DAWN Images, December 29, 2002
A Different Point of View
By Saima Salman
They say cinema is a director's medium while television belongs to the writer. Admittedly, we suffer from a lack of good writers in this country. That is the reason why when you watch a good play after a long time, you make sure you read the credits for the writer's name. Directors and producers, these days, for commercial reasons manipulate pen pushers into producing trash and sadly, there are only a rare few who do not comply.
Khurram Shafique has a background in literature and is an avid reader of history, the two subjects that have inspired numerous scriptwriters. He was noticed after the success of television love story Laila Majnoon [sic. Layla Majnu]. Khurrum says that he was approached by channel bigwigs to write a love story that would attract youngsters. He concluded that the best way of portraying romance was through the classics in a contemporary setting.
Although he left teaching some years ago, there is still a part of him that feels the need to educate the audience. Born and bred in Karachi, he started teaching as early as 1986 and was associated with the Teacher's Resource Centre for a number of years.
"I took script writing classes in Glasgow where the Centre had sponsored my visit to become a professional teacher."
When asked whether it was frustrating to be asked to change the things he had written by the directors these days, Khurram brushes aside any negative feelings saying "I should overcome my frustrations, not glorify them. When a producer is spending so much on a project, how can I set the rules?"
It's rare to find such a malleable creative mind. From radio to stage to television, and even a few books, it seems Khurrum has done it all, yet his is a name one has to dig up. Steven Spielberg and James Cameron are his all time favourite directors along with Yash Chopra and Rajkumar Santoshi from across the border. Names like these are synonymous with commercial cinema and without remorse he further reiterates that Satyajit Ray had his technique right but was wasting his time. "Twentieth century literature is boring and I can't stand art cinema. It serves no purpose. Shakespeare was a great playwright. During his time there was no distinction between commercialism and art, but he wrote plays for the masses, something that will be considered commercial in today's language."
For someone who has mastered English literature, these remarks seem almost irreverent.
"I have studied all the classics, but they do not click."
Khurrum's work can be appreciated in Rustum aur Sohraab, currently airing on Indus Vision and in the future, a lot can be anticipated from this seemingly multi-faceted being.
"Indus will soon be airing Sassi Pannu which is an extension of Laila Majnoon and several other projects which I wont reveal yet are in the offing."
He is an education consultant for several NGOs, writes articles and is currently working on Allama Iqbal's biography in Urdu, as well as a social studies textbook. Khurrum Shafique has a finger in each pie and why not, as in this day and age, there seems to be no such thing as a jack of all arts. In his own words, "my hobby becomes my profession."
When talking about the process of writing a play, he says "I am a fast writer. I don't have to think for hours on the lines I will write. All the characters I conceive are a part of my personality. My villain will do things that I might if I did not tame my negative side. And when I write a female character, I get in touch with my feminine side since the soul has no gender."
It was quite a task to round off the conversation with Khurrum but when we did reach the end for some odd reason the word garrulous came to mind.
"Twentieth century literature is boring and I can't stand art cinema. It serves no purpose. Shakespeare was a great playwright..."