DENVER, COLORADO, US: The finest part of my education in the United States was that we were taught time and again that art is limitless and permeates beyond borders. Why should we ever have to conform to society and communal norms when crafting art – or spreading a message through a film, a photograph, a painting, a sculpture, music or poetry. My favourite writers and poets confirmed this notion for me.
Sahir Ludhianvi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, Mirza Ghalib, Jalaluddin Rumi, Oscar Wilde, Frank O’Hara, Maya Angelou and Pablo Neruda were all rebels with a cause. Flouting fences to exhibit sentiments towards the higher power, express their emotions of love, die-hard feelings, passion, fury, despair, rejection and passion made them a fearless bunch of revolutionaries that capsized the ‘standards’ and generated an air of freedom that provides an inexplicable high to me today.
Wretchedly, the contemporary age we live in today reminds me very much of the middle ages. Though we’re progressive in terms of groundbreaking inventions such the iPhone X, self-driving vehicles and the fidget spinner, we still lag behind when it comes to freedom of expression. Don’t buy what I’m saying? Then answer these for me please. Why is Padmavati being banned? Why is their head money for Deepika Padukone and Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced by the BJP as of right now? Why was Verna not released when it was supposed to? Why does the ‘honourable’ censor board fail to realise that catastrophes such as sexual harassment and rape are real and in-our-faces-prevalent in every society there is? If all that doesn’t give you a recap of the middle ages, I don’t know what will. And I cannot wait for a new-fangled renaissance to occur already!
With the odd treatment of Verna, I was disenchanted to say the least but recently, a talk at the Lahore University of Management and Sciences or LUMS (of which I saw videos of) imparted me with a prospect of hope because after all, no matter where we’re at, us artists don’t ever give up – and they’re never ever undeterred by boundaries.
The mission of an artist is to promote awareness and stipulate an undistorted understanding of the society that envelops us. Humaima Malick and Uzma Hassan, the female protagonists of the upcoming Arth – The destination made their way to LUMS and what they had to convey to the youth was exemplary and badass – resembling my afore-mentioned sentence.
Uzma and Humaima were, in my opinion, on operation ‘shedding light’. The actors shed light on assorted aspects of art, their experiences in the Pakistani film industry, as well as abroad and freedom through art.
“There are no boundaries when it comes to art. We both have worked in India, and we were loved equally in both the countries. India appreciated and respected our talent – and that’s how it should be; no politics should come in the way of art,” asserted Uzma on the subject of trade of art between the conflict-prone ‘brother nations’, as I’d like to call them: Pakistan and India.
Both the thespians also underscored the importance of passion and love for the work you might choose to associate yourself with, by sharing their own personal odysseys of pursuing careers outside of Pakistan. They comparatively analysed the difference of work ethics between Pakistan and Bangkok/Bangladesh/India.
Uzma, who is originally a theatre artist visits India twice a year for her theatrical performances, delved deeper into the subject, stating, “Indians value art; they consider it as part of their culture; they don’t slack behind debating over what’s right and wrong.” Backing her co-star up, Humaima shared, “And they know and comprehend their jobs well; they work hard and in unity; they wake up in the morning with the same enthusiasm about their jobs as they would have done a day before, no matter how petty their job may seem on the outside – and this is what attracts us the most as artists.”
In the remake of Mahesh Bhatt’s cult-classic Arth, Shaan, the director of the remake has grabbed an opportunity to portray the story and the characters in the light of modern times – something that other Indian films have done as well; Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas, for instance, explained Uzma. She continued on by enlightening onlookers on the significance of improvisation in art, which caters to maintaining the realistic side of life intact while they’re performing as actors.
“When you are working with Shaan, you have the privilege to be both – the actor and the real person that you are behind that mask of the character you’re playing. And given the heavy demands of this film, we had to be ourselves and channel that originality in our acting – which, in fact, wasn’t easy!” discussed the starlets at the platform of LUMS.
“You cannot exactly study acting. You’re either born with it or you don’t have it in you,” alleged Humaima while elucidating the hitches and hurdles she had to endure on her journey to finally making it into the film industry.
Apart from reflecting over culture and art, the actors also imparted some acting lessons to the fascinated audience at LUMS, followed by a sneak peek of what their characters are like in the upcoming Arth – The Destination. They deliberated as to how their characters are reflective of their actual selves – one of the reasons why the film is sincerely prized and cherished by the both of them. The much-awaited flick chiefly circles around the lives of two women — Uzma and Humaima’s characters, and the paths they choose to stride on and the destinations they touch upon, and how in this trajectory, their lives evolve.
Though their talk wasn’t rebellious towards norms and the two-faced society that (more than) sometimes ignores pivotal issues, their presence and their lust for their work was a breath of crisp, rhythmic air that you just want to continue to inhale. Their presence and presentation at LUMS squealed one important article that we can all borrow from – just be you – come what may, be you, be yourself! And be fearless, unapologetic and proud of what you do in your life. Because – why not?!