Nirvaan Nadeem is someone who does not take the knowledge of his parents (Madeeha Gauhar and Shahid Nadeem) for granted, two people who have given countless services to Pakistani drama, both of theatre and television.
He has attained a degree in Film and Television from the National College of Arts (NCA), establishing himself as a learned actor and justifying his performances in dramas like Behkawa, Mohabbat Jaaye Bhaar Mein, Mein Deewani, Jinhein Raste Mein Khabar Hui, Ehd-e-Wafa and also making his position as a director of Ajoka Theatre unchallengeable.
Besides being an actor, Nirvaan is also a column writer at a well-known English language newspaper of Pakistan. Through his writings, Nirvaan presents himself as a well-read person who is aware of socio-political issues as well and who can comment on them with considerable ease. From film reviews and anecdotes from his acting career to social ills and political issues, Nirvaan Nadeem has a variety of articles to his name. I asked this multi-talented man a few questions, which are as follows alongwith their answers.
As the director of Ajoka Theatre, to what extent do you think Pakistanis have started respecting Performing Arts? Are the students which come to you supported by their families?
There was a time when ‘stage theatre’ was considered a derogatory term. So was ‘acting’. In fact, even now the term ‘artist’ is deemed inferior to ‘politicians’, ‘bureaucrats’ and ‘businessmen’. But I guess that is slowly changing, in more ways than one. A society is dead without its culture, without its art forms. Almost all the ills that afflict society can be narrowed down to a lack of respect, promotion and exposure to artistic sensibilities. The younger lot, however, has a great future. Thanks to alternate media, there is not only exposure to art from all over the world, but students see that there is actually a great future in it too. Parents realize this, and apart from a few cases, are ‘allowed’ by their families. Support is a big word.
When you direct a work, what aims do you have in mind regarding the content which you will be presenting?
It’s basically a matter of being true to yourself, to the audience and the art form itself. Breaking rules is all well and good, but remaining true to traditional forms is important as well. At the end of the day, it’s all about telling a story. That story can be told in the most complicated and crudest of fashions, or through a simplistic and beautiful journey.
You write for a well-known newspaper as well. When did you discover this writing talent of yours and how far do you wish to take it?
I was very fond of reading and writing as a child. I remember reading even while crossing a road. I gradually moved away from fiction titles. Now I see no point in writing in an aloof and lyrical manner. My writing is my one avenue to say what I want to say, without filters and censors, and in a very small way try to contribute something to society.
Tell something about your character in your upcoming drama serial, Mohini Mansion Ki Cinderellayen. How was it working under Ali Tahir’s direction?
It was a wonderful experience! The BOL people are the best I have worked with so far. Ali’s strong point is being able to give an actor the freedom to act and express himself or herself. Billa is an interesting character; a good-hearted gangster. I especially love his red open roof jeep. And no! He’s nothing like Munna Bhai.
Is it easy for a director to work under another director’s supervision?
I am a very difficult person to work with. If I am not given the freedom to act, I’ll just be doing it for the money, and I don’t like that. Add to that, most of our directors have no clue about direction apart from the ability to shoot 50 scenes in a day. The current record is 54. But if the director understands his art, then working together becomes like a breeze, enjoyable and fun. We frequently hold cricket matches between the cast and crew. Nobody bowls Ali out.
You also did Behkawa by Faseeh Bari Khan. How do the two roles differ from each other?
My character in Behkawa was extremely complicated, with great depth and darkness, but also glimpses of light. The character in Mohini Mansion ki Cinderellayen is the complete opposite. It’s fun and light. The amount of depth you can put into a character just depends on how good an actor you are.
Is there something extraordinary which you wish to do for theatre in Pakistan? Are there any big plans under your sleeve?
We’re currently in the process of holding an annual theatre festival. It’s very difficult to surpass my mother’s legacy, but I’ll try my best.
How is Ajoka without Madeeha Jee? When and where do you miss her the most?
Ajoka is only moving forward. My mom is there all around us, in every play, every song, every dance. I do miss the little things. I miss her energy, her enthusiasm, her way of idealistically looking at the world even till the end. Someone said that the ‘Golden Era’ of theatre in Pakistan has ended. It has just started.