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.