When it comes to creating magic on the small and big screen, Mehreen Jabbar is no amateur. Having directed heartfelt dramas such as Doraha, Daam and Mata-e-Jaan Hai Tu and the award-winning lyrical film Ramchand Pakistani, the daughter of renowned writer Javed Jabbar loves to tell stories about Pakistan. With her latest project Coke Kahani currently airing on TV, this talented director shares details via an email interview.
“I have always loved telling stories about Pakistan — I grew up there and even went to school and college there,” says Jabbar, who currently resides in New York. “I am very invested in that culture and feel there are so many untold stories and so much potential for innovative and exciting projects.” Despite living abroad, this director has a special bond with her country as her love for it gleams in almost all of her work.
A story of family values
Jabbar feels the world is changing fast and family traditions have disintegrated; through Coke Kahani, the team has made an attempt to show these developments on screen. “Our attention spans have reduced dramatically. We just send text messages and don’t really have the time to sit down and talk to each other whether its family or friends,” she says. “Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions because they allow new ideas to be shaped and feelings to be shared.”
“When I was approached to direct Coke Kahani, I was instinctively drawn to it because of the team behind it and the content it had,” she says, in regard to how the project was instigated. “It didn’t seem like a run-of-the-mill TV show with a hackneyed storyline.” She saw commitment from both the production team and the brand, to come up with something substantial, different and experimental.
There are several themes and messages Coke Kahani attempts to highlight without being too preachy or sanctimonious. One targets youth — internal frustrations and anger, how young people deal with their parents’ divorce and their desire to bring a change to society when they aren’t able to. The other targets the older generation and their issues of finding meaning in their existence.
“These are very real and current issues which most dramas don’t tackle as much as they need to,” she adds.
“Coke Kahani was challenging, fun and sometimes quite difficult to shoot,” Jabbar says, speaking about the experience of shooting the show. “It was shot almost like a film — we had a large crew, a major set [a café] which underwent a lot of changes as the story progressed, numerous characters and locations.”
Jabbar is content with the response the drama has received so far and is patiently waiting to see how the audience reacts in the future. “We knew we were onto something as this script contains issues which hadn’t been shown on Pakistani television before,” she says. “I think the script is fantastic. It’s difficult to keep a story fast-moving and fun yet having loads to say in just 17 to 18 minutes [duration of an episode].”
All in all, she feels the drama industry has come a long way. “We’ve made a lot of improvements in the technical and infrastructural areas,” she admits. However, we have to protect our industry from the ‘ratings’ game and not only invest our resources in producing what sells. “Naturally, one wants to create projects which will be watched by as many people as possible, but that doesn’t mean we create a 100 more dramas based on similar storylines,” she adds.
“If experimentation and innovation dies, then our dramas will become stale and repetitive; the audience is always looking for something fresh,” she says. “Even if it [a different story] doesn’t blow the ratings out of the park, it will be a milestone and a contribution to the future of this industry.” Thus, while there is always a desire to create sensational, over-the-top and melodramatic scripts, there is still an audience who wants to view thoughtful, insightful and equally powerful stories.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2012.