Instep Today

“Pakistan’s attempt to achieve gender equality is truly getting better.”

December 7, 2017
By Ahmed Sarym

Imran Abbas on the evolution of the industry, changing mind-sets by addressing taboo subjects and playing different characters at the same time.

On our visit to the sets of Sarmad Khoosat’s Noorulain featuring Sajal Aly and Imran Abbas, we sat down with the very personable male lead, Imran Abbas as he takes out time to chat between takes. Imran has had a busy year; the sequel to his mega-hit series, Khuda Aur Mohabbat concluded early summer and he says he has high expectations from his next.

Looking back, one can say that Imran has mastered the art of multi-tasking. One curiously asks him how he manages to balance all the characters that he undertakes at the same time with reality.

“My characters in both the plays this year (Mohabbat Tumse Nafrat Hai and Yaar-e-Bewafa) were very different and even when Alvida and Mera Naam Yousaf Hai were playing simultaneously a couple of years back, everybody could differentiate the two characters, though I kept my physical appearance the same,” he explained. “It’s not that I would play a Punjabi chief in one and a psychopath in the other, but you do need to define a line with either your body language or expressions. That’s what we’re paid for.”

He continued to talk about the evolution of the industry and the fact that when one door closes, a window of opportunity opens up at the same time.

Instep: How much do you think cinema or television can contribute to changing mind-sets by addressing taboo subjects? As an influential public figure, do you feel you’re socially responsible?

Imran Abbas (IA): Of course, cinema and television have great impact on the society. There was a conference in the UK recently, where it was said that in India, the impact of cinema is far greater than the impact of newspapers, books, magazines and the general press, combined. There is a television in almost every household, so the reach of cinema and television is widespread. That is why, I always emphasis that we should not put on television something which might affect people’s mindset negatively. I do believe that there are many issues in our society that need to be addressed head-on and that is why I think it is important to raise a voice against them.

However, there are some topics which should not be publicized on television, which could ultimately mold young people’s minds in the wrong way. For example, after the release of Aamir Khan’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, in which a couple elopes because of familial rifts, there were endless real life cases reported of young couples running away together. I think as actors, writers, producers and directors, we are all responsible for how we propagate stories on the screen and because television is more easily accessible to the general public than cinema, there needs to be some kind of rule as to what content is suitable for younger audience.

Instep: There’s been a lot of talking of feminism in the industry. Do you think we’re inching towards gender equality?

IA: The basic definition of the word feminism is often misunderstood in our society. There is a common misconception that feminism is about hating men, which is completely incorrect. In reality, feminism means to strive for equality in all spheres of life – economic, political and social. People who defend this idea are called feminists. Unfortunately, Pakistan is not the most perfect country when it comes to gender equality. Having said that, I think we need to also focus on the positives about our country. Pakistan was the first Islamic country in the world to have a female Prime Minister (Benazir Bhutto), and the fact that the citizens of this country accepted her as their leader is a very big deal.

Moreover, there are so many female pilots and commandos in the Air Force. There are many different careers in which Pakistani women have made their mark by taking up leadership roles. In terms of cases of domestic violence, I do agree that there is immense injustice in our society. In fact, women are not the only ones who face injustice when it comes to such crimes; men in our society are such victims as well. Recognizing that atrocities can affect all genders in similar and different manner is also another aspect of equality.

Instep: Do you plan on hitting the local silver screen soon?

IA: Even while I was doing movies in India, I did not abandon my television career in Pakistan. Maintaining a relationship with my country and my local industry was very important because this is the only place that got me the recognition in the first place. I do have a lot of opportunities from the Pakistani film industry and I am currently thinking of taking up a project very soon.

Instep: The Bollywood chapter for Pakistani actors concluded after the Uri attacks; do you think that’s hampered your international presence or are there any projects across the border that you’re looking into?

IA: International presence isn’t limited to India, because the world is much bigger. However, yes, the current circumstances are not favorable when it comes to me working abroad, but I always pray for amicable relationships between India and Pakistan so that artists can collaborate, regardless of whether I am working or not.

In fact, artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Noor Jahan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Atif Aslam have always continued to bridge the gap between countries and they were being given such massive respect there even when the political situation was unstable. In Pakistan also, people never stopped listening to Lata Ji, Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar. This is simply because actors and artists are beyond these petty issues and they are the ones who people often get hope from - hope that India and Pakistan will restore their friendship. Progressive thinkers like myself and many others like me across the border, including the younger generation, no one wants to see a war take place; war and violence doesn’t solve anything.

Instep: In an earlier interview with Instep, you also hinted at a feature film overseas, what’s the current status of the film in tinsel town?

IA: Yes, there is definitely something cooking there but then again, it takes time to execute great plans due to many different reasons. I am really looking forward to it, though. Even in my own production, I am trying to incorporate my personal experiences from working outside of Pakistan and I am trying to find people to work with, so we can make this into an international project. I think it’s essential for Pakistani artists to expand their horizons and work on bigger, better and different projects, and that is exactly what I am striving to do.