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Interviews

AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ANWAR MAQSOOD

I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.

ANWAR MAQSOOD IS A MAN WHO NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION; HIS NAME IS ALMOST TANTAMOUNT WITH THE ACHIEVEMENT OF SATIRE AND HUMOR ON PAKISTANI TELEVISION. HIS IMAGINATIVE SKILLS, HOWEVER, SPAN MULTIPLE SURFACES THAT ARE GENERALLY NOT KNOWN TO THE EYE OF A COMMON MAN. HE HAS BEEN LINKED WITH THE TELEVISION INDUSTRY FOR AROUND 50 YEARS FROM NOW HOWEVER; IT WASN’T UNTIL RECENTLY THAT HE BEGAN TAKING THEATRE SERIOUSLY.

BM: Tell us a bit about yourself.
AM: I did my honors from Karachi University in economics. Although my interest has always been in reading and writing, one can say that it’s in my genes. When my family migrated from India in September 1948 from Hyderabad Deccan, the only thing we brought was 10,000 books and nothing else. My elder sister Zahira Nigaar is also a very well-known poet. I have been writing for over 50 years now, for television however, my first job was to sell tie and cufflinks for RS 150 in saddar. My father died at a very young age of 42 only, we were 10 brothers and sisters and so our eldest sister took care of us providing us education and all the necessities in life.

Huge stars like Fareeda Khanum, Iqbal Bano, Ghulam Fareed Sabri, all used to come at my house for recordings. I also own a music library for myself, where I have a full episode of Khan Sahab, who used to play the ‘Sitaar’, including that, I have all the classical songs of Indo-Pak, Beetles, Alvis Presley, Stones and many more. I am also very passionate about painting; I started painting as a little boy where then I slowly and gradually perfected my skills in it. My first painting exhibition was held in 1958 and in exactly half an hour all my painting were sold. The person who bought my painting was Jamsheed Marker, an Ambassador of Pakistan, a very well-educated person. He is the only one in Pakistan who also owns a PICASSO. I was awarded by the government of Pakistan for my paintings. Apart from all this I am a very good cook; too, whenever my children come to visit me, they want me to cook for them.

BM: How did you become a part of the media industry? What hurdles did you face in leading such a successful journey?
AM: When PTV started, the first show that aired on it was, “MEHMAAN”, in which I was casted as the main lead. After that, Arshad Mehmood told me to write for his show, ‘NIZAAM UDDIN’. I then started writing for different shows including, 50/50, which was a super hit. General Zia Ul Haq called everyone from the cast, praised them and awarded them but didn’t call me. I went to General Munshi and asked him the reason as to why I wasn’t called and he said that the cast is the main attraction, whereas the writer has no credit for it. He disheartened me by this statement and so I left the show after writing 18 consecutive episodes.

BM: Are you working on any new script?
AM: Yes I’m working on a new project, named ‘SCRIPT TEES’, subjected on censorship. The word Script Tees means to reduce the text of a script. This theatre play will be broadcasted on different channels, and will surely gain great popularity amongst the media industry.

BM: Who is your Inspiration?
AM: My inspiration was no renowned personality or actor but just a piece of paper with a single pen in my hand and this is how my journey of poetry and writing began. I used to draw on the walls when I was a kid, with no paints but only coals, then there was this uncle of mine who was also my neighbor, he bought me some paints, since then my interest developed in painting, and so it shall never die.

BM: Did you ever write a film script?
AM: I have only written two film scripts in my professional life till date, the first film was, ‘Deewanay Teray Pyar Ke’, in which Jia Ali was casted for the first time for the leading role. The second film I wrote was for Shehzad Roy in which casted himself as the hero.

BM: When did you start writing theatre scripts?
AM: Although I had never written any script for theatre before, out of nowhere a group of students by the name of KOPYKATS came to me and asked me to write a theater script of ‘Angan Tera’, for them. I refused them by saying that I would not be able to write a script of 13 hours in just 90 minutes. But they convinced me by waiting outside my house for my approval all day. Looking at their passion and dedication towards their motto, I agreed to write for them and so today it’s been about five years that I have been writing for theatrical plays, on and off.

BM: How did you come across the thought of Siachen?
AM: The only thought which came to my mind was to write something for the soldiers of our nation, so for that reason a colleague suggested me to write on Siachen. I was called to Islamabad at GHQ, to seek the permission from General Asim Bajwa (Head of ISPR) with regards to writing a script on the life of our soldiers at Siachen. He on his behalf gave me the permission but told me to wait for General Raheel Sharif’s confirmation. Although when I met General Raheel Sharif, he encouraged me to write the script. This play “Siachen” was a hit not only in Islamabad but also in Karachi, Lahore and other cities. The play was loved by the Army Officials who especially came up to watch the first show that was played. They appreciated it so much that they now want me to make a movie out of the same script and the movie will start filming in 2 months, hopefully. Siachen was performed at the theatre four times in a single day, but after the last show concluded and we were about to leave the theatre, more than 500 people were waiting for the next show, as it was the last day of the show. I told them that it was impossible because we too were also very tired but they insisted so much that we had to play yet another show for them that ended at 3 am in the morning.

BM: Did you expect the play to reach the heights it got or was it a surprise to you?
AM: It was a complete surprise; I never expected that Siachen would be such a big hit. All the actors in the play were university students as I personally took more than 900 auditions and selected only 18 students out of the lot, and every one of them played their role brilliantly. After their selection the first thing I did was send them to Siachen for 12 days, so that they could understand the hardships of a soldier deployed over there. They were astonished to see that the only activity of a soldier over there was to wait for a letter from their loved ones or to sing songs. After coming back from Siachen, all the students were told to stay alone in a house without any digital technology to understand what loneliness felt like.

BM: During the ongoing success of Siachen, how did you overcome the death of your sister, Fatima Suraiya Bajia?
AM: I used to live with Bajia; she was like my mother, a friend, a sister and a colleague. A couple of days before her death she stopped talking and used to write in order to exchange words. When I was leaving for the theatre, I knew her time had come and that she was about to depart. The day of her death I was on the stage and my niece was sitting in the audience. I saw her stand up and leave; upon asking her why she was in such a hurry she replied that, ‘I’m going home’. That was when I came to realize that something had happened. I rushed home, where I saw a doctor sitting next to bajia and saw that she was no more. The death of Bajia is undoubtedly, a great loss for me and my family.

BM: What message would you like to give to the youth and our readers?
AM: The kind of superb work done by our youth especially the females is just phenomenal. The youth is very intelligent, they have the will to work and have the potential to do something extraordinary. They are very honest, and always speak the truth. All the students who go abroad want to come back, it’s only that luck is never in favour of Pakistan. I would advise the youth to keep on speaking the truth, as when you lie you have to remember what you have said but when you speak the truth, you don’t need to recall it again, so speak the truth and move on.

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