If Pakistani television drama is taken seriously as a genre of Literature, then Bee Gul’s works will serve as an example of the genre’s production. Aesthetics, a sophisticated use of the native language and an awareness of social issues go hand in hand in Bee Gul’s writings, who has written both telefilms and drama serials for the Pakistani drama industry. While her last work has been Dar Si Jati Hai Sila, a popular HUM TV drama serial based on sexual abuse, her upcoming project is Dil Aara which will be airing on the newly launched channel, BOL Entertainment. I asked this writer a few questions, which are as follows with their answers:
Do you have any apprehensions about Dil Aara, considering its inclusion of new faces such as Usman Butt and Kinza Razzaq?
Not at all! I am very excited to see both of them on screen. When it comes to the growth of our industry, I am always very supportive and second every step taken in this regard. Even when I worked at HUM TV, I would always try to bring new faces to the front and guide the aspiring ones as much as possible, be they from any field. I believe that be it writing, editing, singing, direction, production or music composition, growth and experimentation is very important in order to keep the area flourishing. Therefore, I am super-excited about the inclusion of new faces in Dil Aara’s cast, especially Kinza Razzaq who is intelligent, hard-working and has followed the directions of Khalid Ahmed meticulously. She was living in the character throughout the shoot, would spend hours discussing it with us, probing into the layers of the character, its habits, its gestures and its relation with the other characters. So, I consider it a very powerful addition in the cast of Pakistani drama industry. Coming towards Usman Butt, he is extremely good-looking and we do not come across as handsome an actor as Usman in our drama industry. It did require some effort to extract the stiffness and attitude of a model out of him, which was the character’s demand. Usman’s character, as I have written it, is not of a typical macho-man. This is my usual way of developing heroes. They are normal men who do not have to injure or kill a dozen other men to prove themselves. This was difficult to explain to Usman Butt initially but once he understood it, he started to perform very well. So, the intelligence of Kinza and the looks of Usman combined is something to look forward to, not to apprehend. Choosing new people, no doubt, is a risk but it gets enjoyable when you are committed and have a plan to reach somewhere.
What exactly was the topic of your drama serial Zid? Was it against exploited feminism?
Since I was new in the industry at that point in time, I was dictated a lot and was asked to make a lot of changes to Zid in accordance with the producers’ demands who were after ratings. Despite such commercial factors, I did manage to convey the message I had in mind, which was that it is not always obligatory to conform to the society’s tradition of bringing girls up with only one objective; that of wedding them and ordering them to be subservient to their husbands. I tried to portray a female character who is disinterested in marriage but is bad-mouthed by the society and is not allowed to live a peaceful life. The ‘Zid’ or stubbornness was regarding the refusal of the protagonist to save her marriage since she was made to enter the relation forcefully. I do wish that it had been made as I had wanted it to be, for I was unhappy with many things in its presentation. Still, a lot of people enjoyed it and liked the rebellious and radical character around which the story revolved.
You write on unique topics and your stories have an unusual aura. Do you feel that there is a lack of creative directors who can understand you in a better manner?
The answer for this cannot be a rigid ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. These are times of mass production of drama serials, and when this happens, there remains no space for creativity and innovation. Creativity takes place where there is selective work. One drama serial being made after another and by every other person makes even the directors helpless, for they have to succumb to the demands of the producers, and thus cannot be always held responsible for compromising on quality. And unfortunately, that has resulted in the wrong comprehension of my scripts and total destruction of them many a times, for the directors have not been trained in a manner in which they can utilize or even encounter their creative abilities. Therefore, my hopes of having people around who can understand my works died a long time ago. The reason why I have a rich history of working with Khalid Ahmed is because he is the only person who understands my screenplays the best and is able to execute them properly. The other person I can trust with my works is Kashif Nisar.
Tell something about your art of characterization.
