itself. Then the horrific incident of Shabana took place where militants dragged this young woman out of her home and brutally murdered her after she refused to give up her job. Her final request — “don’t slit my throat, just shoot me” — was granted by the militants. It was a tragedy that her life was stolen but a greater one would have been if we didn’t finally wake up to fight for justice.
So on March 8, 2009, International Women’s Day, we held a public rally in Karachi where many friends came out in support of our Swati sisters. The rally went well and we made a strong statement, which, I believe, motivated others to eventually come out.
My visit to Mingora in August 2009, left me full of conflicting emotions, as I was both humbled and troubled when the locals came out in hundreds to tell me that I was the first public figure to come visit them since the trouble had started. The smiles on their faces were worth the trip. It seemed that they got strength from knowing that the rest of Pakistan was supporting them.
When I finally visited the girls’ schools that we had fought so hard for, I was overwhelmed by emotion at seeing our children back where they belonged: in the classroom. It didn’t matter that we were meeting for the first time, the important thing was that we had shared a war and won.
On March 8, 2010 we finally held a rally in Mingora itself, among our sisters there. Hundreds of women of all ages walked together to show solidarity against injustice. That day I felt as if Shabana’s voice had truly been heard and we had, as a nation, fought back injustice.
It is unfair to think that change can never happen. It can, if we put our mind to it and become united against tyranny and injustice.