Behind the scenes, Rauf Khalid is a workaholic
Behind the scenes, Rauf Khalid is a workaholic. He doesn't sit until he achieves the desired result. He is known to have temper tantrums that would scare the living day light out of any reasonable human being and demands perfection every time, like there is no tomorrow. However when relaxed, he appears to be a completely different man.
Dressed in a pair of old jeans and white T-shirt; he looks nothing like the person whom I found yelling at the crew a couple of minutes ago on the set. Therefore, it was with much deliberation that I finally managed to convince him for an interview exclusively for 'Mag4You'.
His addiction to drama didn't take toll on him in his adulthood. He used to write for Radio Pakistan when he was still a junior school student. His play 'Rozgaar' was an instant hit, and all regular radio listeners still remember the play, which was later taken up by PTV.
He also has a few short stories to his credit including the quite famous at one time, 'Neeli Gurya' (The Blue Doll). He kept writing for PTV and gave some memorable masterpieces like 'Payya aur Patri', 'Lambee Sarak', 'Bara Ghantay', and 'Bhola' which brought outstanding popularity and critical acclaim.
In 1989, he wrote and partially directed PTV's first-ever thriller, 'Madaar', a seven-episode serial exposing drug trafficking. 1991 started with a bang when Rauf wrote 'Guest House' a 52-episode comedy series that turned out to be the money-making machine for PTV.
Its characters became household names. Film star Afzal Khan, who played 'Rambo' in the serial, came to be permanently known with the name even in his career in the filmdom.
In 1995, Rauf Khalid rose with a masterpiece called 'Angaar Wadi', a 15-episode serial for which he was an actor, director and a producer apart from writing it. It was a great hit and broke all the previous popularity records. Moreover, it was also rated as the most-watched programme in the whole Asia.
The play was even hackneyed by Bollywood, where a film was made copying the same title. In addition, India's national TV channel Doordarshan made a serial using the very same name. The Government of Pakistan awarded Rauf with the prestigious 'Pride of Performance' award in appreciation of the play.
In 1998, Rauf Khalid struck again with 'Laag', a 27-episodes serial (again written, directed, produced and acted in by him), which broke the previous rating-records of PTV programmes, as per the Gallup Survey of Pakistan and remains unbeaten todate. Follows the interview with Rauf Khalid:
We have heard that you were a bureaucrat? How did this switch of profession occurred and in what circumstances it triggered?
I think anyone who is a 'yes man' can be a bureaucrat in Pakistan. I am primarily a writer and I am involved in drama and film-making, and not in showbiz! TV plays or film is a very powerful media of education and information.
Just like a book which is written once and remains there in the market with all the information and education, a well produced drama or film with a message also serves the responsibility of disseminating information and education.
What motivated you to steer your way towards filmmaking as you were having quite a good rapport with TV?
I visited the Evernew Studio in 2000. A man while shaking hands with me said, "Please come to make a film, we need people like you to change our destiny." It made me think if I will be received here.
Like, I have some place here. Though, I also thought what if I fail to change their destiny. And I said I wouldn't repent. However, I would surely have repented had I not tried it at all.
You are considered a product of television. How do you view the trends prevailing on the tube...?
The TV market is, these days, flooded with grind of the mill light plays. The commercialism has left no place for quality products. This swarm of channels is simply looking for free/cheap programmes or otherwise those they can get for deferred payment at will.
The undercuts and gratifying mafia has also corroded the PTV that will take years for it to mend. I will surely work for TV, if, it does not bring disrespect.
Why didn't you start with comparatively lighter scripts. For instance on TV, you concentrated on topics like Kashmir. Don't you think it is cashing the hot issues?
I want to use my pen for my own people and my country's problems. If I was an American I would have written about their problems, since I am a Pakistani, I write to educate people about issues that are ours.
Had Kashmir ever been a cashing thing the private production houses would have milked it to death. However, no one else came to work on the subject. My plays did make money, but it was the story, the direction and the acting that made money.
Don't you think that our film audience that normally comprises of rickshaw walas and sabzi walas, is mature enough to relate to a subject based on an epic...?
It is wrong to say that rickshaw walas are animals and have a lesser IQ than that of a general's son. Due to the influx of information, the common man of today is more aware. Now, he wants quality and vote for a change.
That's why all the run of the mill productions flopped. This is a time that we understand the importance of modern arts and sciences and stop condemning these fields as a threat to religion. Let the intelligentsia take over all fields including filmmaking and cater the masses with some thing compatible with a changing world.
This year we have the biggest flops and most of them were directed by the television people. If for instance, your movie doesn't do well what will be your reaction?
Then I will make another movie. In addition, I guess the effort that my whole team has put in will meet the desired objective that we have kept before. The initiative that I have taken for a better and meaningful cinema, I would like to see other people joining me too in order to revive what we have miserably lost.
Do you think our audience is mature enough to welcome a change that you are trying to bring about?
I don't know why we under estimate our people. If you don't give them something that invites their attention to focus on, then how can you figure out their incapability? In fact, we have never tried to give them something, which may activate them.
They have been provided the same stuff with the same chemistry over-and-over again. Nobody has positively tried to bring a change. Some people who tried later proved to be so short-tempered that they disappeared from the scene when their product was not welcomed by the masses. I guess they shouldn't have given up because the way our industry has deteriorated it will take sometime to make our people aware of the cinema boundaries.
Tell us more about 'Laaj', and when the audience will have it ready for their eyes?
'Laaj' is the most prestigious project of my life. I have tried my level best to give my people something very original, something that they can relate to. Like other film-makers, I don't believe in making tall claims and at the end not to come up with something concrete, but usual crap. In fact, the way people have admired my plays 'Angar Wadi' and 'Laag', it has really boosted my strength to go ahead with this international project.
The task was big and everybody from the industry discouraged me, but with every blow of discouragement, I found my enthusiasm enhanced with the same degree. At some far flung locations of NWFP, we were even threatened of losing our lives by the local people, but we kept moving ahead and finished the project satisfactorily.
The story of 'Laaj' is a period drama based on a real love story about a Hindu girl and a Pathan Muslim in the backdrop of undivided subcontinent. This invited a great agitation in both communities and the mean interference of the British rulers added fuel to fire so that they may prolong their rule.
We have tried to create a real impact by making sure that whatever equipment weapons, locations and set designing is done, must reflect the period that the film is all about.
Moreover, the roles of British rulers are performed by the foreign artistes, which makes it more realistic. With Resham, Zara and Imran in the main lead, this film will offer the people of Pakistan with something, which they may relate to.