Talking about director, script writer and actor all in one brings just one name in mind and that is of none other than Sarmad Koosat. Sarmad, a unique and multi talented person, started working in mid 90s. He made his name with his comic role ‘Cheeku’ from the popular series Shashlik, but it was Humsafar that took his success to soaring heights. With Humsafar, Sarmad proved his mettle to critics and audiences alike. No wonder he has carved a comfortable niche among the leading directors of the country. Some of his significant projects include Piya Naam Ka Diya, Kalmoohi, Pani Jaisa Pyar, Humsafar, Ashk, Shehrezaat, Jal Pari and Mera Yakeen.

Always keen to tell stories, Sarmad gave his best in every project covering as wide genres as sitcoms to dramas. In an interview with Sunday plus, Sarmad talked about his direction, projects and the entertainment industry. Here are excerpts of the interview:

 

 

Q: You have directed many serials. How has that shaped your directing style?

 

I started my career with comedy, writing sitcoms, acting in them and also directing them. Then I switched to serious dramas. ‘Tamesha Ghar’ was the first prime time thing I did as a serious play. In that I experimented with a lot of psychological and dark themes. Compared to my previous work it has depth. I believe that I really wanted to tell stories from the very point when I decided to be in the business of television or film making. The stories with complex characters, integrated themes and intricate plots have always fascinated me. From there on I did this other series ‘Ajab Kahani’ which was based on bizarre themes and psychological stuff in which I adapted international literature and films. My first serial was a remake in 70s at PTV. It was Bano Qudsia’s script and was musical serial. Then I did ‘Qatil’ which was for Mehreen Jabbar and Momina Duraid. It was a murder mystery. I also did a drama ‘‘Kalmohi’ for Pakistani television and it was the adaption of Tagore’s work.  From that till Pani jesa Pyar and Humsafar, I have experimented a lot with my techniques and when you have such wide range then I think you do not go straight because techniques from one genre do not apply to the other. This all help me to instinct of trying. It shaped me as an individual. Now I look back to this career which is spread on a span of 14 years. It gave me the confidence of understanding failure. It also helped in understanding that success is something valuable however it should not restrict you. Even after Humsafar I did not stick to the same genre. I just finish the filming on the serial ‘Main Manto’ which is partly a film. I would say this whole diversity has definitely helped me to grow with the spirit of exploring.

Q: What are your criteria’s of selecting a project for work?

 At the end of the day in the heart of the heart all of us are the story tellers. All directors, writers, actors we all are the part of this big exercise or process in which we are telling a story so story needs to excite you. I would not say that story is the only criteria on which I select things. There are other things also for example when I did ‘Pani jesa pyar’ the idea was to try my hands with freelance direction. When I did ‘Humsafar’ I decided to work with new group of people with whom I had not worked. So there are a lot of factors one would like to think about. If now I have to choose something I would say the entire project should have some special element that excites you and I do not mean it in commercial or a cooperate sense. I am open to genres, themes or anything that excite me. Any story where I believe that I have something to say with the writer I would do that. Any certain theme or issue which I think should be address I would also pick it up.

Q: How much has your father been an inspiration for you in showbiz and performing arts?

I think its genetics. To be honest I did not plan to be here where I am today. I had to be a doctor but somehow it did not work out. Now where I am today, I think yes, he is a source of strength for me. All parents do support their children. Other than that I would also say our fields of interests are different. My father focused on acting where as I am more focused on direction and writing. Entertainment industry is a very cut throat kind of world. Had he given me that extra push or credit then people would have recognized me just because of my sur name which is popular. Such popularity would not have lasted long. He let me do whatever I wanted.

Q: ‘Manto’ is your new project. What inspired you to make a movie on Manto’s life?

