The question of who gets the lion’s share in industries that bank on their stars to rake in funds is an interesting one. Be it the blinding world of show business or competitive sports; corporations, associations, production companies and administrative boards have long been at loggerheads with their stars over money.
Nearly four decades ago, a number of Pakistan’s top cricketers refused to play for the country over a pay raise issue. The controversy took the country by storm and the Pakistan Cricket Board had to blink first. But that was a question of wanting more money because the board was making more. What do you do in a situation where you aren’t paid at all?
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This is the question that Quetta-based TV and film veteran Ayub Khosa has been asking for a while. A few days ago, he took to Facebook and wrote a lengthy post about unmasking media professionals who have cheated many performers like him. “I have decided to organise a press conference against all the cheaters, the directors and producers, who have not only wronged me but many others too,” were his words.
Elaborating on this sudden surge of anger, he told The Express Tribune, “The problem is not just with me but with other television actors as well such as Adil Murad and Zara Tareen, who either haven’t received their wages on time or haven’t at all,” exclaimed the Operation 021 actor.
With this trend of late or no payments gradually becoming a norm, Khosa feels that now is the time to act. Reiterating that it has become increasingly important for actors to get together on a singular platform, he noted that an association or guild would go a long way in allowing performers an opportunity to voice their concerns and fight for their rights. He said while actors are aware of the necessity of unity, few attempts have been made in this regard and none have been successful; the last being made by actor Atiqa Odho nearly two years ago.
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However, to him, the issue of payments is the first priority. What is even more disturbing for the actor is that some of the most respected members of the United Producer’s Association (UPA) and top brass of the Arts Councils are allegedly guilty of this charge. “I know many struggling actors who are not paid on time just because they are powerless in front of those in a position of authority,” stated Khosa.
Even though the actor has registered for his producer’s licence so that he can become a member of the UPA, he has also asked Murad, a member of the organisation, to bring the issue to light.
The actor who is amongst some of the leading faces of the revived Pakistani cinema, said if things go the way they are going right now, the film industry will see major setbacks. He emphasised on the need for higher levels of professionalism.
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Asking regulatory bodies like Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to step in as enforcers, he asked for accountability in the industry. “Whenever a producer is about to make a TV serial or a film, there should be effective oversight of the payments documentation and processes.”
Not one to get his hopes up quickly, Khosa knows the chances of things changing for the better immediately are slim. Having mulled the possibility of taking his case to court, he said the legal cost of obtaining justice would be higher than the sum that is actually unpaid. “The sad thing is that in an industry like ours, if someone raises his or her voice, people become apprehensive about working with them,” he laughed.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2016.
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