‘TV, today, is truly an idiot box that kills visceral continuity’ — Sarmad Khoosat
‘It’s about time that we learn from India where art is supported socially, economically and politically. However, India shouldn’t be an obsession and a shortcut to becoming popular. For that matter, why don’t we show the same fetish for working with the Iranians or the Japanese? We have acquired an inferiority complex because we have been stifled for too long. Ours is a formula-driven psyche,’ says Sarmad Khoosat
He explains, “When you direct a play putting your blood and sweat into the process and it is chopped off into 10 chunks interspersed with sauna belt adverts generously sprinkled with time checks, news scroll, channel and upcoming programmes’ logos flashing on the screen, how can you expect the viewer to stay put? No wonder Star Plus has clicked for its mindless soaps require no concentration. TV today is truly an idiot box that kills visceral continuity. It suffocates me and that’s why film is a better avenue of presenting art to the masses.”
Is India mania taking over our part of the world? “Working with the Indians should not be an issue,” he says. “It’s about time we open up to the requirements of a superior and mature audience worldwide and learn from India where art is supported socially, economically and politically. However, India shouldn’t be an obsession and a shortcut to becoming popular. For that matter, why don’t we show the same fetish for working with the Iranians or the Japanese? We have acquired an inferiority complex because we have been stifled for too long. Ours is a formula-driven psyche.”
Sarmad further elaborates, “You see, if Maula Jutt was a phenomenal success by Yunus Malik, it was because he dared to make something original and uninhibited. When that Maula Jutt became a hit formula replicated by virtually all other directors, we started generating crude flops. We have stopped experimenting with originality. Ram Gopal Verma of India is a name to reckon with and he started with a string of eight to nine flops to his directorial credit. He was still given a chance each time to become what he is. In our case, when our youngsters will be stopped from experimenting, they will obviously run after somebody else’s identity. That’s why it’s difficult to enter filmdom in our part of the world because we hate experimenting. I wrote a script for Hasan Askari, 60 per cent of which was shot and then the project abandoned because the director/producer duo developed differences over the script.”
This is why Sarmad believes it’s important to develop an academic side to art and impart it to newcomers. “Let me be frank here. Our elders failed to teach us what they had learnt. Had the performing arts been taught at academia, we the artistes, might today have been a respected lot rather than considered meerasis. That’s why I teach whatever I know. I don’t claim to be a pundit of the performing arts but at the very least, the exchange of ideas with young minds might lead to originality evolving somewhere.”
But doesn’t the older lot, too, have a fair share of complaints about the decadent work ethics in the newer lot? “Our elders are sometimes too critical, I feel. About 10-15 years back everyone who acted, directed, wrote or produced plays was not the best. There were flops, too. Today the quantity and variety of content has expanded and you can’t compare the media then with that of today. And I must say that some veteran actors themselves exhibit a total disregard for work ethics. They fail to show up for recordings or rehearsals.
This was mainly the reason that I gave a chance to amateur, devoted actors from the NCA for Tamasha Ghar rather than relying solely on veterans. I was given a particularly tough time by a celebrated actress who insisted on reading the script of her role first and then saying she would like to have the 16 scenes recorded in a single day, without rehearsals, because she had to go to a wedding,” says Sarmad in an exasperated voice.
© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2006