I developed interest in literature two decades ago and that is how old Manto is. At that time I was an average reader. I like literature and stories but time I felt I have lack of inspiration and motivation to tell stories. Manto had always fascinated me. I think he is a great story teller. I have widely read Urdu literature and I find Manto is the best. Then a movie offer came up by an offer from Asif Raza Mir and Baber Jhanzeb. They brought script which was written by Shahid Nadeem. I was very thrilled when they asked me to direct. I had already done few things on Manto earlier on stage and television.  I was over excited to be a part of the project. First they wanted to me to direct it and then they also asked me act. It was like a passion so I didn’t care what the project would look like because the idea of doing something on Manto is exciting enough.  

 

Q: These days Turkish plays are on hype and very popular among viewers, don’t you think these drama’s are effecting our culture and industry?

I don’t really think of culture is something that is so vulnerable or shallow which could be affected of any trend or fad. Culture is too broad and big. It grows everyday and adopt new things. Our culture is not only 60 years ago it decades back to centuries. I think right now there is no question of what affecting your culture because you have access on everything through internet and social media but when you bring stuff to the prime time the only one unfair thing is these are second hand or handed down kind of projects in term of the price that they are bought for. We stand at a vulnerable position finically and economically. We have certain and limited budgets that why we have a certain amount of visuals to offer. Turkish plays have big grand picture to offer. When a channel gets the same amount of rating for the second hand content they would definitely going to start under rating and under valuing our content because it is not only more expensive for them but it is also very small in terms of the visual and complexity of the plot. For television and its own growth I think this is not the right time to have such direct competition on such unfair grounds. Television is at the end of the end relaying all the cooperate sector. Private television is going to fight of its survival but for that is not good to bring cheaper content (money wise). So in this case our content is going to suffer definitely.   

Q: Silver screen is considered the ultimate medium in media; you too are shifting from mini screen to big screen, what was the motivation? Do you think you are ready for the challenge?

I think in my career as in the case of most of other directors and writer it’s not like shifting to the silver screen. Most of us wanted to be the part of silver screen but again ten years ago nothing was happening in Pakistani film industry. I wrote my first screen play for film in 2003 which was to be made by Saqib Malik and we spent two years on it but it could not be executed. I like television but I think as a story teller cinema would give me better control and or it gives the pleasure of telling a story in two hours and making it for an audience which watches it with a lot more focus and involvement. The value of the work is more objectified for you also when people really want to see it by buying a ticket.

Q: Pakistan film industry is on its revival. What would you like to say about it.

Right now to make any statements is unfair. It’s a kind of the revival in a way but the glory we have left we are not near to that. It’s a great feeling and opportunity to make new kind of cinemas and it needs a lot of support right now. It has to compete with international cinema. We do have a lot of talented people and we can do it. I believe it will take a little time.

 

Q: Apart from directing, writing and acting what else are your interests?

Teaching is very close to my heart. I have been teaching quite regularly. I teach film study, video production and things related to television and films. My degree is in psychology but whatever experience I have gained in my career related to production, techniques, video production and dramas I teach that.

Q: Which play is closest to your heart?

It is a thing that keeps on changing. Everything you do always gives you something. I would say Humsafar was very successful and I remember it for its success. Shashlick gave me a lot of popularity and also it was my first play.  Kamoohi is also very close to my heart. In this drama I worked with Sania Saeed. Me and my sister collaborated and it was the first project I did on sets in a studio. So every project has its own value and significance.

 

 Q: Which actors you would like to appreciate for their work?

 I would say a lot of actors has influenced and inspired me. They have shaped my career and style else that I also found many good friends. In female actress Sania Saeed has influenced me and taught me a lot, Nadia Afghan is my old friend from television, Nimra Bucha is also a fantastic actress, Mahira is someone who can inspire you to make a story about her as an actress. Unfortunately there are not so many male actors as favourite in my list. I do not see our male actors as exciting as female actress. I find our female actress more intelligent.

 

Q: Where do you see yourself in next ten years? 

I don’t know actually. I hope I will be still here and doing same what I am doing.  I hope I will be making films. Two things I really wanted to continue which is teaching and making films.