Home Entertainment Pakistani filmmaker Kanwal Khoosat to WION on ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ becoming Oscars 2021 entry

Pakistani filmmaker Kanwal Khoosat to WION on ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ becoming Oscars 2021 entry

Pakistani filmmaker Kanwal Khoosat to WION on 'Zindagi Tamasha' becoming Oscars 2021 entry

What started as an experiment for television producers to encourage and usher in a new era of teleplays having merged broadcast and theatre to bring celebrated content to a larger audience courtesy the wide reach of the medium — teleplays have come a long way. 

With a cross border teleplay ‘Gidh’ running on TV for the first time, Pakistani writer-director Kanwal Khoosat got talking to WION about the idea, its realisation and making intelligent art. She also spoke about producing Pakistan’s official entry to Oscars 2021, ‘Zindagi Tamasha’. 

Zee Theatre brought ‘Gidh’ to its Indian audience towards the end of 2020, a play revolving around two women protagonists bound together by their shared miseries of life in a patriarchal society. 

WION: Since Gidh means vulture in literal translation, what symbolic importance does the tenacity of the bird have with the teleplay?

Kanwal: ‘Gidh,’ as a bird carries a lot of negative energy around its name. The traits of the bird are also sometimes considered analogous to a bad omen or bad energy but these are the very qualities that set it apart from other birds. In appearance too, a ‘Gidh’ is not as pleasing or as beautiful as other birds or is as colorful. However, when you look at the king vulture, it possesses the most vibrant and striking shades of the color palette. But whenever we think of a vulture, we only think of browns and greys and blacks. The same is the case with our story. On the surface level, the lives of Saleema and Salma, the way they dress up, talk about concepts and ideas seem to be very mundane and really dull and boring. But when you find more about them, you come to know that their lives are as interesting and as unique as a vulture itself. Whether we like it or not, it is what makes them stand apart from the rest of the crowd.

Also, the way the story is told thrives on the narrative technique called ‘deliberate ambiguity’. What begins to emerge are the qualities you associate with a vulture that flies low and then consumes the flesh of dead animals. ‘Deliberate ambiguity’ gives you many options to draw at the same time and takes you to horizons you have never explored. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it will give you at least two options to consider at any given point in time. So you may think that this is the answer to the questions in your mind and that you know or understand a certain character but then your own perception is defied at some point, giving you at least one more possibility or interpretation of the same text or sentiment that a character has portrayed.
 
WION: How was the play conceptualized and how do you feel about the play being telecast on TV although it’s not a new concept?

Kanwal: Yes, televising a theatre play is not a new concept. It was practiced on our national TV channels in the 80s, the 90s as well as the early 2000s. It has been very nostalgic because making a teleplay gives me an opportunity to exercise the vocabulary that I had developed by watching those teleplays. Now, in my own little way, I got an opportunity to improve upon the format for a contemporary audience.

Conceptualizing this play was the most enriching experience out of the three teleplays that I have produced for Zee Theatre. When I was working on the other plays, to be honest, I was struggling to reproduce the same experience that I had while performing them on stage as a live performance. I didn’t really know what should go into a teleplay. Should it look like a recorded theatre experience? Or should it have a language of its own? I don’t think I allowed myself a lot of space in this confusion. I thought my comfort lay in reproducing the staged experience but while working on ‘Gidh,’ I allowed myself space and distanced myself from how I approached ‘Jhanjhar Di Panwaan Chhankaar’ and ‘Mushk.’ I allowed myself to develop a vocabulary that involved the camera’s gaze in the conceptualization and the visualization of the play.

WION: With the play having two women in the central scheme of things, how was the agency around the women dealt with?

Kanwal: Sometimes in the mainstream media women are shown to be subjects or victims of the patriarchal system of our society. The two women in the play would look like they’d apparently not defy any of these notions. They look and talk like they are part and parcel of the same system and yet when you get to know them on a deeper level, and the story unfolds as they start narrating their own past to each other and how they have coped with their own emotional challenges and their social, familial, and economic limitations, you find that these women have taken charge of their own lives. They are not the subjects or victims of the system, be it patriarchy, consumerism, or capitalism. These are women who have been making their own decisions and also take the responsibility for their actions. They have dealt with their circumstances with the awareness that they will not just sit back and face their fate but will get up and change it.

WION: Do you truly believe that art has no boundaries?

