LAHORE-Navid Shahzad of Such Gup and Daur e Junoon fame is back with her first film appearance in ‘Punjab Nahin Jaon Gi’.

Her own performances in theatre and TV over the years have been lauded for their sensitivity, elegance and realistic portrayal of characters. Deeply interested in literature and media studies, an indefatigable Navid has finished writing a film script and is currently working on a book on aspects of Turkish television while reading scripts for her next venture. In an exclusive interview with The Nation she talks about her career and success. Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Tell us about your childhood: where did you grow up and how did you develop your interest in acting?

I have always lived in Lahore. Mine was a magical childhood living in an old house on Lawrence Road surrounded by gardens. After school afternoons were spent playing cricket, gulli danda and flying kites with my three brothers.

 I discovered drama quite by accident. School plays became a kind of nursery where I could experiment with different personas and the world of drama excited me tremendously. I was a quiet child given to dreams and introspection but I was always a voracious reader preferring a book to company.

Navid Shahzad rose to fame with comedy shows, Such Gup and Tal Matol, in the 70s. What was the secret of their success?

The shows were marked by intelligent, ironic scripts written by Shoaib Hashmi, who has been my guru in my journey towards self expression. The humour was subtle, always topical and true to life. Audiences could relate to the characters which were played by an incredible ensemble cast.

The most important aspect of the script was the lack of any ribaldry or anything smacking of poor taste. The shows challenged viewers to read between the lines, I think they enjoyed being made to think which has made the show iconic. Nothing has been done since which is even a patch on SUCH GUP!

You completed work in Sabiha Sumar’s film Chotay Shah last year, but the film has not been released as yet? Can we know the reason?

The short film was commissioned for a festival circuit two years ago under a Zee TV initiative to involve six film makers each from India and Pakistan and was not meant for the public release. It has been doing the rounds and I believe it has received good reviews.

You dabbled after long time in big screen and got the chance to act in film like “Punjab Nahi Jaungi”. How was your experience in PNJ?

Film was not a new medium for me, I had already done Sumar’s film as an actor, have taught film making, scripting and ’reading film’ courses since 2013 at university level.

It was almost a natural environment for me and I had no difficulty facing the camera. Of course it helped tremendously to have dear friends like Nadeem Baig directing, and Salman Razzak behind the camera with his incredible cinematography. The experience as a whole was great. I was treated with the utmost respect by Humayun Saeed, Behroze Sabzwari and the whole crew. Mehwish is a darling and very easy to work with but the best part was seeing so many young women working behind the scenes in administrative capacities.

How is it working with this young brigade?

One word- marvelous! But please do not overlook the fact that I have always worked with young people- students, actors, colleagues – I suppose that is what keeps one creative and working. Decades ago, I helped revive English theater with teams of young people who still remember those heady days. I cast many of those people in the Urdu version of Taming of the Shrew production for The Globe Theatre, London in 2012.   As Dean School of Liberal Arts, Beaconhouse National University, I set up the first department of Theater, Film and TV in the country where so many of our promising actors and film makers have been trained.

 I am also the Chairperson of Riot Productions headed by my son Farhad Humayun as CEO. We collaborate on projects regularly at shoots in our fully equipped studio and I enjoy working with young musicians, film makers, stylists etc. while I involve myself actively with post production. 

What was challenging about your role in PNJ?

Every role is challenging and Beebo Ji was no exception. She was an old world figure caught in the crossfire between modern sensibilities and unquestioning traditional loyalty. The challenge was to make her human and believable without resorting to sanctimonious stereo types.  

What are your other interests besides acting?

My children come first and then my grandchildren. We are constantly exchanging ideas and are amazed at their views and how much I learn from them and my students every day.

If you had a time machine, which era and city would you prefer time traveling to?

Have never thought about it- enjoying my present life so much!

Would you like to share about your upcoming projects?

Reading a few film scripts writing another screenplay, a book is in the final stages.