It has never been a conscious effort. It is spontaneous and happens on its own. I have this love for characters that inclines me to consider even props as characters. Even during my creative process, it is not a story that I come up with. It is some character that appears from nowhere. Then I explore that character and follow its demands. At times, it happens that I do not feel like wanting to write what my characters are demanding, but I am forced to do so, for I become dependent on them. This naturalness in their development results in my being able to relate to them as well by the end of the day. So, it is not a conscious effort at all but a product of my having observed some person unconsciously and absorbing his or her attributes without realizing it. It all happens on its own. I have no formula or art of characterization. (Bee Gul relates the following verses by Mirza Ghalib):
Aate hain ghaib se yeh mazameen khayal mein
Ghalib sareer-e-khaama nawa-e-sarosh hai
In my opinion, Dar Si Jati Hai Sila was written in an extremely careful manner, endeavouring not to move towards ideal situations and trying to keep the family institution intact. Is that true?
When I was asked to write Dar Si Jati Hai Sila, I initially refused because I did not have the guts to tackle such a haunting topic. Sexual abuse is something that gives me goose bumps and something I am not in favour of exploiting in order to get ratings. Noor-ul-Huda Shah was there who said to me that she believes in me and that she trusts me with the topic. I thought it over and decided to write on it, but shifted the focus towards sexual abuse that takes place within middle-class joint families. It was not about the family institution that I was careful, but more than that, I was worried about not hurting any victim who might be watching it. Therefore, I tried to not only address the issue but handle it in such a manner that if some victim happens to be watching it, he or she may be able to gain strength from it. My focus was on the careful removal of the protagonist from the predicament I showed her in. As far as the idealism is concerned, the serial was a complete journey of Sila, and by the time it came to an end, Sila had grown only powerful enough to throw the abuser out from her house. An exaggeration in her disposition was not shown because miraculous changes do not take place overnight. This is also the reason why I did not show the character of Joyi Mama turning into a pious man. The fact that I showed him alive and walking around the house was to tell that sexual abuse has not fully come to an end. It does not happen so quickly. And we are still to be vigilant.
You make use of refined Urdu language in your works. Do actors, in its delivery, come up to your expectations?
I have read and understood Urdu language, and when I sit down to write, it is Urdu which comes to me naturally. When I started writing dramas, a lot of people had difficulty with the kind of language I wrote. They would often say that they had not even heard of the words which I had written. I would be asked to pronounce them and tell their meanings. Gradually, I brought myself to understand that I have to use simpler words, but again, I couldn’t stick to it because when I would start writing, it was impossible for me to keep the flow under control. When I wrote Kaun Qamar Ara, Shakeel sahib called me and praised my usage of Urdu, telling me that it was after a long time that he had come across such words. He would then often call me and ask the way I would want the dialogues to be spoken. I was over-whelmed at such a great actor praising my writing and consulting me regarding it. When I wrote Jashan Ka Din Hai, a lot of young actors were uncomfortable with my script. Khalid Sahib would ask me then to read it out first. At the time of Pehchaan, the problem which arose was that Iffat Umar and Sohail Sameer were not as good at Urdu language’s accent as they were at Punjabi. Iffat would spend hours with me, asking me to read out to her and then listen to her in return. Such a dedication as was shown by her makes the work amusing.
Actors are not trained in this area in our field, and the director has to step in for solving this issue. But if the director is also not a learned person, then problems arise. It is very important to work on the language and to keep it alive. It is our identity after-all.
Many senior and veteran writers like Mohammed Ahmed and Noor-ul-Huda Shah pay you a lot of respect and regard your work. How do you feel about it?
For many years, I kept thinking that they are praising me so that I may not feel dejected and discouraged. But when Noor-ul-Huda said that she considers me the only good dramatist in our industry and also that she is a big fan of mine, I started to fear that I will have to work even harder and put more effort than I usually do so that the statement of such a great writer may remain true and may not result in her degradation. I feel a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. Mohammed Ahmed is a very bold and straightforward man, whom I consider very kind to appreciate my work. So, when such great people admire me, I do not want to believe it at first, for I do not feel like coming out of my comfort zone. When I start to believe all those statements, I start fearing if I will be able to stay true to the expectations of such great people or not.
Is there any message which you would like to give to aspiring writers?
I am nobody to give any message to aspiring writers. No one, I believe is in a position to give messages to others, for each one of us is in a learning process. All of us are stumbling, balancing ourselves and continuing with our respective struggles. The only thing I can say is that if your writings touch your own heart, it means that they have been written out of sincerity. So, be it any work of yours, keep doing it and give your best if it satisfies you. Do that, enjoy and go with the flow.