Kanwal: In today’s age and time, nothing has boundaries, and art never had any. Look at our cinema and television industries for example. Even when we could not watch Indian shows, sometimes through our analog antennas, we would catch some signals of Doordarshan in the early 80s when I was a child. We used to be thrilled watching ‘Chitrahaar’ and other programs on Doordarshan and I guess it was the same with our channels being broadcast in your part of the world. We are such big fans of Bollywood cinema that the popularity of a star is now not just estimated by the volume of their Indian fans but also South Asian fans. Through our plays, films, and our music even before the advent of digital media, we knew a lot about each other’s cultures, politics, and narratives. We have come from the same cultural background and now with the provision of social media, we have been brought closer to each other in a global sense as well. Art is something that comes from the heart and goes straight to the heart and transcends all boundaries because it is the portrayal of sentiments and emotions that have a universal appeal and language.

WION: What do you want the audience to expect from this teleplay?
 
Kanwal: I would like my audience to not expect anything from this play and just sit back and see what the story has in store for them. Just be ready to be surprised by every plot twist that comes your way and be actively involved. 

WION: Apart from ‘Gidh,’ your much-in-news film ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ is now Pakistan’s entry to Oscars 2021. What can you tell us about the film and the hype around it?

Kanwal: Yes, with a lot of pride, I can tell you that ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ has been sent to the Oscars as Pakistan’s official nomination. It has made a big splash in the news here as well. I was the producer of the film and after all the ups and downs it went through and the unrest it faced, in a way the universe is really redeeming itself at least in our eyes as makers of the film by getting us a nomination at the Oscars.

WION: It was banned from release in Pakistan. What is the status now?

Kanwal: Because of the COVID-19 situation, the cinemas here are all closed so as soon as the business of life resumes, hopefully, we would like to go for a theatrical run.

WION: Why do you think it was labelled blasphemous and how do you deal with restrictions on creative freedom and interpretation of art?

Kanwal: Artistic expression is always individualistic and personal. It has to be. Maybe not reacting at all is one way of reacting to any kind of restrictions. The other way is to not grab a headline every time you do something and subliminally keep pushing the boundaries and the envelope. And tell your stories in a more sensible and cerebral way through your art. This is the only way to normalize things by presenting them in a very normal and subtle manner. At the end of the day, whatever stories we may tell have been taken from the world around us unless we are depicting aliens and even then, we draw references from what we know. How can something seem so unfamiliar when it is taken from your own environment? Everything is a representation of our own world and is ordinary and familiar in some way. It might be something that has been overlooked for some time or maybe it will be misunderstood because our own perception, mindset, politics, decisions, and biases will filter it. At the end of the day, anything under the sun is a part and parcel of who we are as people.

WION: Where do you think a line should be drawn between creative freedom and censorship?

Kanwal: I seriously don’t know where the line should be drawn and who should be drawing that line. As an artist, you may understand that anything that has been imposed upon you is an external factor, that you would try and resist. Anything that imposes limits from within could also be a reflection of what you have been conditioned into believing. So, what should be censored and what should not be and what defines creative freedom, I don’t know. There is no one fixed answer to this and as they say in the communications field,” you have to know your audience.” But then who can have a perfect idea of what and who their audiences are and what is their exact consumption behaviour? You may be underestimating or overestimating your audience or even generalizing them. You may or may not censor something keeping the audience in mind but it could be a wrong assumption of your audience. So, I really don’t have the perfect answer.
 
WION: How sensitive is Pakistan in dealing with topics like this that have a religious flavour?

Kanwal: Why just Pakistan? I guess this sensitivity prevails in almost every part of the world these days. Anything that has to do with any sort of conservatism is something that is not received very openly. People have become more passionate or maybe it’s the group mentality that wants to control people and has become stringent in its approach towards what should be allowed for consumption. I don’t know if there’s any part of the world where creative ideas have been met with a conducive environment.

WION: India-Pakistan ties have been quite sour in terms of cross-cultural exchange of arts and artists, what do you hope for the future?

Kanwal: I really hope and pray that cross-cultural exchanges of art and artists are given much more importance. Future is something we as people are going to have to pave a way for. We will really have to work hard to mend and develop relationships between people globally. 

The teleplay ‘Gidh’ stars Sana Jafri, Raasti Farooq and Adeel Afzal.

This article is auto-generated by Algorithm Source: www.wionews.com

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